GSA Head Refuses to Sign Transition Order

A nonpartisan official is refusing to do her duty.

While Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have almost universally been acknowledged as the President- and Vice President-Elect, that hasn’t stopped the Trump administration from trying to thwart them. A career bureaucrat is now refusing to do her duty.

WaPo (“A little-known Trump appointee is in charge of handing transition resources to Biden — and she isn’t budging“):

A Trump administration appointee is refusing to sign a letter allowing President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team to formally begin its work this week, in another sign the incumbent president has not acknowledged Biden’s victory and could disrupt the transfer of power.

The administrator of the General Services Administration, the low-profile agency in charge of federal buildings, has a little-known role when a new president is elected: to sign paperwork officially turning over millions of dollars, as well as give access to government officials, office space in agencies and equipment authorized for the taxpayer-funded transition teams of the winner.

It amounts to a formal declaration by the federal government, outside of the media, of the winner of the presidential race.

But by Sunday evening, almost 36 hours after media outlets projected Biden as the winner, GSA Administrator Emily Murphy had written no such letter. And the Trump administration, in keeping with the president’s failure to concede the election, has no immediate plans to sign one. This could lead to the first transition delay in modern history, except in 2000, when the Supreme Court decided a recount dispute between Al Gore and George W. Bush in December.

“An ascertainment has not yet been made,” Pamela Pennington, a spokeswoman for GSA, said in an email, “and its Administrator will continue to abide by, and fulfill, all requirements under the law.”

The GSA statement left experts on federal transitions to wonder when the White House expects the handoff from one administration to the next to begin — when the president has exhausted his legal avenues to fight the results, or the formal vote of the electoral college on Dec. 14? There are 74 days, as of Sunday, until the Biden inauguration on Jan. 20.

Note that Murphy is not some hack Trump crony. She is, as required by law, a career civil servant in the Senior Executive Service. It’s simply unconscionable for her not to do her job.

Still, given the political climate and the volatility of the man who will occupy the White House until January 20, one understands the pressure she’s under.

“No agency head is going to get out in front of the president on transition issues right now,” said one senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. The official predicted that agency heads will be told not to talk to the Biden team.

It’s unfortunate, indeed. The whole reason that law has a career official in charge of this process is precisely to shield it from partisan intervention. But the law didn’t anticipate a Trump presidency.

The decision has turned attention to Murphy, whose four-year tenure has been marked by several controversies involving the president, an unusually high profile for an agency little known outside of Washington.

“Her action now has to be condemned,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who leads a House oversight panel on federal operations. “It’s behavior that is consistent with her subservience to wishes of the president himself, and it is clearly harmful to the orderly transition of power.”

The delay has implications both practical and symbolic.

By declaring the “apparent winner” of a presidential election, the GSA administrator releases computer systems and money for salaries and administrative support for the mammoth undertaking of setting up a new government — $9.9 million this year.

Transition officials get government email addresses. They get office space at every federal agency. They can begin to work with the Office of Government Ethics to process financial disclosure and conflict-of-interest forms for their nominees.

And they get access to senior officials, both political appointees of the outgoing administration and career civil servants, who relay an agency’s ongoing priorities and projects, upcoming deadlines, problem areas and risks. The federal government is a $4.5 trillion operation, and while the Biden team is not new to government, the access is critical, experts said.

This is all on hold for now.

While part of me wishes we had parliamentary-style turnover—where a newly-elected Prime Minister will take over in a matter of days—it’s really infeasible under our system. As painful as having an opposite-party lame duck in office for so long is, it’s barely enough time for the election winner to start assembling a cabinet and get them through the clearance process.

It’s simply outrageous to deny Biden the ability to get started. This isn’t 2000, where the outcome of the election is genuinely in doubt. The notion that multiple recounts in states with margins in the thousands of votes is going to change the outcome is at best an absurd fantasy.

And, again, this is why we have a non-partisan official in charge of initiating the process.

“The transition process is fundamental to safely making sure the next team is ready to go on Day One,” said Max Stier, president and chief executive of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, which has set up a presidential transition center and shares advice with the Biden and Trump teams. “It’s critical that you have access to the agencies before you put your people in place.”

