The head of an obscure government agency that plays a key role in when Joe Biden gets full access to transition resources is refusing to sign a letter allowing the president-elect’s team to formally begin work, according to a Sunday report.
The head of the General Services Administration, an appointee of President Donald Trump, has—like the president himself—refused to acknowledge Biden’s victory two days after it was apparent that the former vice president had won the 2020 election, the Washington Post reported. GSA Administrator Emily Murphy is tasked with signing paperwork called a letter of ascertainment that officially allows the president-elect’s team access to resources including millions of dollars and government officials, buildings, and equipment.
In a statement issued on Saturday as major news outlets were calling the race for Biden, the GSA said that “an ascertainment has not yet been made. GSA and its administrator will continue to abide by, and fulfill, all requirements under the law.”
In past elections, GSA ascertainment came within days of the Associated Press and other mainstream media outlets calling an election. Murphy’s intransigence could result in the first transition delay in modern electoral history, with the exception of the 2000 contest between Al Gore and George W. Bush that was not decided until the Supreme Court handed the presidency to Bush over a month after the election. One official who spoke to the Post under condition of anonymity said the delay has already stalled talks on crucial issues, including the distribution of any forthcoming coronavirus vaccine.
The nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition, whose members include White House veterans from the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, signed a letter on Sunday urging the government to officially begin the formal transfer of power.
“While there will be legal disputes requiring adjudication, the outcome is sufficiently clear that the transition process must now begin,” the letter—which was first obtained by Politico—states. “We urge the Trump administration to immediately begin the post-election transition process and the Biden team to take full advantage of the resources available under the Presidential Transition Act.”
Cameron French, spokesperson for the Biden-Harris transition team, released a statement urging the GSA to act now.
“Now that the election has been independently called for Joe Biden, we look forward to the GSA administrator quickly ascertaining Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the president-elect and vice president-elect,” French wrote. “America’s national security and economic interests depend on the federal government signaling clearly and swiftly that the United States government will respect the will of the American people and engage in a smooth and peaceful transfer of power.”
At least one lawmaker—Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.)—also called on Murphy to “do the right thing” and begin the transition “without delay.”
GSA Admin Emily Murphy must begin the Biden transition without delay. The Administrator plays a critical role in the peaceful transfer of power and ensuring vital government services are not disrupted. This is all the more important amid a deadly pandemic. Do the right thing.
— Rep. Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) November 8, 2020