President Donald Trump gave the General Services Administration (GSA) the go-ahead to begin the presidential transition late Monday, capping off whirlwind drama over whether the outgoing White House would actively work to sabotage the incoming administration.
“I want to thank Emily Murphy at GSA for her steadfast dedication and loyalty to our country,” the 45th president tweeted. “She has been harassed, threatened, and abused – and I do not want to see this happen to her, her family, or employees of GSA. 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.”
Trump left open the possibility that his and his allies’ legal challenges—which numbered in the dozens before many were summarily dismissed, pulled or otherwise rejected—could still turn the tide in the Republican Party’s favor. But Trump’s decision effectively means that, in technical terms, the current administration has recognized that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election and is therefore preparing for the obvious result and all that it entails.
Reaction didn’t really run the gamut and was largely of a piece:
Closest thing to a concession… https://t.co/ee7vcuSmoY
— Joe St. George (@JoeStGeorge) November 23, 2020
i guess its a concession? https://t.co/SIc0Y2pVeq
— hasanabi (@hasanthehun) November 23, 2020
Probably the closest thing to a concession we’ll ever get pic.twitter.com/KGQBf9gQkf
— Dan O’Sullivan (@Bro_Pair) November 23, 2020
This is the closest to a concession Trump is going to get. https://t.co/MIOo521plT
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 23, 2020
Concession by tweet https://t.co/pO2SmErbPw
— Andrew Feinberg (@AndrewFeinberg) November 23, 2020
This may be the closest we get to a formal concession from Trump. https://t.co/BUuw6Qgjaw
— Rick Hasen, Mr. Practicing Attorney (@rickhasen) November 23, 2020
Tulane Law Professor Ross Garber offered a linguistically different understanding of the petit concession:
Trump telling GSA to authorize transition. pic.twitter.com/hJXLuDia3j
— Ross Garber (@rossgarber) November 23, 2020
That understanding, however, is not without controversy.
In a two-page open letter to Biden, Murphy said she reached her conclusion to fund the Democrat’s transition independently–and because of Trump’s repeatedly failed legal challenges.
“Contrary to media reports and insinuations, my decision was not made out of favoritism,” she wrote. “Instead, I strongly believe that the statute requires that the GSA Administrator ascertain, not impose, the apparent president-elect.”
🚨🚨🚨And here’s the official ascertainment letter from GSA Administrator Emily Murphy (including her explanation for the delay). pic.twitter.com/HgXPT3cSEY
— Michael Li 李之樸 (@mcpli) November 23, 2020
The news about Murphy’s move, it should be noted, was reported before Trump tweeted about it.
The letter from Murphy continues [emphasis added]:
As you know, the GSA Administrator does not pick or certify the winner of a presidential election. Instead, the GSA Administrator’s role under the Act is extremely narrow: to make resources and services available in connection with a presidential transition. As stated, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, I have determined that you may access the post-election resources and services described in Section 3 of the Act upon request.
Murphy said that no White House official directly or indirectly pressured her on this matter. She did say people online, on the phone and in the mail threatened her, her family, her pets, and her staff in an attempt to “coerce” her into ascertaining that Biden had won the 2020 election.
Murphy and Trump’s explanations on how and why the decision was made to formally begin the presidential transition didn’t go unnoticed.
Murphy took credit for her independence, while Trump said he was recommending that “what needs to be done” be done (in part, because Murphy has been “threatened”); Murphy wasn’t optimistic about the president’s ongoing legal challenges given recent developments, while Trump said he believed he would still “prevail.”
On the left:
GSA Emily Murphy: “I came to my decision independently.”
On the right:
Trump: “I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done…” pic.twitter.com/4ijcUGjyCn
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) November 23, 2020
[image via Saul Loeb/ AFP/Getty Images]
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