The Biden team can move forward to get preliminary security clearances and begin FBI background checks on potential nominees requiring Senate confirmation.

Another senior administration official who was not authorized to speak publicly said each agency has drafted detailed transition plans for a new administration, but they will not be released to the Biden team until a winner is formally declared.

Trump has been resistant to participating in a transition — fearing it is a bad omen — but has allowed top aides to participate as long as the efforts do not become public, administration officials said. He is unlikely to concede he has lost or participate in traditional activities, the officials said.

As with so many things over the last four years, the law simply didn’t envision someone of Trump’s ilk with the powers of the presidency.

Still, some of this was anticipated before the election. Kate Shaw and Michael Eric Herz, writing in the Atlantic, assured us “The Transition Is (Mostly) Safe From Trump.”

There is certainly no reason to expect President Trump to approach a President-elect Biden in anything like the spirit of cooperation and goodwill that has generally characterized presidential departures in the modern era.

[…]

Nor should anyone expect Trump to adhere to the bipartisan conventions of presidential stewardship of modern transitions. Further, by litigating the election outcome and delaying his concession, the president might postpone the point at which Biden is acknowledged the victor, thus delaying funding and many transition-related activities, as happened in 2000.

But there’s reason to have faith, too. When it comes to the transition itself—not the niceties that surround it—a little-known body of law and practice places important limitations on the amount of damage even a determined outgoing president can do. The law vests significant authority for managing transitions in career officials—that is, officials whose employment does not turn on or change with the occupant of the White House—who owe higher duties to the transition or incoming administration than they do to the outgoing administration. This means that however resolved Trump might be to thwart a smooth transition—or, short of that, however lackadaisical he might be in managing one—much of the process lies entirely outside his control.

For much of American history, presidential transitions were casual affairs, typified by a long post-campaign vacation for the winning candidate and little organized communication or cooperation between incoming and outgoing administrations. That shifted during the first half of the 20th century, but no law of presidential transitions existed until 1964. That year, Congress passed the Presidential Transition Act (PTA), which is central to how modern transitions are run. This law—and its many amendments, the most recent of which was enacted just this year—provides millions of dollars in funding for transition operations and requires the government to support potential incoming administrations with information, expertise, and direct assistance.

Strikingly, Congress placed almost all the responsibility for managing the transition in the hands of career employees. This means that when it comes to matters of transition, the president and those immediately surrounding him are less important than they seem: The real action lies with career staff in the agencies.

Like, you know, the GSA.

The Act requires that four entities or positions be in place six months before the election. As described in a set of legally required reports from the General Services Administration to Congress, all are indeed up and running:

*A federal transition coordinator. Notably, the FTC is selected not by the president but by the head of the GSA and must be a “senior career appointee” at GSA.

*A White House Transition Coordinating Council. In 2010, Congress amended the PTA to provide that the incumbent “may” set up a White House Transition Coordinating Council, something Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had each done in their final (though not their fourth) year in office. In 2012, President Barack Obama, running for reelection, did not do so, and in 2016, Congress changed the “may” to a “shall.” The Council is emphatically not an entity of career officials. Generally chaired by the White House chief of staff (as the current council is) or a deputy chief of staff and packed with White House officials, it also includes the FTC and representatives of both campaigns.

*An Agency Transition Directors Council. The Council, also required by the 2016 amendments, is to consist of “a senior representative” from each Cabinet department, the Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Government Ethics, the National Archives and Records Administration, and “any other agency determined by the Co-Chairpersons to be an agency that has significant responsibilities relating to the transition process,” along with the major candidates’ representatives. It was widely understood that that “senior representative,” who also heads transition activities within her agency, would be a career official, and the Obama executive order creating the 2016 council specified the same. Just this year, Congress codified that understanding; by law, agency transition directors cannot be political appointees; they must be senior career staff. With the exception of the Office of Management and Budget co-chair, the current council consists entirely of career officials.

*Transition directors in individual agencies. The PTA requires “every agency”—not just those with a representative on the Agency Transition Directors Council—to assign an employee to oversee transition activities. Once again, this employee must, as a matter of law, be a “senior career employee.” Back in May, the OMB instructed more than 100 agencies to identify a point of contact for communications regarding transition activities.

