WASHINGTON— President-elect Joe Biden can finally begin his transition to power, after President Trump tweeted Monday that he’s recommending the General Services Administration and others in his administration begin “initial protocols.”
Emily Murphy, the Trump appointee who heads the GSA, has faced weeks of criticism from Democrats, national security and health experts, who argued that delaying the formal transition was hampering the incoming Biden administration from getting up to speed on the response to the coronavirus pandemic and jeopardizing national security. A handful of GOP lawmakers also called for the Murphy to allow the transition to get underway.
Trump thanked Murphy for her “dedication and loyalty,” and also bemoaned the criticism she received.
Trump also said Monday his “case strongly continues.” The president has not conceded the election despite numerous legal setbacks and the certification of votes in some key states, including Michigan on Monday.
The decision means that Biden’s team should now have access to government office space, will be able to formally meet with Trump administration officials to discuss policy issues, and will receive some $9.9 million to pay staffers and other expenses.
Under the 1963 Presidential Transition Act, it was up to Murphy as head of the GSA, the federal agency that acts as a leasing agent for the government, to make the ascertainment, though the law is vague about the criteria that should be used. The GSA had cited the precedent set by the 2000 election, in which Republican George W. Bush wasn’t declared the winner over Democrat Al Gore until the Supreme Court ruled in Bush’s favor in a dispute over recounting Florida’s ballots. The margin then was just 537 votes, a far narrower outcome than Biden’s win over Trump.
That shortened transition period was cited by the 9-11 Commission as a factor in Al Qaeda’s attacks in September 2001, because of the time it took Bush to get his national security team in place.