In what is the closest words yet to a concession, President Trump agreed to let GSA proceed with the Biden administration transition. In a pair of tweets, Trump noted:
“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.”
Trump added that while the election litigation battle continues…
“Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!”
… He will allow the transition to proceed:
“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.”
As a gentle reminder, this is NOT what happened in 2000 Bush vs Gore…
After Vice President Al Gore conceded the presidential election to Texas Gov. George W. Bush Wednesday night, General Services Administration chief David Barram announced that GSA would release transition funds and provide office space to the Bush transition team.
The 2000 Presidential Transition Act, passed in October, allocates more than $5 million for the transition and expands GSA’s role in it. GSA will publish a transition directory with information on each agency, and will help arrange briefings and furnish appointees with information on topics such as ethics and financial disclosure regulations. GSA’s transition office is at 1800 G Street NW in Washington.
Republican lawmakers had criticized Barram’s decision to withhold transition funds pending Gore’s challenge to election results in Florida. Last week, Rep. Steve Horn, R-Calif., chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology, held hearings on the issue. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., then introduced a bill that would’ve required GSA to support the Bush transition.
Barram had said he would not release the funds until an “apparent successful candidate” had been determined, as mandated in the Presidential Transition Act of 1963. The Transition Act requires GSA to provide federal money, office space and other logistical support to the incoming and outgoing administrations.
Trump’s tweets follow a letter from Emily Murphy (see below), the General Services Administration chief, in which she told Biden that “because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, I have determined that you may access the post-election resources and services described in Section 3 of the Act upon request,” which includes some $6.3 million in funding and other government resources, as well as access to current agency officials and briefing books.
The biggest change now is that the Biden transition team will be able to flood federal agencies with officials focused on preparing the way for his administration. They will have access to agency staff and briefing books assembled earlier this year.
Until today’s GSA letter, the Biden transition team had worked informally to establish a new administration, including assembling a coronavirus task force and consulting with public health officials outside of the federal government, mimicking the approach former Vice President Dick Cheney took during the disputed 2000 election.
In the letter, Murphy also said that she had received “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.” She added that she was not “directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official” into the making or timing of a decision on the presidential transition.
The full letter from the GSA’s Murphy details what she has gone through and what steps take place next… (emphasis ours)
Dear Mr. Biden:
As the Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration, I have the ability under the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, as amended, to make certain post-election resources and services available to assist in the event of a presidential transition. See 3 U.S.C. § 102 note (the “Act”). 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.
I have dedicated much of my adult life to public service, and I have always strived to do what is right. Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts. 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. 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.
Contrary to media reports and insinuations, my decision was not made out of fear or favoritism. Instead, I strongly believe that the statute requires that the GSA Administrator ascertain, not impose, the apparent president-elect. Unfortunately, the statute provides no procedures or standards for this process, so I looked to precedent from prior elections involving legal challenges and incomplete counts. GSA does not dictate the outcome of legal disputes and recounts, nor does it determine whether such proceedings are reasonable or justified. These are issues that the Constitution, federal laws, and state laws leave to the election certification process and decisions by courts of competent jurisdiction. I do not think that an agency charged with improving federal procurement and property management should place itself above the constitutionally-based election process. I strongly urge Congress to consider amendments to the Act.
As you know, the GSA Administrator does not pick or certify the winner of a presidential election. Instead, the GSA Administrator’s role under the Act is extremely narrow: to make resources and services available in connection with a presidential transition. As stated, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, I have determined that you may access the post-election resources and services described in I have determined that you may access the post-election resources and services described in Section 3 of the Act upon request. The actual winner of the presidential election will be determined by the electoral process detailed in the Constitution.
Section 7 of the Act and Public Law 116-159, dated October 1, 2020, which provides continuing appropriations until December 11, 2020, makes $6,300,000 available to you to carry out the provisions of Section 3 of the Act. In addition, $1,000,000 is authorized, pursuant to Public Law 116-159, to provide appointee orientation sessions and a transition directory. I remind you that Section 6 of the Act imposes reporting requirements on you as a condition for receiving services and funds from GSA.
If there is anything we can do to assist you, please contact Ms. Mary D. Gibed, the Federal Transition Coordinator.
So, ‘ascertainment’ has not been reached but presumably, “democracy” is “safe” once again.
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