All of this is in place. In addition, the GSA has provided office space in Washington for the Biden team and negotiated, as the PTA requires, a memorandum of understanding with the Biden team that will be signed if and when it is apparent that Biden has won the election.

Again, though, the expectation was that the GSA head would follow the consensus of the news projections.

Thus, all the early tests have been met. To be sure, the early tests are easy, as they involve flat legal requirements. So one cannot be too reassured. But compliance is not nothing.

It is, alas, not enough.

One presumes pressure from the outside to sign the letter and allow the official transition process to commence will soon be sufficiently immense as to overcome the fear of a presidential tantrum. In an ideal world, the President’s staff would pressure him to concede the inevitable and slink away; there is in fact good reason to think that’s happening. Moreover, leadership from Congressional Republicans should already be pushing in that direction. Alas, most still seem to be more afraid of their voters than concerned about their duty to the country.

UPDATE: Government Executive’s Courtney Buble had some speculation on this issue earlier in the week, before the networks had made their calls for Biden.

“There don’t seem to be standards for how and when [the ascertainment] needs to happen,” Don Kettl, the Sid Richardson professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, told Government Executive. “GSA has been supporting the candidates up to Election Day. The government’s support of the transition, however, can’t begin until the GSA administrator authorizes it.”

He continued, “Given the fact that there’s such discretion in the process, the core question is this: Will the administrator turn on the transition as soon as the networks call the election? If the networks call Biden as the winner, will the administrator launch the transition if the case is still in the courts? Or might the administrator, perhaps, wait until the Electoral College meets and decides, on the grounds that the decision would be contested until that vote is taken?”

[…]

GSA Administrator Emily Murphy was confirmed unanimously in December 2017 and has since been in charge of overseeing 11,200 employees nationwide, over 370 million square feet of government real estate and about $75 billion in annual contracts. She’s come under fire from House Democrats for GSA allegedly having relaxed oversight of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., which is in a GSA-leased building, and her involvement with the White House in the controversial decisions about the FBI’s new headquarters

[…]

There was similar attention about GSA’s role in the transition process in 2016 when Trump suggested before winning that he might contest the results of the election. Additionally, in 2000–the last time there was a delay in presidential election results–lawmakers grappled with the same questions during a hearing on December 4, 2000, eight days before the Supreme Court declared George W. Bush the winner.

[…]

GSA ended up waiting until December 14, 2000, to turn over the keys and funds—after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Republicans and Democratic candidate Al Gore had conceded.

But, again, the election outcome was genuinely in doubt then; it isn’t now.

FILED UNDER: Joe Biden, Presidency, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jay L Gischer says:

    It’s not easy to tell if this is Trump being petty and vindictive, or operating under a larger plan. Based on what I know about Trump, I’d guess the former. However, we can’t afford to assume anything.

    This is a guy that got big cheers and applause at rallies for statements about how he wouldn’t accept a loss.

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  2. gVOR08 says:

    Note that Murphy is not some hack Trump crony. She is, as required by law, a career civil servant in the Senior Executive Service.

    These are not as mutually exclusive as one might wish. WAPO notes she started her career with the RNC. She’s been involved with Trump’s lease of the old Post Office as the Trump DC hotel. The GSA IG found she misrepresented information and lied about her involvement in delaying the move of the FBI headquarters, which would leave a large building available for a competitor to Trump’s hotel.

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  3. Mikey says:

    But the law didn’t anticipate a Trump presidency.

    Pretty much the motto of the last four years.

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  4. Joe says:

    I am curious whether the required finding is that there is a “winner” or that there is an “apparent winner.” If the latter, the mere fact of recounts and legal appeals should have no impact. In either case, the finding surely has no legal impact on the actual winner.

    It also makes a difference whether the WH is open (as in Bush v. Gore) or has an incumbent as it does now. With an “apparently” defeated incumbent, it should be a no-brainer to begin transition understanding that the worst outcome is that the incumbent is ultimately declared the winner and the transition is halted.

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  5. CSK says:

    Any Trumpkin will tell you that Trump won this election, so there’s no need for a transition.

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  6. All of this goes to show how much we rely on informal actions, like concession speeches by the loser. Because the reality is that is it always true that by this stage in the calendar no official/legal results have been certified, but the transition begins because everyone simply accepts reality and we move on.

