Emily Murphy, GSA to begin transition process


A key Trump administration official on Monday agreed to cooperate with presumed President-elect Joseph R. Biden on the transition, acknowledging for the first time — with President Trump‘s approval — that the Democrat is likely to assume the White House in January.

More than two weeks after Mr. Biden was projected as the winner by media organizations, Mr. Trump said he advised General Services Administration head Emily W. Murphy and her team “to do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols.”

Mr. Trump tweeted that he “told my team [at the White House] to do the same.”

The action came as Michigan certified Mr. Biden‘s win in that state, delivering a huge blow to Mr. Trump‘s dwindling prospects for overturning the election through his claims of widespread fraud.

And in contested Pennsylvania, nearly all counties also certified Mr. Biden‘s win on Monday, clearing the way for the state’s final determination of his victory there.

With those developments in two key swing states, more Republicans were calling on Mr. Trump to concede and cooperate with Mr. Biden on a transition.

“The presidential election is rapidly coming to a formal end,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican. He urged Mr. Trump to “put the country first.”

Ms. Murphy offered the transition services to Mr. Biden in a letter citing the Trump campaign’s losses in legal challenges, and states’ certification of election results, as clearing the way for the transition.

“I take this role seriously and, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certification of election results, am transmitting this letter today to make those resources and services available to you,” wrote Ms. Murphy.

Ms. Murphy, who had resisted Mr. Biden‘s increasingly urgent pleas to allow his team access to certain government funds and materials, stopped short of declaring Mr. Biden the winner of the bitterly contested election. She said the winner “will be determined by the electoral process detailed in the Constitution.”

She said she had not been pressured by the White House, either to withhold resources from Mr. Biden or to grant his team access. Still, it was the clearest sign yet that the president, who hasn’t officially conceded, knows the election is over.

A Biden campaign official called it “a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track.”

Without court rulings to overturn the results in Pennsylvania and at least two other states, Mr. Trump‘s path to a second term will officially be ended.

The Trump campaign had launched legal battles in Michigan and Pennsylvania to delay certification of the election, and the president’s hopes in court are still alive.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Monday to hear an appeal of the campaign’s complaint of Pennsylvania’s unequal rules in Democratic and Republican counties for correcting errors on mail-in ballots. The Trump campaign also alleges that GOP poll watchers were prevented from monitoring ballot counting in Democratic cities.

Nearly all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties were expected to finalize their election results before midnight on Monday, clearing the way for Democratic Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar to certify Mr. Biden‘s win. The Democrat beat Mr. Trump there by about 80,000 votes.

Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis downplayed the states’ moves to certify the election, calling them “simply a procedural step.”

“We are going to continue combatting election fraud around the country as we fight to count all the legal votes,” she said. “Americans must be assured that the final results are fair and legitimate.”

In Michigan, the state board of canvassers voted 3-0 to certify the election results on Monday over the objections from Republican allies of Mr. Trump in the state and in Washington, who argued that accusations of election fraud in heavily Democratic Detroit should be investigated first. Mr. Biden won Michigan by about 150,000 votes.

Republican board member Aaron Van Langevelde joined the panel’s two Democrats in voting to certify, saying that state law left them with no choice.

“We’ve got a duty to do this,” Mr. Van Langevelde said. Republican board member Norman Shinkle abstained.

The usually obscure board found itself under intense scrutiny for a vote that is essentially a rubber-stamp of election results from all counties. But with two Republicans and two Democrats comprising the board, a tie vote would have delayed certification and possibly have thrown the selection of presidential electors to the Republican-controlled legislature.

The Republican National Committee and the Michigan GOP asked the state to delay certification, pointing to reported voting irregularities in Detroit.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the board had to decide “whether to ignore that in a stunning 71% of Wayne County absentee voting precincts, the number of people who signed the poll books did not equal the number of votes counted.”

An elections official in the Democratic stronghold, which backed Mr. Biden over Mr. Trump by 68% to 31%, said the precincts were “out of balance” countywide by just a few hundred votes out of 878,000 ballots cast.

Michigan GOP Chairwoman Laura Cox said the state board shouldn’t certify the vote because “there are too many questions that need to be answered regarding this election.”

“We need to ensure there’s a fair and accurate vote first,” she said. “Every step of the election process has been stacked against Republicans.”

Charles Spies, attorney for defeated Republican Senate candidate John James, called for the appointment of a “statesman” such as former Sen. Joe Lieberman to conduct an independent review of the state’s election.

“If you take the rubber-stamp approach that you are not allowed any discretion, that makes your job meaningless,” Mr. Spies told the board. “I don’t believe that’s why you’re there. You have the ability to ascertain and determine the results of the election.”

The board also voted unanimously to request a review of Michigan’s election process by the legislature. Republican state Senate Majority leader Mike Shirkey, who had met with Mr. Trump at the White House late last week, said the state will do so.

Republican lawmakers in Washington increasingly were calling on Mr. Trump to cooperate with Mr. Biden on the transition, citing national security and the pandemic that is surging again in many communities.

Donald Trump is our president until Jan. 20, 2021, but in the likely event that Joe Biden becomes our next president, it is in the national interest that the transition is seamless and that America is ready on Day One of a new administration for the challenges we face,” Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, wrote in The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican, said Monday night, “I voted for President Trump but Joe Biden won.”

Mr. Trump praised Ms. Murphy at GSA “for her steadfast dedication and loyalty to our Country” while continuing to strike a defiant note.

“She has been harassed, threatened, and abused — and I do not want to see this happen to her, her family, or employees of GSA,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail! Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending 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.”

Ms. Murphy said she wasn’t pressured to delay the transition but was the victim of “threats” to begin it.

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

“Even in the face of thousands of threats, I always remained committed to upholding the law.”

The law dictates that GSA begin transition work with the incoming administration but does not say how to determine when the election results are incontrovertible.

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