Richmond Times-Dispatch

U.S. clears transition money, aid for Biden

Decision comes on day Mich. certified win by Democrat

- BY EVAN HALPER, TRACY WILKINSON AND DON LEE

WASHINGTON—

The Trump administra­tion tacitly agreed Monday that the presidenti­al election will not be overturned, finally authorizin­g the start of formal transition proceeding­s for Presidente­lect Joe Biden.

Soon after Michigan certified its vote for Biden, the General Services Administra­tion official who has blocked the transition for over two

weeks alerted Biden that his team would now have access to the personnel and resources authorized under federal law.

The administra­tor, Emily Murphy, wrote to Biden that Trump had not placed any pressure on her to delay the transition as the president tried to fight the election result in court, and that she had made all the decisions around the timing of the transition.

Soon after, Trump tweeted that he made those decisions.

Trump’s efforts to overturn the election had been sputtering, and Monday saw major setbacks to his efforts.

Republican­s, national security experts and business leaders said it was time for the transition to proceed.

Sen. Rob Portman, ROhio, had called Monday for Murphy to release the money, informatio­n and staffing needed for the transition.

Portman, a senior member of the Homeland Security and Government­al Affairs Committee, also said Biden should receive high-level briefings on national security and the coronaviru­s vaccine distributi­on plan.

Portman, a Trump ally, joined a growing number of Republican officials who in recent days had urged Trump to begin the transition immediatel­y. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., urged a smooth transition, saying in a statement Monday, “At some point, the 2020 election must end.”

Meanwhile, more than 160 business leaders asked Murphy to immediatel­y acknowledg­e Biden as president-elect and begin the transition to a new administra­tion.

“Withholdin­g resources and vital informatio­n from an incoming administra­tion puts the public and economic health and security of America at risk,” the business letters said in an open letter to Murphy.

Separately, more than 100 Republican former national security officials — including former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former Director of National Intelligen­ce John Negroponte— said in a statement that Trump’s refusal to concede and allow for an orderly transition “constitute­s a serious threat” to the democratic process.

The officials signing the letter worked under four presidents, including Trump.

Earlier Monday, the Michigan Board of Canvassers certified the state’s election results, effectivel­y awarding the state’s 16 electoral votes to Biden, who defeated Trump by more than 155,000 votes there.

The decision was yet another blow to Trump’s effort to undo Biden’s win by attempting to delay the certificat­ion of the election results in key states.

Three out the four board members voted for certificat­ion after a dramatic political dispute over finalizing the vote tally roiled the state. The Michigan canvassing board had never before refused to certify a statewide vote, but pressure on the once-obscure panel had built over the past week.

“The board’s duty today is very clear,” said Aaron Van Langevelde, the Republican vice chairman. “We have a duty to certify this election based on these returns. That is very clear. We are limited to these returns. I’m not going to argue that we’re not.”

“With Michigan’s certifying [its] results, Joe Biden has over 270 electoral college votes,” tweeted Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La. “President Trump’s legal team has not presented evidence of the massive fraud which would have had to be present to overturn the election. I voted for President Trump but Joe Biden won.”

Some Trump allies had expressed hope that lawmakers could intervene in selecting Republican electors in states that might refuse to certify. That long-odds bid is no longer possible in Michigan.

“The people of Michigan have spoken. President-elect Biden won the State of Michigan by more than 154,000 votes, and he will be our next president on January 20th,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said in a statement, saying it’s “time to put this election behind us.”

The Trump legal team dismissed the certificat­ion as “simply a procedural step” and insisted it would continue to mount legal challenges.

In a one-page letter to Biden, Murphy, the GSA chief, sought to address head-on the controvers­y that engulfed the country over her decision to not recognize the presidente­lect as the winner.

She used unusually personal language to describe the predicamen­t she faced as Trump refused to concede the election and declared fraud in the results in battlegrou­nd states, writing that she has “always strived to do what is right.”

“Please know that I came to my decision independen­tly, based on the law and available facts,” she wrote. “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.”

Murphy said she did not receive “any direction to delay my determinat­ion,” but did receive threats online, by phone, and by mail “directed at my safety, my family, my staff, and evenmy pets in an effort to coerce me into making this determinat­ion prematurel­y.”

Murphy, a Trump appointee, also had faced bipartisan criticism for failing to begin the transition process sooner, preventing Biden’s team from working with career agency officials on plans for his administra­tion, including in critical national security and public health areas.

On Monday, Trump spent another day refusing to concede. Unofficial election returns show Trump lost to Biden by 6 million votes and 306-232 in the Electoral College. Trump had launched a series of losing court battles across the country making baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and seeking to overturn the election results.

He tweeted shortly after Murphy’s letter was made public: “We will keep up the good fight and I believe we will prevail!

“Neverthele­ss, in the best interest of our Country, I amrecommen­ding 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.”

Yohannes Abraham, the executive director of the Biden transition, said in a statement that the decision “is a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track.

“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.”

“Now that GSA Administra­tor Emily Murphy has fulfilled her duty and ascertaine­d the election results, the formal presidenti­al transition can begin in full force,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the nonpartisa­n Partnershi­p for Public Service.

“Unfortunat­ely, every day lost to the delayed ascertainm­ent was a missed opportunit­y for the outgoing administra­tion to help President- elect Joe Biden prepare to meet our country’s greatest challenges. The good news is that the president- elect and his team are the most prepared and best equipped of any incoming administra­tion in recent memory.”

 ?? THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral winwas recognized by a growing number of Republican politician­s aswell as a diverse group of business leaders.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral winwas recognized by a growing number of Republican politician­s aswell as a diverse group of business leaders.
 ?? THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? GSA chief Emily Murphy, a Trump appointee, faced wide criticism for failing to begin the transition sooner.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS GSA chief Emily Murphy, a Trump appointee, faced wide criticism for failing to begin the transition sooner.

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