Why Lee Hamilton is worried about this presidential transition

The vice-chairman of the 9/11 commission is fretting about the transition from Trump to Biden. Plus: Hoosier Democrats weigh new leadership.

Former Indiana Congressman and vice-chairman of the 9/11 Commission Lee Hamilton said Republicans’ refusal to acknowledge Joe Biden as President-elect could soon threaten national security.

“Transitions are difficult periods, even under the best of circumstances,” said Hamilton, 89. Hamilton’s 9/11 Commission found the slow presidential transition after the 2000 recount was a precipitating factor of the attacks on American soil. “We’re in a dicey period,” he said. “And it’s going to take the goodwill of a lot of people to make it go smoothly.”

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 24: U.S. President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN) during an East Room ceremony Nov.s 24, 2015 at the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

U.S. Sen. Todd Young on Thursday said President-elect Joe Biden should receive classified intelligence briefings, a sign at least some Hoosier Republicans are slowly reconciling themselves to a new era of presidential leadership.

“Vice President Biden should receive the daily intelligence briefing while the final legal votes are being counted and the legal process is moving forward,” Young said in a statement to IMPORTANTVILLE. A spokesman for Sen. Mike Braun didn’t immediately respond to questions about whether Biden should receive the presidential daily briefings, but told reporters earlier this week that “the process needs to play itself out.”

“When you look at how close the election was, basically a tie vote in the popular vote if you take out the margin of difference in California,” Braun said, inexplicably, of the state with nearly 40 million residents.

Young’s comments come as other Republicans have begun to acknowledge Biden’s victory ahead of the official certification on Dec. 14. Former Vice President Dan Quayle also called on the president to “move on” earlier this week.

On the anniversary of 9/11 this year, in an article for the Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Presidential Transition, Hamilton and former Republican New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean wrote that “To be truly effective and help protect our nation from national security threats during and soon after a presidential transition, our outgoing and incoming leaders must be cooperative, take these requirements and best practices seriously, and act in the best interests of the nation.”

“You have to have parties that recognize the increased risk to our national security when you have a transition our adversaries know that it’s a difficult time for us anyway,” Hamilton told me. “The transition is a period of increased risk to the country. Our adversaries know that, and of course, they’re willing to try and take advantage of it in any way they can. When you have charges made that the United States’ political system is broken, isn’t working, is a fraud and so forth, that strengthens the hand of the voice of a Putin, for example, who says that the system is falling apart, and he points to these kinds of statements to make his case stronger."

Good Friday morning, and welcome back to IMPORTANTVILLE.

WHERE’S VEEP? He joins the president at noon in the Oval Office for an update on Operation Warp Speed. Later, at 12:40 p.m., he delivers remarks at Young America’s Foundation’s Fall College Retreat and President’s Club Weekend in Arlington. At 7:30 p.m., he delivers remarks at the Council for National Policy Meeting in McClean.


“Organization Day,” the ceremonial start of the state legislature, is next Tuesday. Expect each of the four legislative caucuses to release agendas for the upcoming session. At present, state lawmakers are not yet mandated to wear masks. Will the session turn into a superspreader event?


After Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody announced last Friday that he would not seek the position after his term expires next March, Hoosier Democrats are casting a wide net for new leadership. Names surfaced by insiders for successors include former 5th Congressional District candidate Christina Hale, former Buttigieg campaign manager Mike Schmuhl and former gubernatorial candidate and Speaker of the Indiana House John Gregg. It’s unclear whether Hale and Schmuhl would consider the position, according to Democrats familiar with the intraparty discussion.

In an interview, Gregg was noncommital about his interest but has been sharply critical of his own party in recent weeks. “Joe Biden might call me and want me to be ambassador to Canada—hell, you never know,” Gregg said, adding that he does want to have influence in the party’s conversation about its future. “It benefits the state to have a two-party system, and for us to have a real two-party system, we have to, as a party, come together and have a serious heart-to-heart, and do some real soul searching,” Gregg told me.

Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Owens says he’s trying to be a consensus builder within the party and has spoken with more than 50 Democrats statewide about a candidate.

Democratic insiders say they need more than a face or personal brand, but a CEO who can rebuild party by party.

Possible contenders also include former South Bend mayoral candidate Jason Critchlow, former Buttigieg Indiana state director Arielle Brandy, former Buttigieg national delegates director George Hornedo, Tamm Capital Group director of operations Elise Shrock, former State Rep. Karlee Macer, and 9th Congressional District Party Chair Adam Dickey.


  • President-elect Joe Biden selected Indianapolis native Ron Klain as his chief of staff. “Ron has been invaluable to me over the many years that we have worked together, including as we rescued the American economy from one of the worst downturns in our history in 2009 and later overcame a daunting public health emergency in 2014,” Biden said in a statement. “His deep, varied experience and capacity to work with people all across the political spectrum is precisely what I need in a White House chief of staff as we confront this moment of crisis and bring our country together again.”

  • Klain keeps close ties with Indiana Democrats and participated in a Zoom meeting of grassroots volunteers here before the election. “There’s no one doing more to help our party win than Mayor Pete Buttigieg,” Klain said on the call. Klain also advised Sen. Joe Donnelly on debate prep during the 2018 cycle. His first job in politics was working on the late Sen. Birch Bayh’s 1980 campaign.

  • Indiana GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer is asking Hoosier Republicans to head to Georgia to volunteer in January runoff elections. “It all comes down to Georgia where BOTH Republican-held US Senate Seats are heading to a runoff in January and Indiana’s Senior Senator, Todd Young, is leading the charge to keep Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the Senate,” Hupfer wrote to Indiana Republicans this week. “Senator Young has turned on the ‘bat signal,’ calling all able Hoosier Republicans to volunteer in the Peach State to lock up victories.”


By Annie Karni and Michael S. Schmidt, The New York Times: “For Pence, the Future Is Tied to Trump as Much as the Present Is

In reality, Mr. Pence’s allies expect him to return to Indiana and make a living giving paid speeches and potentially writing a book. It will be the first time in a long time that Mr. Pence will live as a private citizen — he moved from the governor’s mansion in Indiana to temporary housing in Washington during the presidential transition four years ago to the Naval Observatory. He currently does not own a house.

That’s all for today. Have a good weekend.