Updated Nov 23, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Key government agency says Biden transition can formally begin

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy. Photo: Alex Edelman/CNP/Getty Images

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy. Photo: Alex Edelman/CNP/Getty Images

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy said in a letter to President-elect Joe Biden on Monday that she has determined the transition from the Trump administration can formally begin.

Why it matters: Murphy, a Trump appointee, had come under fire for delaying the so-called "ascertainment" and withholding the funds and information needed for the transition to begin while Trump's legal challenges played out.

Driving the news: Minutes after Murphy's letter was first reported by CNN, President Trump tweeted that he recommended the GSA begin the transition "in the best interest of our Country."

  • Notably, Murphy said in her letter that she came to her decision "independently" and did not receive pressure from the executive branch.
  • In his tweet, Trump refused to concede to President-elect Biden and vowed to keep fighting.

What she's saying: “To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination," Murphy said.

  • "I take this role seriously and because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, am transmitting this letter today to make those resources and services available to you," she added.
  • Murphy said her “decision was not made out of fear or favoritism.”
  • “Instead, I strongly believe that the statute requires that the GSA Administrator ascertain, not impose, the apparent president-election. Unfortunately, the statute provides no procedures or standards for this process, so I looked to precedent from prior elections involving legal challenges and incomplete counts.”
  • “GSA does not dictate the outcome of legal disputes and recounts, nor does it determine whether such proceedings are reasonable or justified. These are issues that the Constitution, federal laws and state laws leaves to the election certification process and decisions by courts of competent jurisdictions."
  • "I do not think that an agency charged with improving federal procurement and property management should place itself above the constitutionally-based election process. I strongly urge Congress to consider amendments to the Act."
  • Worth noting: Murphy does not address Biden as president-elect in the letter.

Yohannes Abraham, the Biden-Harris transition executive director, said in a statement that "[t]oday’s 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," he added."

Go deeper: Read Murphy's full letter via DocumentCloud.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout, including clarifying that Murphy did not address Biden as president-elect in the letter.

Go deeper