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  7. KM says:

    @gVOR08:
    Yep. She’s more-Trump friendly then the “non-partisan” label would indicate. There’s no real reason to not sign the letter as any legal challenge at this point is either a pipe-dream or going to actively subvert the election process. We know the outcome, if not all the exact details. No professional would claim uncertainty for this unless they were expecting a court to overturn an election… a very partisan position at this point.

    I’d also note that “required by law” has been an extremely flexible concept to this Administration and the GOP in general for the last few years. Compliance has been spotty and instances of just plain ignoring the law (*cough* Hatch Act *cough*) are rampant. If she doesn’t sign the letter, who’s gonna make her? By the time it gets litigated, Biden’s sworn in already and it’s moot. No one in power right now is going to hold her accountable even if they should. We are expecting her to do her job but have nothing with teeth to *make* her.

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  8. Teve says:

    Trump has been resistant to participating in a transition — fearing it is a bad omen —

    Who s he, MacBeth?

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  9. Nightcrawler says:

    My prediction is that funds & access will be granted when Biden is sworn in on January 20, and not a moment before.

    This means no big inaugural celebration in D.C. I can see DT’s supporters thinking that this means Biden won’t “really” be inaugurated, but everyone else knows that he can be sworn in anywhere. A ceremony can be held at the Chase Center in Wilmington, or in the parking lot at Four Seasons Total Landscaping. It doesn’t matter where it’s done.

    Being as the pandemic is going to be far, far worse by January 20, maybe it’s just better that there will be no big celebration. Of course, that’s the least of the problems here.

    Question: Will Roberts refuse to do the swearing-in?

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  10. Pylon says:

    @Joe: The language is “apparent winner”. BTW, it’s probably relevant that a WH lawyer was just moved to into the role as GSA counsel on Oct. 29.

    https://www.hstoday.us/people-on-the-move/trent-j-benishek-appointed-gsa-general-counsel/

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  11. Jen says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    My prediction is that funds & access will be granted when Biden is sworn in on January 20, and not a moment before.

    That is way too late–this is the transition funding, and has nothing to do with inauguration funds, which are separate and a combination of government and privately raised funds.

    Transition funding essentially pays for the equipment, salaries, office space, etc. that is needed to facilitate a smooth transition. Of course they’ll try to bollocks that up in an attempt to make Biden look bad.

    These are horrible, awful people.

    My hunch is that once the remaining states of Georgia, Arizona, and North Carolina have counts in, she’ll release the funds, but really how incredibly petty this woman is.

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  12. Teve says:

    What was that Mary Trump said, Trump would just throw temper tantrums and break stuff from here on out.

    I’d like to have a word with all the people who said now Democrats you need to be nice and respectful and conciliatory to us now. Two words, actually.

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  13. Kathy says:

    It may be germane to run through what happened in Mexico after the 2006 election.

    The winner was Felipe Calderon, with a plurality in the 30s%. Second place was His Royal Lowness Manuel Andres the Last, who insisted he’d been robbed through massive fraud.

    I’ll leave out the means he used to protest, and what his supporters did as well. I will say he insisted on a recount of all polling places, but provided evidence of irregularities (not fraud) and formally requested investigations, as provided by law. in only a few of them.

    The results stayed and Calderon took office on schedule. But the notion that fraud had taken place, though no evidence existed, did pervade enough of the population, that the next government made some reforms.

    One was to provide political parties with free airtime in TV and radio, by using a provision which reserved some minutes out of every broadcast hour for government use. this was originally intended for official announcements, particularly in emergencies, and was seldom used. Now there are political party ads year-round every hour.

    Another unintended consequence was that in 2009, the government had no airtime available to promote preventive measures for the H1N1 pandemic.

    So you don’t need to overturn an election to engender massive mistrust of the electoral system.

    There are other differences. Mexico has a National Electoral institute, which sets campaign rules and manages federal elections, and assists in state and local elections. it also manages all voter registration, and issues a voter registration card, which serves as ID for most people. In America these are local and state matters.

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  14. Teve says:

    Maybe there are some simple rational reasoning for this. Maybe she signed a $500,000 mortgage in Arlington last month and doesn’t wanna lose her house when she can just wait till mid December.

