Trump admin refuses to hand over keys to Biden transition team
The Trump administration is literally refusing to hand over keys to the federal government to President-elect Joe Biden’s team. President Donald Trump is digging in with assertions of a stolen election amid a rift in the Republican Party even as the Biden team is knocking on the doors of the White House.
Signs of what could be an ugly stalemate emerged on Monday after the head of the General Services Administration, a low-profile agency in charge of federal buildings, refused to sign a letter that would assign budget (about $10 million) and office space in every federal building to the Biden transition team to prepare for governance. Transition officials also get government email addresses and access to outgoing officials to discuss priorities, deadlines etc.
A standard practice, the routine communication amounts to a formal recognition by the Federal Government of the winner of the Presidential race. But GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, a Trump appointee, apparently does not want set the ball rolling without a green light from the White House.
Trump is in no mood to relent even as Biden’s transition team began rolling out plans to meet the immediate challenge – the pandemic – by announcing a coronavirus task force to be co-chaired by Indian-American Vivek Murthy, a former Surgeon General in the Obama administration.
The President kept up a relentless barrage of tweets through the weekend questioning the verdict and accusing the “lamestream media” of prematurely calling the election for the Biden-Harris team.
While Trump retains support of rank and file party and most GOP lawmakers, several Republican grandees acknowledged Biden as the legitimate winner and implicitly urged the President to bow out.
“I just talked to the President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden. I extended my warm congratulations and thanked him for the patriotic message he delivered last night. I also called Kamala Harris to congratulate her on her historic election to the vice presidency. Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country,” former US President George Bush said in a statement.
All four living former presidents (the other three are Democrats – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama) have recognized Biden as the winner.
Not so Republican lawmakers (with rare exceptions such as former Presidential candidate and now Senator Mitt Romney and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski). They are backing Trump to the hilt. The more militant among then are urging him to take the fight to the people, essentially the Trump base, which the outgoing President is stirring up with relent charges of voter fraud and stolen election that are finding resonance only among this most ardent followers.
The Trump family itself is said to be split over conceding the election. Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner is reported to have counseled the President to bow out, but his sons Don Jr and Eric are for fighting it out. First Lady Melania Trump, who was reported to have urged her husband to concede, appeared to back him, tweeting “The American people deserve fair elections. Every legal – not illegal – vote should be counted. We must protect our democracy with complete transparency.”
In procedural terms, everything is boiling down to three key dates: December 8, which is the “safe harbor” deadline for resolution of all election disputes, including court challenges, and the final date on which slates of electors must be chosen by states for submission to Congress; December14, when the electoral college meets to cast ballots typically favoring the winner of popular vote in each state; and January 6, when votes of the electors are sent to Congress in Washington DC for formal certification.
No one knows if all this will go according to script as Americans discover some of the process is more convention than law, including the possibility of faithless electors – who are free to cross-vote as long as they have not taken a pledge of fealty.
Republicans control both chambers of legislature in the top seven battleground states—Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Wisconsin, voting in four of which he lost is being disputed by Trump. In Arizona, Florida, and Georgia, the governors are Republican. In the other four states, the governors are Democrats.
As per law, the legislature certifies electors and their votes, but the governor has to sign off on it. Aside from the stand-off over the hand-off in Washington, a deadlock there is another nightmare facing America.