Former Republican White House officials and veterans of past presidential transition are calling for the government to begin the formal transfer of power from President Donald Trump to President-elect Joe Biden.
“While there will be legal disputes requiring adjudication, the outcome is sufficiently clear that the transition process must now begin,” the nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition wrote in a letter exclusively obtained by POLITICO. The letter is signed by Democratic and Republican experts in transitions, including George W. Bush’s former chief of staff Josh Bolten and the former Republican Governor of Utah Mike Leavitt. The letter was also signed by Bill Clinton’s first chief of staff Thomas (Mack) McLarty and Barack Obama’s Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.
“We urge the Trump administration to immediately begin the post-election transition process and the Biden team to take full advantage of the resources available under the Presidential Transition Act,” they wrote.
The letter raises the pressure on the General Services Administration, whose administrator, Emily Murphy, has resisted affirming that Biden won the election. In a statement released Saturday, the agency said, “an ascertainment has not yet been made. GSA and its Administrator will continue to abide by, and fulfill, all requirements under the law.” The agency did not comment further on Sunday.
Until Murphy ascertains that Biden is the president-elect, the Biden transition cannot access government funds or communicate with the federal agencies they will be staffing. Experts say that the delay could hinder the Biden effort. “Every day counts in a transition, this year more than any transition since 1932,” said David Marchick, the director of the Center for Presidential Transition.
That has thrust the low-key Murphy into the center of the presidential contest. The GSA’s hesitation is partly to avoid any hint of partisanship. Since President Donald Trump has not conceded the race and is pursuing several legal challenges, declaring Biden the victor would likely prompt outrage from the right. The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment about the GSA.
On Twitter Sunday, the president wrote “since when does the Lamestream Media call who our next president will be?”
Most of the party’s leaders have followed suit, either remaining silent — like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — about the election result or openly questioning it. “Voters decide who wins the election, not the media,” Rep. Markwayne Mullin said Saturday. “I fully support President Trump as he continues to fight for every legal vote to be counted.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday on Fox News: “Don’t concede, Mr. President. Fight hard.”
But the letter is a sign that broader Republican support may be starting to crumble. Former President George W. Bush’s office recently released a statement pointedly calling Biden the “president-elect.” Pressed on Trump’s legal challenges, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told ABC on Sunday that it “seems unlikely that any changes could be big enough to make a difference.”
Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak.) have also issued statements congratulating Biden.
The Biden transition team so far has tried to give the GSA some space to make its election decision, but signaled Sunday they were prepared to up the pressure on Murphy.
“Now that the election has been independently called for Joe Biden, we look forward to the GSA Administrator quickly ascertaining Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the President-elect and Vice President-elect,” a transition spokesperson told POLITICO. “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.”
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