GSA’s Certification Decision
Why did Emily Murphy finally do her job?
For more than two weeks, GSA Administrator Emily Murphy refused to certify that Joe Biden was the “apparent winner” of the 2020 Presidential election, thus denying him some key assets required to start the transition.
CNN‘s Jeremy Herb and Kristen Holmes explain “Here’s how Trump’s transition blockade finally ended.”
Two weeks after Joe Biden was projected to win the presidential election, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy was finally prepared to stop stalling the transition.
It was Friday, November 20. President Donald Trump’s lawsuits challenging the election result were going nowhere, Georgia was certifying its hand recount for Biden, and both Michigan and Pennsylvania were preparing to certify their elections early the next week.
So GSA officials gave the White House a heads up that if Michigan and Pennsylvania certified their elections as expected, Murphy would formally start the transition for Biden in a process known as ascertainment, according to multiple sources familiar with the conversations.
In hindsight, once Murphy had decided that the media projections were insufficient to overcome the President’s insistence that he was somehow the winner of the election, this was the best case scenario. She simply waited for enough states to officially certify their outcomes to put Biden over the 270 Electoral vote hump.
But, of course, it helped that Trump decided to get out of the way at that point:
During the 16 days between the major news networks projecting the win for Biden and Murphy’s letter to the former vice president on Monday evening, Trump did not directly tell Murphy to prevent the transition from starting. But he made his stance on her decision known through a steady stream of tweets contesting the election, at one point responding to an old tweet of Murphy’s with “Great Job Emily.”
In her letter explaining her decision on ascertainment, Murphy said she was not pressured by White House officials to grant it. But just minutes after she sent the letter to Biden, Trump seemed to undermine those claims by tweeting he was “recommending that Emily” begin the transition. A source close to Murphy adamantly denied that the two ever had any direct communication.
Inside the White House, multiple attorneys and advisers were huddled with Trump in the Oval Office and on the phone Monday, trying to persuade him to proceed with the transition, a source close to the conversations said. White House counsel Pat Cipollone and chief of staff Mark Meadows, as well as outside attorneys Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani, were discussing the path forward with Trump, this source said.
A White House official referred a request for comment to GSA, and a GSA spokesperson declined to comment for this story.
After Murphy’s letter, Trump praised her in the tweet in which he took credit for recommending the transition begin, thanking her for “her steadfast dedication and loyalty to our Country.”
Murphy was “shocked” by the tweet, one source said.
Why she would be “shocked” by that tweet and not the others is unclear.
While fully recognizing that she was in a no-win situation given Trump’s tantrums and the hyper-charged political environment they created, the fact of the matter was that it was her sworn duty to acknowledge the “apparent” outcome of the election once the outcome in Pennsylvania was reasonably certain, putting Biden over the top. That was Saturday, November 7. She should have signed the letter no later than Monday morning.
But, again, having failed to do that, it’s unclear what intermediate information short of a Trump concession would have changed her stance. Until the election boards certified the results, it was just a reasonable certainty that Biden would win. Their certification made the outcome official, with only the pageantry of the Electoral College meeting and the Senate counting the votes remaining.