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  15. Scott says:

    Speaking of transition, Trump has just fired SecDef Esper. Another example of spite. There is no reason to fire anyone at this point other than to try to burn it all down. This will hinder transition also.

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  16. Nightcrawler says:

    @Jen:

    Thanks for the correction. I thought inauguration funds were part of all this. Yes, I realize that the inauguration ceremony is the least of our concerns here.

    I hope you’re right, but I strongly suspect she’ll refuse to release anything, because, as you said, these are horrible people, and nobody is going to stop her.

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  17. Nightcrawler says:

    I’m seriously wondering if Roberts will refuse to sign Biden & Harris in. What happens then? Since Trump’s term ends at noon, does that mean Biden & Harris officially take the reins, or do they get handed to Pelosi?

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  18. Jen says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    I hope you’re right, but I strongly suspect she’ll refuse to release anything, because, as you said, these are horrible people, and nobody is going to stop her.

    At some point, it will dawn on her that she’s going to need a job somewhere down the line and that being too intransigent is detrimental to her future. She’s from Missouri (St. Louis), and worked for Jim Talent* so I’m hoping someone from there is talking some sense into her.

    * Congressman Talent was one of the few calm voices in Missouri politics, but he started sounding nuttier the more Republican the state got (as did Sen. Bond). Sen. Danforth retired before the bat-guano crazy started.

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  19. Nightcrawler says:

    Here’s what Quorans had to say about it when someone asked a similar question in 2016.

    From one answer:

    There’s no specific requirement in law that the Chief Justice swear in the President of the United States. Any judge can do it. Lyndon Johnson was sworn in Judge Sarah T. Hughes, Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

    It’s crazy that I’m even pondering this.

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  20. Nightcrawler says:

    @Jen:

    It’s nuts that we’re even having to discuss this, just like it was nuts that I thought of looking on Quora for an answer to my swearing-in question.

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  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Just yesterday, Dr. Joyner noted that while he approves of the idea of Biden using EOs to undo some Trump EOs, that he was dismayed at what might be called a wholesale dismantling of the past 4 years as an assault on “the rule of law.” The same thing might apply here. What does “the law” state about when the election is decided? Does the AP declare who wins the election? Faux News? CNN? CNBC? The fact that news outlets have declared a winner should not be allowed to supplant the work of certifying, canvassing, and recounting, if such recounts are required. The “rule of law” must be supported.

    The fact that fate has chosen what appears to be a partisan hack disguised as a civil servant as champion for “the rule of law” is certainly ironic, but “the rule of law,” like any other entity, goes to war with the champion it has, not the one it might wish for. A short delay in the process is a small price to pay for upholding and cherishing “the rule of law,” don’t you think? Especially under the current circumstances.

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  22. Andy says:

    The press articles aren’t very helpful, so I looked up the actual relevant text in the law. Here it is:

    (c) The terms ‘President-elect’ and ‘Vice-President-elect’ as used in this Act shall mean such persons as are the apparent successful candidates for the office of President and Vice President, respectively, as ascertained by the Administrator following the general elections held to determine the electors of President and Vice President in accordance with title 3, United States Code, sections 1 and 2.

    Section 1 of Title 3 deals with appointing electors and states:

    “The electors of President and Vice President shall be appointed, in each State, on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President.”

    Section 2 of Title 3 deals with what happens if a state doesn’t make the choice on the prescribed day:

    “Whenever any State has held an election for the purpose of choosing electors, and has failed to make a choice on the day prescribed by law, the electors may be appointed on a subsequent day in such a manner as the legislature of such State may direct.”

    I’m not a lawyer but my interpretation is that the GSA Administrator has discretion until the election results are official.

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  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I read Michael Lewis’ Fifth Risk. None of this surprises me.

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  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: I assume that the first word begins with “f.” Does the second begin with a “y” or a “t?”

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  25. KM says:

    @Andy:
    Soooo…. Dec? Because one could easily argue the election results aren’t “official” until the Electoral College has met and done their job. Now they’ll start to quibble about when things are “official” to run out the clock. Discretion implies one has such a capacity; this is petty ass BS.

