After a controversial holdout, a government administrator signed off on Joe Biden's transition to power

By Sean Neumann
November 24, 2020 06:45 PM
Advertisement
President-elect Joe Biden
| Credit: Patrick Semansky/AP/Shutterstock

President Donald Trump’s administration has begun assisting President-elect Joe Biden’s White House transition team after a little-known federal government employee signed off on the process — while defending herself after the weeks of delay.

Emily Murphy, the administrator of the federal General Services Administration, gave her approval Monday, delivering paperwork that grants Biden's transition team access to necessary government permissions and $6.3 million to help the process along.

“The election is over,” Biden, 78, tweeted Tuesday morning. “It’s time to put aside the partisanship and the rhetoric designed to demonize one another. We have to come together.”

He told NBC News' Lester Holt in an interview later that day that the transition so far between his team and Trump's had been "sincere."

"It has not been begrudging so far and I don't expect it to be," he said.

Murphy’s hesitation amid the traditionally smooth transition came as Trump, 74, continued to spread baseless claims that he had actually beaten Biden but the election was stolen because of "fraud."

President Donald Trump
| Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty

The president’s legal challenges failed to uncover any meaningful issues in any states. Some of his allies, like former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, have called his lawyers' recent conduct a “national embarrassment.”

Murphy, 47, deemed Biden the apparent winner in a letter Monday that both approved the transition process and defended her decision to delay it, while also saying she had been the target of "threats online, by phone, and by mail directed at my safety, my family, my staff, and even my pets."

Murphy said she wasn't motivated by "fear or favoritism" but rather suggested that Trump contesting the election, regardless of how "reasonable or justified," had tied her hands until the result became overwhelmingly obvious.

She did not specify the exact developments that led to her decision, though key swing states — such as Georgia and Michigan — have now certified their results.

“I have dedicated much of my adult life to public service, and I have always strived to do what is right. Please know that I came to my decision independently,” she wrote, insisting that she 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.”

Trump also tweeted Monday that he was personally “recommending” Murphy go forward with approving the transition process. Nonetheless, he tweeted that "we will keep up the good fight."

Hours after that, seemingly responding to the news that the Biden transition was fully underway, Trump tweeted again to say that he would not be conceding.

President-elect Joe Biden
| Credit: Andrew Harnik/AFP/Getty

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said Monday’s long-awaited GSA decision “is probably the closest thing to a concession that President Trump could issue,″ the Associated Press reported.

Biden’s transition team had pressed forward without the help of the federal government prior to Monday’s approval, naming top cabinet nominees and hosting meetings about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Critics of the Murphy's delay have said her hold-out could cost valuable prep time and even lives, as incoming Biden officials look to coordinate with Trump's staff on national security briefings, pandemic-related plans and more — particularly a roll-out of a COVID-19 vaccine once it's ready to be distributed.

At least 257,629 people have died from the virus this year, out of 12.4 million confirmed cases. More than a million of those positive cases have been discovered in the last week, according to a New York Times tracker.

Yohannes Abraham, executive director of the Biden transition team, said Monday the GSA approval “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,” Abraham said, “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.”