GOP senator backs off vow to help Biden with intel briefings

Last week, Oklahoma's James Lankford suggested national security has to take precedence over post-election political posturing. Then he changed his mind.
Image:  Sen. James Lankford speaks during a meeting in Washington, DC.
Sen. James Lankford speaks during a meeting in Washington, DC.Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images file

Late last week, several Republican officials conceded that, in the interest of U.S. national security, President-elect Joe Biden should start receiving classified intelligence briefings. Last week, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) went so far as to suggest he'd personally "step in" and intervene if there were ongoing transition delays.

It was a pleasant surprise to hear this from a red-state Republican. Lankford is no moderate, but with his comments, the GOP senator seemed to concede that U.S. national security has to take precedence over post-election political posturing.

At least, that was Lankford's position late last week. As the Wall Street Journal reported, the Oklahoman has since decided he doesn't actually care that much after all.

"I'm not in a hurry, necessarily, to get Joe Biden these briefings, it's been interesting how the media, the national media, not this network, but others have twisted this term 'step in.' I happen to chair the committee that oversees [the General Services Administration], that is the entity that has to be able to make this call," Mr. Lankford said an interview with the pro-Trump Newsmax TV Saturday.

It was six days ago when Lankford told KRMG in Tulsa that he expected Biden to begin receiving intelligence briefings from U.S. officials. "If that's not occurring by Friday," the Republican said, "I will step in as well and be able to push and say, 'This needs to occur.'"

Evidently, Lankford decided a few days later that it actually doesn't need to occur, at least not too soon.

I'm not in a position to say with confidence why the Oklahoman changed direction so quickly, but Lankford isn't alone among Republicans shifting from reasonable to unreasonable positions related to the transition of power.

The Sunday after the election, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who chairs the Senate committee with jurisdiction over federal election laws, said it was incumbent on Donald Trump's lawyers to produce some kind of evidence to bolster their claims, and he conceded that any possible changes to vote totals in the coming days were "unlikely" to "make a difference."

Two days later, the Missourian appeared before the cameras on Capitol Hill and declared, "You know, the president wasn't defeated by huge number. In fact, he may not have been defeated at all."

It's almost as if Republican senators who say sensible things about the post-election landscape keep feeling the need to do the opposite soon after.