Donald Trump took a massive step towards admitting defeat in the election Monday night by saying he was allowing the transition to Joe Biden to begin – but immediately claimed he can still overturn his defeat at the hands of voters.
General Services Administration Chief Emily Murphy told President-elect Biden in a letter that he can start accessing federal resources to begin the presidential transition process early Monday evening.
Murphy released a letter to Biden announcing the move, but dedicated a considerable portion to defending her own reputation and claiming she had been threatened and harassed.
Her letter, notably, does not go so far as ‘ascertain’ that Joe Biden is the winner of the election, despite networks calling the race 16 days ago, numerous states certifying their tallies, and Biden winning 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. She also called him ‘Mr.’ instead of president-elect or vice-president.
It came just over an hour after Michigan certified that Biden had won the state, putting another nail in the coffin of Trump’s bid to overturn the election result.
The move ends much of the controversy over Trump’s refusal to concede and means that a concession would be purely symbolic.
It allows Biden to get the same intelligence briefing as Trump, order FBI background checks on his picks for office and talk to senior officials in key roles – most notably, Dr. Tony Fauci.
But Trump tweeted defiantly that he had ordered Murphy to start the transition ‘for the sake of the country’ and claimed he was sure he would win ‘the good fight.’
Get on with the job: Joe Biden had spent the day announcing a slate of top cabinet officials and meeting mayors virtually in Wilmington, DE. He can now access crucial government resources
‘Threatened.’ Trump appointee Emily Murphy used her letter to Joe Biden to complain that she had been ‘harassed’ while refusing to start the transition and claim she acted on her own initiative in refusing to declare him the apparent winner
HOW BIDEN’S STAFF CAN FINALLY GET WORKING
The decision of GSA Administrator Emily Murphy to allow the transition to move forward allows Biden and his team to get access to money, space and personnel.
Biden will now have at his disposal $6.3 million in administrative costs, and another $1 million has been appropriated for appointee orientation sessions and a transition directory.
But the cash is not the point: the access is.
Biden will now have access to the President’s Daily Brief, meaning he will be receiving the same national security briefings as Trump.
Additionally, the Biden-Harris team will be able to receive briefing books from other career civil servants.
The Biden-Harris transition has already announced landing teams at major agencies.
Those teams can now interact with their government counterparts at the agencies.
Crucially in this crisis, Biden will be able to communicate with Dr. Anthony Fauci and other members of the coronavirus taskforce.
Biden and his team will also have access to government office space.
So far, he’s been running the transition out of the Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, which has also been partly due to the coronavirus pandemic.
During the transition, more than 4,000 political appointments need to be made, including 1,200 that will need Senate confirmation.
With transition resources green-lit, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will now be able to process background checks on the individuals Biden has picked.
Murphy wrote to Biden defending herself and said: ‘I take this role seriously and, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, am transmitting this letter today to make those resources and services available to you,’ she told him, after noting her ability to make resources available.
‘I have dedicated much of my adult life to public service, and have always strived to do what is right,’ she wrote, on a letter dated 16 days after TV networks called the race for Biden.
Murphy, a Trump appointee, claimed she did not receive any pressure to hold up the ascertainment – a word she never used.
‘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,’ she added.
‘To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination. I did, however, 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, she wrote.
She said her decision was not made out of ‘fear or favoritism.’
Murphy had resisted sending the letter of ascertainment as Trump refused to concede the presidential election.
Her action comes after Michigan certified its election results and as Trump has lost most of his lawsuits as he sought to overturn the results of the vote, which gave Biden 302 electoral votes.
Trump has seen his case for victory fade day by day. He has yet to win a major court case.
In Pennsylvania on Sunday, a judge ruled that state can go forward with certifying its 20 electoral votes be certified for Biden.
Georgia is in the process of certifying its 16 electoral votes for Biden after a hand recount confirmed his victory, making him the first Democrat to carry the state since 1992.
And, despite making numerous allegations of voter fraud – including funding from Communists to turn votes in Biden’s favor and alleging voting machines from Dominion Systems changed Trump votes to Biden ones – the president’s team has not shown any evidence.
Numerous state election officials said there was no evidence of voter fraud.
ABC News reported that the Secret Service was already asking agents if they wanted to transfer to Florida to guard the Trumps full-time there from January.
As Trump remains huddled in the White House – he is rarely seen in public and his public schedule for Monday had no events on it – Biden has gone on with building his government.
On Monday he announced a slate of national security officials and more Cabinet announcements are expected.
Trump praised Murphy’s action in a tweet and claimed she was the victim.
‘I want to thank Emily Murphy at GSA for her steadfast dedication and loyalty to our Country. She has been harassed, threatened, and abused – and I do not want to see this happen to her, her family, or employees of GSA. Our case STRONGLY continues,’ he tweeted shortly after she sent the letter.
‘We will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail! 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,’ he added.
Trump’s near-concession didn’t stop one of his current campaign lawyers, Jenna Ellis, from claiming on MSNBC that ‘the election was stolen’ and that ‘President Trump won by a landslide.’
That came despite another day of legal setbacks – which included Michigan’s supreme court denying an attempt to block certification; and the Trump campaign filing a brief in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals after a blistering lower court ruling that blasted ‘Frankenstein’ reasoning.
The brief claimed the Trump campaign was not seeking to disenfranchise 6.8 million Pennsylvania voters, just 1.5 million.
‘The campaign is not seeking to disenfranchise 6.8 million Pennsylvanian voters. Instead, it only seeks to set aside the defective ballots among the 1.5 million cast in the defendant counties.
‘The campaign seeks to examine a sample of the mail ballots to determine the defective percentage of ballots among the 1.5 million, which should then be deducted from Biden’s vote total,’ they wrote in their filing under expedited appeal.
Murphy had faced heavy pressure from Biden and congressional Democrats because without her blessing the president-elect could not communicate with federal agencies or access federal funds allocated for the transition process.
House Democrats were threatening to haul Murphy to Capitol Hill to explain the delay. They sent her a letter late last week demanding an in-person briefing from her on Monday. She tried to delay that until next week.
But they sent her another letter on Monday evening demanding one on Tuesday.
Among those who pounced on Murphy’s statement was former head of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub.
‘The letter’s worth a read. It may be the most unprofessional thing I’ve seen an agency head put on letterhead. She makes this about her. She makes excuses. She never says that she ascertains the apparent winner. But she releases funds as though she has, so there’s that at least,’ he wrote.
Days earlier, he tweeted: ‘The law requires her only to ascertain the ‘apparent’ w