After stalling for weeks as President Donald Trump sought to cast doubt on the result of the election, the General Services Administration notified Joe Biden and his staff on Monday that they can begin receiving federal resources as part of the transition process — a formal recognition from the US government that Biden is the president-elect.
Shortly afterward, Trump announced he had directed his staff to also cooperate with Biden’s team, although he still refused to concede the election and vowed to continue to fight the results.
"This final [GSA] decision is a definitive administrative action to formally begin the transition process with federal agencies," said Yohannes Abraham, Biden-Harris Transition executive director. "In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies."
The once low-profile government agency, headed by Trump appointee Emily Murphy, drew intense scrutiny in recent weeks for its reluctance to formally recognize Biden as the winner and make resources available to him so he can prepare to enter the White House.
Trump insisted in a series of tweets that Murphy’s move was his idea while vowing to continue his losing fight against the election results.
“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.
Biden’s team had complained the delay meant, among other things, that they had been locked out of official government data on COVID-19, impacting his ability to deal with the coronavirus pandemic when he enters the Oval Office on Jan. 20, 2021.
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In a letter to Biden, which was first reported by CNN on Monday evening, Murphy said she had only now made the federal resources available “because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results.”
House Democrats had demanded last week that Murphy testify about the delay, but she refused. In response, multiple senior members sent letters to Murphy Monday pleading for her to begin the formal transition.
In her letter to Biden, Murphy complained that the Presidential Transition Act of 1963 did not set out clear guidelines for how she was to determine the official winner, especially in an election where one candidate is refusing to concede.
She said she had never been pressured by any member of the executive branch to make a decision, but noted the public pressure she had received.
“To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination,” she wrote. “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.”
Her letter came hours after the Michigan Board of State Canvassers officially certified Biden as the winner of that state’s Electoral College votes. Pennsylvania was expected to do the same as early as Monday night.
A slowly growing list of Republicans had been calling on Trump to begin working with Biden. On Monday, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana all said the formal transfer of power needed to begin.
"My hope is that President Trump will take pride in his considerable accomplishments, put the country first and have a prompt and orderly transition to help the new administration succeed," Alexander said. "When you are in public life, people remember the last thing you do."