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Leon Panetta: Biden Transition Could Be 'Very Difficult,' Unsure If Trump Would Be Cooperative

MONTEREY (KPIX 5) – Should Joe Biden win the election, President Donald Trump has cast doubt on whether or not there will be a smooth and peaceful transfer of power.

Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said a hostile incumbent could make the transition very difficult, whether it's delaying access to classified information or create other roadblocks for members of the new administration.

"I suspect there will some cabinet members that will really cooperate with their new replacements and try to give them a smooth transition.  There will be some that probably will not cooperate," said Panetta, who also served as director of the CIA during the Obama administration and White House Chief of Staff during the Clinton administration. He is now chair of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy.

"And I'm not so sure the president himself is going to be very cooperative.  So this could be a very difficult transition when you look at all the personalities involved," he told KPIX 5.

Leon Panetta
Leon Panetta, former Defense Secretary, CIA Director and White House Chief of Staff. (CBS)

Panetta said it's critical a Biden administration can hit the ground running on day one.

"There are huge challenges here.  This (Biden) administration is going to be facing the whole issue of Covid-19," said Panetta.  He pointed out other issues which include the economic downturn and racial injustice.

Panetta is doubtful the Trump transition team will be as kind as the George H. W. Bush team back in 1992, when Bill Clinton won the presidency

"I sat down with Bush officials who provided a number of binders, describing the various operations at the Office of Management and Budget. And others were doing the same in some of the other cabinets.  It was a very thorough presentation of information by the Bush administration.  And it was a very peaceful transition and it helped us a great deal to hit the ground running," said Panetta of the transition nearly three decades ago.

Panetta also served as the director of CIA and Defense Secretary in the Obama administration.  He said he's been in touch with the Biden team recently.

"The first order of business is obviously to put your White House team together.  Get your chief of staff, get your national security adviser, get your key staff people, the person handling press, etc.  Be able to get that team in place so that you've got that core command group so to speak.  And then begin the process of looking at all the cabinets," said Panetta.

There are 78 days in the transition period. The longer it takes to declare a winner, the less time for a new administration.  Panetta said one bright spot is Biden has eight years of experience in the White House and that should help with the transition.

"I think all of them, Republicans and Democrats alike, deserve to have a peaceful transfer of power so that our country can proceed to deal with the challenges that face all of us," said Panetta.

Trump's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Friday there will be a peaceful transfer of power if Biden is declared the winner.  He said President Trump will follow the rules.

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