The Biden Transition Is Being Blocked by an Obscure Trump Appointee

The head of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, is holding up nearly $10 million in federal money for the Biden transition.
November 9, 2020, 5:00pm
President-elect Joe Biden, right, on stage with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, left, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

The transition of President-elect Joe Biden is being held up by the Trump appointee who leads the obscure General Services Administration, according to the Washington Post

GSA Administrator Emily Murphy has yet to write a letter that will effectively recognize the winner of the presidential election and grant government resources and access to the transition team of the Biden administration, the Post reported. 

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The Trump campaign reportedly has no immediate plans to sign one either, with the campaign pledging to continue legal challenges to Biden’s election victory. Though every major media outlet called the race for Biden Saturday, GSA maintained it would “ascertain the apparent successful candidate once a winner is clear based on the process laid out in the Constitution,” a spokesperson told Government Executive on Friday.

“Until an ascertainment is made, the statute allows for the Biden transition team to continue to receive the pre-elect services from the government (e.g., limited office space, computers, background investigations for security clearances). GSA has met all statutory requirements under the [transition act] for this election cycle and will continue to do so.”

Murphy is a lawyer and longtime bureaucrat with prior stints working at the Republican National Committee and for former Republican Sen. Jim Talent. She was confirmed by the Senate in 2017. Currently, an innocuous tweet from Murphy’s government account about the history of a federal building in St. Louis has nearly 9,000 replies, with the overwhelming majority demanding that she sign the letter.

By refusing to sign the letter, Murphy is holding up nearly $10 million in federal money for the Biden transition, as well as access to federal government office space, government officials, and resources such as the Office of Government Ethics, where the transition team can begin the work of choosing nominees for government posts, according to the Washington Post.

As his election loss has become clearer, President Donald Trump has continued to falsely claim that he actually won the election and that illegal votes put Biden over the top in key swing states and elsewhere. 

“The simple fact is this election is far from over,” Trump said in a statement Saturday. “Joe Biden has not been certified as the winner of any states, let alone any of the highly contested states headed for mandatory recounts, or states where our campaign has valid and legitimate legal challenges that could determine the ultimate victor.”

The last delayed transition took place in 2000, when the dispute between George W. Bush and Al Gore over who won Florida went to the Supreme Court. 

“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,” a Biden transition spokesperson told the Washington Post. 

“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,” the spokesperson added.