    Honestly, Biden should just start billing the Trump Administration for any and all transition expenses. He won’t pay but once he’s in office, Biden could decide to honor those bills while the GSA was “exercising discretion”. After all, they’re legally entitled to that money so if we gotta play semantics, let’s play. The GOP’s gonna do this for the next 4 years so best to get some rules lawyering practice in now. Plus, it will help dispel lingering notions Biden might have of bipartisanship suddenly becoming a thing and conservatives won’t shiv him for shits and giggles.

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  26. Andy says:

    @KM:

    Just to be clear I’m not arguing that the Administrator is doing is the right thing here, but it does seem she does have the authority to do what she’s not doing. My opinion is that she should follow custom and get the formal transition rolling. Barring that, I think she should at least be made to explain her reasoning and under what specific conditions she’ll sign the authorizations.

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  27. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    This isn’t just partisan squabbling…this is a very serious Nat’l Security issue.
    9/11 happened after the Bush Administration had been set back in their transitional efforts…for very different reasons, obviously.
    Especially with Trump now upending leadership at the DOD, the Biden Administration has to be given every chance to take office full prepared to do their jobs.

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  28. Mikey says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I read Michael Lewis’ Fifth Risk. None of this surprises me.

    I heard him interviewed on Chris Hayes’ podcast, he was pretty interesting. I’ll have to pick up the book.

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  29. gVOR08 says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    Question: Will Roberts refuse to do the swearing-in?

    No. As always, Roberts will be very concerned with the appearance of impartiality. The substance not so much, but the appearance.

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  30. KM says:

    @Andy:
    Fair enough – I wasn’t accusing you personally of goalpost moving. Sorry if it felt that way.

    The problem with making her state her logic (a reasonable request) is again force – who’s going to do so, how and how quickly? Let’s say Mitch decides to play ball and Congress as a whole demands a response; normally such a request has a deadline and it’s never right freaking now. She’d likely get a few days “to be reasonable”. She’ll then resist under BS justification (“this isn’t a legal thing so pfft!”) and the compelling action takes a while to kick in – a few more days or weeks of back and forth. That puts us at Thanksgiving or later. Whoops – holidays! More days missed as the government is closed or slowed down due to time off. That puts us into Dec and since the EC meets on 12/14…. why not just stall till then if you can?

    Unless she’s physically dragged into a court, made to swear to a judge and then refused to answer there’s no way to compel a quick response. Anything will take time and that’s what she’s after – getting away with this petty BS for as long as possible – and it seems possible is ridiculously long if one wants it too be.

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  31. Not the IT Dept. says:

    “He’s making a list,
    He’s checking it twice,
    Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.
    Joe Biden is coming to town.”

    Good. Let her face the consequences of her intransigence, when no one will applaud her “courage”, when her phone calls and emails don’t get returned, and when she comes to the office to find the locks changed and her security pass card cancelled, and her personal effects in a cardboard box at the security desk.

    There’s a new sheriff in town, and this kind of nonsense is going to stop pretty fast.

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  32. Kathy says:

    @Mikey:

    It’s worth the read.

    Spoiler alert:

    Lewis claims Trump didn’t want to form a transition team during the months after the conventions, because he knew he wouldn’t win, so why spend money on that? Bannon and Christie talked him into it, but he refused to give them any money, either his or his campaign’s. So Christie had to solicit donations.

    Later Trump accused him of stealing his money, which strikes me as typical (I wonder how much money he absconded with from two campaigns).

    trump’s inner circle panicked when they won, because they’d made no preparations at all for a transition. even so, the various soon-to-be cabinet members showed little interest in meeting with Obama’s people, who had prepared extensive transition documents detailing all that all agencies actually do.

    No wonder his so-called administration unleashed such a cluster-f**k for four long years.

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  33. al Ameda says:

    @Andy:

    Just to be clear I’m not arguing that the Administrator is doing is the right thing here, but it does seem she does have the authority to do what she’s not doing. My opinion is that she should follow custom and get the formal transition rolling. Barring that, I think she should at least be made to explain her reasoning and under what specific conditions she’ll sign the authorizations.

    Why anyone – Republican or Democrat – would think that Trump would follow the custom here, this norm, is beyond me. For 3 years he’s disdained all norms, he’s kind of set in his ways. I expect him to break more furniture on his way out.

