Trump official refuses to sign paperwork initiating transition to a Biden-led administration

The Trump appointee in charge of initiating the formal transition to a Joe Biden-led administration has so far refused to sign off on the necessary paperwork to begin the process, raising concerns over whether there will be a smooth transfer of power.

Emily Murphy was tapped by President Trump to head the General Services Administration, the agency in charge of federal buildings.

By law, if a new president is elected, the GSA administrator is required to sign paperwork that officially hands over millions of dollars to the transition team of the incoming administration, formally launching the handover process.

The transition team is also granted access to government officials, office space in agencies, and equipment.

Emily Murphy (pictured above in March of last year), who was appointed by President Trump to head the General Services Administration, has refused to sign paperwork that would allow the incoming Joe Biden-led administration to begin the process of transitioning into power

Emily Murphy (pictured above in March of last year), who was appointed by President Trump to head the General Services Administration, has refused to sign paperwork that would allow the incoming Joe Biden-led administration to begin the process of transitioning into power

Emily Murphy (pictured above in March of last year), who was appointed by President Trump to head the General Services Administration, has refused to sign paperwork that would allow the incoming Joe Biden-led administration to begin the process of transitioning into power

As of Sunday evening, however, Murphy has not signed such a letter even though it has been more than 36 hours since major news organizations projected Biden to be the apparent winner of Tuesday’s election, according to The Washington Post.

‘An ascertainment has not yet been made and its Administrator will continue to abide by, and fulfill, all requirements under the law,’ GSA spokeswoman Pamela Pennington, a spokeswoman for GSA, told the Post.

A spokesperson for Biden’s transition team said: ‘Now that the election has been independently called for Joe Biden, we look forward to the GSA Administrator promptly ascertaining Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the President-elect and Vice President-elect.’

The spokesperson added: ‘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 Presidential Transition Act of 1963 is the law which governs the process by which an incoming administration gradually assumes the reins of power.

It states that a candidate becomes ‘president-elect’ when the GSA administration – in this case, Murphy – ascertains that it is ‘apparent’ they have won a majority of electoral college votes.

Trump (seen above after he played golf at his club in Sterling, Virginia, on Sunday) has so far refused to concede the election

Trump (seen above after he played golf at his club in Sterling, Virginia, on Sunday) has so far refused to concede the election

Trump (seen above after he played golf at his club in Sterling, Virginia, on Sunday) has so far refused to concede the election

Trump has so far refused to concede the election to Biden. The president has claimed that the election was rife with voter fraud and that the presidency has been ‘stolen’ from him.

So far, no evidence has been produced to support these claims.

Trump’s campaign has taken legal action in hopes of invalidating the election results, though those efforts have so far been unsuccessful.

Trump administration officials like Murphy appear to be taking their cue from the boss.

‘No agency head is going to get out in front of the president on transition issues right now,’ a senior administration official told the Post.

The official told the Post that it is believed agency heads across the federal government will be told not to talk to Biden transition officials.

The United States has seen other narrowly decided elections – notably in 1876 and 2000 – but this election was ‘not historically close,’ said William Antholis, a former White House official during Democrat Bill Clinton’s administration who now heads the University of Virginia’s Miller Center think tank.

Trump has little chance of flipping tens of thousands of votes through recounts, Antholis said.

Legal experts said the cases the Trump campaign is bringing also are unlikely to change the outcome of the election

The Biden transition team already has access to federal office space at the Commerce Department, as guaranteed by the Presidential Transitions Act, but cannot access funds for salaries, consultants and travel until the GSA acts, said Martha Joynt Kumar, director of the White House Transition Project and author of a 2015 book on earlier transitions.

Biden’s campaign has raised some funds for that purpose, and had a jumpstart on the transition process given the former vice president’s long experience in government, she said.

The delay in setting in motion the transition means that the Biden team won’t be able to get a headstart on administrative matters like getting government email addresses, office space, and bureaucratic paperwork like financial disclosure documents.

President-elect Joe Biden was announced as the projected winner of the election on Saturday. He is seen above giving his victory speech in Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday

President-elect Joe Biden was announced as the projected winner of the election on Saturday. He is seen above giving his victory speech in Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday

President-elect Joe Biden was announced as the projected winner of the election on Saturday. He is seen above giving his victory speech in Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday

Democrats were angered by the Post report of Murphy’s refusal to sign off on the transition paperwork.

‘Her action now has to be condemned,’ said House Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia and the head of the Subcommittee on Government Operations.

‘It’s behavior that is consistent with her subservience to wishes of the president himself, and it is clearly harmful to the orderly transition of power.’

Another House Democrat, Eric Swalwell of California, tweeted: ‘What a national disgrace.

‘[Murphy] is blocking [Biden] from planning a peaceful transition of power.

‘Your voice matters like your vote mattered. Make it clear.’

Swalwell’s tweet included the hashtag #TimetoTransition.

Biden adviser Jen Psaki pressed for Murphy to quickly recognize Biden as the president-elect, which would free up money for the transition and clear the way for Biden’s team to begin putting in place the transition process at agencies.

‘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,’ Psaki said in a Twitter posting.

A bipartisan group of administration officials from the Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton administrations on Sunday called on the Trump administration to move forward ‘to immediately begin the post-election transition process.’

House Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, called Murphy's refusal to sign the paperwork triggering the transition a 'national disgrace'

House Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, called Murphy's refusal to sign the paperwork triggering the transition a 'national disgrace'

House Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, called Murphy’s refusal to sign the paperwork triggering the transition a ‘national disgrace’

‘This was a hard-fought campaign, but history is replete with examples of presidents who emerged from such campaigns to graciously assist their successors,’ members of the Center for Presidential Transition advisory board said in a statement.

The statement was signed by Bush White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt as well as Bill Clinton-era chief of staff Thomas ‘Mack’ McLarty and Obama Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

Biden signaled on Sunday he plans to move quickly to build out his government, focusing first on the raging pandemic that will likely dominate the early days of his administration.

Biden named a former surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, and a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, David Kessler, as co-chairs of a coronavirus working group set to get started, with other members expected to be announced on Monday.

Transition team officials said that also this week Biden will launch his agency review teams, the group of transition staffers that have access to key agencies in the current administration to ease the transfer of power.

The teams will collect and review information such as budgetary and staffing decisions, pending regulations and other work in progress from current staff at the departments to help Biden’s team prepare to transition.

White House officials would not comment on whether they would cooperate with Biden’s team on the review. 

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