Left with no choice, Trump gives green light to Biden transition
A key Trump administration appointee said Monday she would allow President-elect Joe Biden to begin his official transition – paving the way for his team to get access to briefings, office space, secure computers and other government services needed for the transfer of power.
It marked a formal recognition by the Trump administration that Biden won the Nov. 3 election, even though the president has refused to concede and continues to make baseless allegations of voter fraud.
Despite pressure on her that has been building for two weeks, Emily Murphy, the Trump appointee who holds the keys to transition funds and tools, had delayed issuing an official determination recognizing Biden’s win as the Trump campaign filed a flurry of lawsuits challenging the results.
In a pair of tweets, President Donald Trump took credit for Murphy’s decision, saying he greenlighted the transition because it was in the “best interest of our country.” But Trump said he would continue contesting the results. Murphy said she was not pressured by Trump, who appointed her to head the GSA in 2017, to hold back the formal ascertainment.
“Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts,” Murphy wrote in a letter to Biden. “I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official—including those who work at the White House or GSA—with regard to the substance or timing of my decision.”
But Murphy said she did receive threats “online, by phone, and by mail directed at my safety, my family, my staff, and even my pets in an effort to coerce me into making this determination prematurely. Even in the face of thousands of threats, I always remained committed to upholding the law.”
Biden’s transition team suggested Murphy’s letter removed the final hurdle to an orderly transfer of power.
“Today’s decision is a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track,” said Yohannes Abraham, executive director of the Biden-Harris transition team. “This final decision is a definitive administrative action to formally begin the transition process with federal agencies.”
Abraham said Biden transition officials would begin meeting with officials at key federal agencies in the coming days to discuss the pandemic response, get an accounting of U.S. national security interests, and “gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies.”
Trump portrayed it as a minor step. “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!” he wrote on Twitter. “Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”
Still, there’s little question that Murphy’s written determination undermines Trump’s protests that the election was unfair and that Biden’s win is not legitimate.
Her formal declaration will release more than $6 million to the Biden transition team, which it can use to hire staff, pay for travel, and cover other expenses.
Perhaps more importantly, Biden’s team will now automatically have access to briefings from key federal agencies, including information on the COVID response and the plans for a vaccine rollout.
The General Services Administration, which manages federal buildings and leases, plays a key role in ensuring a smooth transition from one president to the next.