Biden calls Trump’s attempt to cling to power ’embarrassing’

President-elect Joe Biden coolly insisted on Tuesday that he would not be stymied by President Trump’s increasingly aggressive attempts to thwart the transition of power, calling Trump’s claims to be the rightful winner “an embarrassment” that will tarnish his legacy.

Biden’s comments came about two hours after Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo flippantly told reporters “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” echoing days of false statements from the president and potentially undermining America’s traditional global role as a proponent of respect for free and fair elections.

Even as the secretary of State joined in casting unfounded doubt on Biden’s election, leaders of foreign nations continued to send congratulations to the Democratic former vice president.

Biden, taking questions from reporters near his home in Wilmington, Del., for the first time since his Saturday night victory speech, chuckled as he repeated Pompeo’s name and title, as if to dismiss him.

The Democrat’s demeanor was in keeping with his broader attempt to project steadiness in the face of Trump’s unprecedented intransigence, and thus to assure the nation that the process would play out without significant disruption — even as many former government officials express alarm at the behavior of the president and his party.

“We don’t see anything that’s slowing us down,” Biden said.

“Failure to recognize our win does not change the dynamic at all,” he added. “The fact that he is not willing to acknowledge we won at this point is not of much consequence to our plan.”

As if to punctuate the point, Biden’s transition team announced immediately after his remarks that it had moved into its next stage: creating agency review teams tasked by law with ensuring that government operations are transferred smoothly at federal agencies and departments. House Democratic leaders, meanwhile, sent letters to the current agency heads, demanding that they not destroy government records on their way out.

Biden said he could finish the work of the transition even if Trump blocks funding to which a president-elect is entitled under federal law, or refuses to provide him the classified intelligence briefings that are typical prior to the inauguration. He said he saw no need for legal action to unlock the process, while acknowledging it would be helpful to have more cooperation.

The president-elect said he had not spoken with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), with whom he served for a quarter-century in the Senate, but who threatened on Tuesday to block Biden’s Cabinet nominees if he deems them too liberal. Biden expressed optimism that Republicans would deal with him in good faith after he is inaugurated.

“The whole Republican Party has been put in put in a position — with a few notable exceptions — of being mildly intimidated by the sitting president,” Biden said.

Biden’s remark reflected the spirit of his campaign. Despite criticism from Democratic Party progressives, he insisted Republicans would come to the negotiating table once Trump was gone. That confidence is being put to the test as Republican officials rally to Trump’s baseless claims that the election was stolen from him, despite Biden’s increasingly comfortable electoral margin and a lack of evidence of significant voting irregularities.

Bob Bauer, Biden’s legal advisor, told reporters that judges had dismissed six Trump lawsuits between June and election day and seven more since then. He read aloud excerpts from court hearings, including one in Pennsylvania where Trump’s lawyers could not cite evidence of fraud, and another in Michigan where a judge contradicted GOP claims that it was prevented from observing the counting of votes.

“Their evidence doesn’t exist,” Bauer said.

America’s closest allies have largely ignored Trump. Biden has received congratulatory statements since Saturday and took some phone calls on Tuesday.

“I know from my discussions with foreign leaders thus far that they are hopeful that the United States’ democratic institutions are viewed once again as being strong and enduring,” Biden said.

Among the well-wishers were German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had a particularly prickly relationship with Trump, as well as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and Irish leader or taoiseach, Micheál Martin.

Most said they spoke with Biden about repairing transatlantic ties that were strained under Trump, and about restoring cooperation on causes like climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I spoke to @JoeBiden to congratulate him on his election,” Macron said on Twitter. “We’ll have a lot to do together to promote shared priorities – climate, global health, international security – and effective multilateral action.”

As world leaders welcomed the transition, Pompeo threw out more questions around it. It was not entirely clear whether he was joking about another term for Trump in his brief news conference, but he did not acknowledge that Biden had won.

“We are ready,” he said, speaking of the transition. “The world is watching what is taking place. We’re going to count all the votes.”

“The world should have confidence” in the process and the transition, Pompeo added, “with the president who is in office on Jan. 20.”

Pompeo called it “a ridiculous question” when a reporter asked whether Trump, by refusing to accept the election result, is harming American efforts to promote democracy around the world. Yet the secretary’s own remarks elicited criticism for their potential to undermine those efforts.

“Whether Pompeo was serious or joking or trolling, his comment was equally egregious,” said Suzanne Maloney, the Brookings Institution’s foreign policy program director, who has advised administrations from both parties.

“No senior U.S. official should be expressing open contempt for the integrity and credibility of our democratic system,” she added — much less the nation’s top diplomat.

Times staff writer Jennifer Haberkorn contributed to this report.