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  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mikey: Don’t know if you can hold your breath for 2 and a half months but it just might cause you to try.

    It’s good. I’ve only read a few of his books ( the Fifth Risk, Liar’s Poker, Flash Boys, and of course, The Big Short which was the best I’ve read).

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  35. Barry says:

    @Nightcrawler: “I’m seriously wondering if Roberts will refuse to sign Biden & Harris in. What happens then? Since Trump’s term ends at noon, does that mean Biden & Harris officially take the reins, or do they get handed to Pelosi?”

    He would not refuse, since it would hurt him to no effect.
    Also, any federal judge could do it.

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  36. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy: I sort of agree with you, with only the caveat that she is gutless and more worried about her job than her civic duty. But if Georgia and Arizona call for Biden and she is still pulling this nonsense then she should be sent packing when Biden comes in. I don’t care if it hurts David Brooks fee fees, a quisling is a quisling and should be rooted out.

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  37. James Joyner says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Just yesterday, Dr. Joyner noted that while he approves of the idea of Biden using EOs to undo some Trump EOs, that he was dismayed at what might be called a wholesale dismantling of the past 4 years as an assault on “the rule of law

    No, not at all. My argument twofold 1) We’ve increasingly circumvented the Constitution out of convenience and that’s a bad thing and 2) to the extent half the country is terrified about a transition of administrations (and I said the same in 2016) it’s an indication that too much power is concentrated in one individual.

    I voted for Joe Biden in the Democratic primary and again for President in the general. I welcome his replacing Trump. But my preference is a return to governing by compromise and persuasion rather than the ‘whatever we can get away with’ that was the sine qua non of the current administration but wasn’t invented in 2017.

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  38. inhumans99 says:

    In the open thread I wrote a post that was maybe a wee bit hyperbolic talking about an attempted Republican coup and I will walk that back a bit. I guess this the type of sore loser crap the GOP is getting away with with McConnell’s blessing that is getting to me. I was the one who tried to reassure Kathy that all is good and we can relax but I have to say it is going to be a long month and a half until the votes are certified.

    I still say that all of this talk by once reputable GOP members of the Senate that states should just ignore the will of the voters and make sure only GOP members of the EC cast their votes when it comes time for certification rattles me and it should rattle the average citizen who cares about this country.

    It just makes me feel that perhaps this country is still closer to a civil war type conflict or a Balkan Nations type of divide of the United States than most people would care to admit out loud.

    Maybe I am on a lonely island as I am the only person who is thinking like this on this site, but yeah…the GOP being so scared of a President who everyone is confident lost the election is a bit
    odd…as of this past Saturday you really would have expected more members of the GOP to cowboy up and tell Trump to get stuffed with all of this stolen election whining but a pitiful few members of the Senate have stepped up to do this.

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  39. JKB says:

    Media projected Biden, but the unofficial vote counts haven’t even been reported by state officials yet. In any case, this is the first work day after the media selection. No doubt the GSA lawyers are developing an opinion for the administrator.

    “(c) The terms ‘President-elect’ and ‘Vice-President-elect’ as used in this Act shall mean such persons as are the apparent successful candidates for the office of President and Vice President, respectively, as ascertained by the Administrator following the general elections held to determine the electors of President and Vice President in accordance with title 3, United States Code, sections 1 and 2.

    3 U.S.C. §102 note; PTA, §3(c).

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  40. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Joyner:

    But my preference is a return to governing by compromise and persuasion

    My preference, too. I’m just not expecting that it will happen in my life time. We seem to have burned that bridge, along with the Congress doing it’s job one.

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  41. Teve says:

    During the worst financial crisis in four generations, when America was losing jobs at the rate of 800,000 a month, Mitch McConnell said, publicly, his number one goal was to make Obama a one-term president.

    Nothing can get fixed, until Republicans get fixed.

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  42. Ramona says:

    Murphy is not acting responsibly in a pandemic situation and should be ashamed of herself. Hopefully, she will lose her job in the very near future.
    United we stand and divided we fall.
    Shame on all the politicians and other servants to the public that are not working for a united nation and instead only for their own personal gain.

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