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U.S. agency says Biden is the ‘apparent winner,’ lets transition begin

In this June 21, 2019 file photo, General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy speaks during a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Department of Homeland Security’s St. Elizabeths Campus Center Building in Washington. The head of the obscure federal government agency that is holding up Joe Biden’s presidential transition knew well before Election Day she might have a messy situation on her hands well. Prior to Nov. 3, GSA administrator Emily Murphy held a Zoom call with Dave Barram, 77, a man who was in her shoes 20 years earlier during the contested 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Barram said he gave her some simple advice, “If you do the right thing, then all you have to do is live with the consequences of it.’”
Susan Walsh, Associated Press

The General Services Administration has determined that President-elect Joe Biden is the “apparent winner” of the Nov. 3 election, clearing the way for the start of the transition from President Donald Trump’s administration.

An official said Administrator Emily Murphy made the decision after Trump efforts to challenge the vote failed across battleground states, most recently in Michigan, which certified Biden’s victory Monday.

The move clears the way for Biden aides to begin coordinating with federal agencies on plans for transitioning from President Trump to Biden on Jan. 20, inauguration day.

“Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts. 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 wrote in a letter to Biden.

Retiring Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who has repeatedly called for the transition to begin, released a new statement Monday saying that Trump should “put the country first” and help Biden’s administration succeed.

“When you are in public life, people remember the last thing you do,” Alexander said.

Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio on Monday, prior to the announcement, also called for the head of the General Services Administration to release money and staffing needed for the transition. Portman, a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Biden should receive high-level briefings on national security and the coronavirus vaccine distribution plan.

Alexander and Portman, who have both aligned themselves with Trump, joined a growing number of Republican officials who in recent days have urged Trump to begin the transition immediately. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., also urged a smooth transition, saying in a statement Monday that “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 America’s democratic process. The officials signing the letter worked under four Republican presidents, including Trump.

Meanwhile, the Michigan board in charge of certifying election results cast a pivotal vote Monday to validate the state’s tallies, cementing Biden’s victory.

The Board of State Canvassers voted 3-0 to certify the results after taking about three hours of public comment from election officials, lawmakers and residents. Republican board member Aaron Van Langevelde crossed over to join the two Democratic board members in supporting certification, which is traditionally viewed as an administrative step but had drawn the spotlight as Trump’s campaign questioned the integrity of the election.

The other Republican on the panel, Norm Shinkle, abstained.

“We have a clear legal duty to certify the results of the election, as shown by the returns that were given to us,” Van Langevelde said. “We cannot and should not go beyond that. As John Adams once said, ‘We are a government of laws, not men.’

“This board needs to adhere to that principle and do its part to uphold the rule of law here today. This board must uphold the law and comply with our legal duty to certify this election.”

Shinkle called for the Republican-led Legislature to conduct an in-depth review of election procedures in the state. He also cited Wayne County, where two GOP canvassers said they regretted their votes to certify the county results because of out-of-balance absentee ballot counting boards in Detroit.