Trump formally begins Biden transition
Donald Trump has formally begun the transition process to Joe Biden.
General Services Administration head Emily Murphy informed Mr Biden in a letter on Monday afternoon that she was providing him access to administration resources under the Presidential Transition 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," Ms Murphy said.
The President confirmed the move on Twitter, while still insisting his efforts to overturn the election results would be successful.
...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.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 23, 2020
"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," Mr Trump tweeted.
"Our case STRONGLY continues, 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."
Here's the full letter from Murphy to Biden: pic.twitter.com/DJ4SFLzrfP— Jeremy Herb (@jeremyherb) November 23, 2020
Mr Trump has still not formally conceded, but the decision is the strongest indication yet that the President believes his bid to overturn the election results may not succeed.
Ms Murphy, who came under fire from Democrats for holding off on making her "ascertainment" decision while Mr Trump challenged the results, insisted in the letter that she came to her 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," she said.
"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."
Ms Murphy said the statute provided "no procedures or standards" for the process of ascertaining the President-elect, so she looked to prior elections involving legal challenges and incomplete counts for precedent.
"GSA does not dictate the outcome of legal disputes and recounts, nor does it determine whether such proceeding are reasonable and justified," she said.
"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 place itself above the constitutionally-based election process."
She stressed that the GSA Administrator "does not pick or certify the winner of a presidential election". "The actual winner of the presidential election will be determined by the electoral process detailed in the Constitution," she said.
The decision means the Biden transition can now tap into $US6.3 million in federal funding, plus $US1 million for appointee orientation sessions. It also means they can access security clearances and meet with intelligence officials.
It comes after more than 100 former national security official who served under Republican administrations signed a letter calling on Mr Trump to concede the election.
In the letter, obtained by The Washington Post, the group said Mr Trump's refusal to begin the transition posed significant risks to national security, as the US confronts the COVID-19 pandemic and faces "serious threats from global adversaries, terrorist groups, and other forces".
"The delay in allowing transition teams to meet and confer with officials on the Coronavirus Task Force and at the National Security Council, the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, and the other departments and agencies criticalto US national security means that the incoming Biden Administration will be less prepared to defend America's security when it assumes power in 59 days," they said.
They pointed to the findings of the 9/11 Commission, which concluded the shortened transition to the George W. Bush administration following Al Gore's refusal to concede until December 13 - 37 days after the election - "hampered the new administration inidentifying, recruiting, clearing, and obtaining Senate confirmation of key appointees' who were responsible for addressing the gathering threat of al-Qaida terrorists in the months leading up to the 9/11 attacks".
"To ensure national security readiness, the Commission recommended that a high priority be placed on 'minimising as much aspossible the disruption to national security policymaking during the change of administrations'," the letter said. "The election is over, the outcome certain."
Dear @GSAEmily,— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) November 23, 2020
Your refusal to recognize Biden’s win will do serious long-term harm.
To national security, our fight against COVID, and more.
Trump’s frivolous lawsuits and baseless conspiracies to overturn the people’s mandate will not succeed.
Do your duty. Right now. pic.twitter.com/jQ3RRQMVq7
On Monday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff made the same argument in a letter to Ms Murphy demanding she authorise the transition.
"The threats our nation faces today are more urgent and complex than in 2000," he said.
"President Trump's efforts to overturn the people's mandate have been uniformly unsuccessful, consisting of frivolous lawsuit and outrageous and baseless conspiracy theories. It is past time for you to put the interests of the American people above gratifying his vanity or appeasing his desire to overturn the election."
Last week, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the GSA would certify Biden's election "at the right moment". "There are questions that need to be answered," Ms McEnany said.
"The GSA will determine when ascertainment is reached. There is a Presidential Transition Act that determines exactly whatan administration needs to do in advance of an election. We've done everything we statutorily needed to do."
More to come.
Originally published as Trump formally begins Biden transition