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Trump administration and Biden transition team have "marginal" backchannel communications

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Although President Trump continues to refuse to concede the election, there is some backchannel communication between the President-elect Joe Biden's transition team and Trump administration officials, multiple sources familiar with the talks tell CBS News. 

These sources said that the communication is "marginal" and not a replacement for the full formal transition process that has yet to begin. The administrator of the General Services Administration, which supports and oversees the federal transition process, must first sign a letter of "ascertainment" affirming that Mr. Biden won the election before the formal process begins.

A transition official told CBS News that talks between the Biden team and career transition officials at federal departments have been limited and focused on logistics, not policy. These discussions began before the election, as is customary. A former senior White House official told CBS News that current and former Trump White House officials have been in touch with the Biden transition to offer help, but the former official did not specifically detail the issues that were being discussed.

The GSA hurdle remains a substantial impediment to the peaceful transition of power. GSA Administrator Emily Murphy has so far refused to ascertain Mr. Biden as the winner because of the ongoing litigation by the Trump campaign's challenge of the election results in several key states. In a statement to CBS News, a spokesperson for the GSA cited the precedent established after the 2000 election, when court battles over the Florida recount delayed the transition by several weeks.

However, that race involved a dispute over one state with a difference of 537 votes separating the two candidates, and Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump by thousands of votes in several states. Most of the Trump campaign's lawsuits have so far been unsuccessful.

Although Mr. Biden has begun the transition without federal help, there are concerns that a truncated process could have national security repercussions. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has not yet began intelligence briefings for Mr. Biden, and even some Republicans have said that he should begin receiving these briefings.

Moreover, it is critical for incoming administration officials to be able to meet with current agency staff so that they can begin preparing an agenda. If this process doesn't occur or is shortened, it could make it difficult for Mr. Biden to implement his policy priorities upon entering office.

Arden Farhi contributed to this report.

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