Yet with Trump still refusing to concede, the administration’s sabotaging of the transition continues. So Democrats must crank up the pressure on the administration to drop its blockade, for the good of the transition itself and to prevent such tactics from being normalized.
Here’s the latest. Emily Murphy, the head of the General Services Administration, still hasn’t signed the official letter that would allow the incoming Biden team to formally begin the transition.
A few days ago, Congressional Democrats wrote their own letter to Murphy, demanding that she provide a rationale for refusing to allow the transition to proceed — and, importantly, insisting she disclose whether she’s doing so under Trump’s orders. They demanded an answer by Wednesday.
A day later, Murphy has still not replied, according to Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), the chair of the House Oversight subcommittee with jurisdiction over the GSA.
“Nothing yet,” Connolly told me. “Given the immediacy of this issue, I would expect and demand a prompt reply.”
Connolly also said Democrats would now consider the “next steps” in ratcheting up pressure on Murphy. Such steps, obviously, would have to include hearings, subpoenaing Murphy and any documents related to her refusal to sign the letter, and perhaps more.
A great deal is at stake here. By law, the GSA administrator is supposed to ascertain when there is an “apparent winner” of the race, which releases a tremendous amount of governmental resources to be put at the disposal of the incoming team.
But the GSA has said that it has not yet ascertained this, leaving experts to raise the possibility that the transition could be delayed for the first time other than during the dispute over the 2000 presidential race.
That could ultimately do real damage. Transitions are tremendously complex operations, and lost days could increase the risks, especially with Biden taking over amid health and economic crises that are rapidly worsening by the day.
What’s more, the GSA recognition is also supposed to serve as a sign throughout the government that the transition should proceed. And there are plenty of indications that it isn’t.
Biden transition officials have said the Trump administration is reneging on its promises to initiate other critical procedures ensuring a smooth transition. And sources tell Dana Milbank that the administration has yet to make good on a 9/11 Commission recommendation that the new team should be immediately apprised of classified info about national security threats.
“We can’t be silent in the face of intransigence from the head of the agency that has a routine mission to facilitate the transition and the peaceful transfer of power,” Connolly told me.
Even some Republicans — such as Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma and former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, who chaired the House Intelligence Committee — now say Biden should already be getting his daily intelligence briefing.
But this should also put more pressure on House Democrats to do what they can to force the issue, as Brian Beutler points out.
“Serious thought has to be given to next steps,” Connolly told me. Still, he declined to specify that a subpoena is being considered, noting that Democrats don’t want to get ahead of what the Biden transition team wants.
Biden officials declined to tell me their preference on this front. What’s more, the House Democratic leadership would also theoretically have to approve a subpoena or other tactics, and it’s not clear whether they’re prepared to do so, perhaps also out of deference to the Biden team.
But it’s not clear why there should be any hold up here. In addition to the daily damage a delayed transition can do, we deserve to know whether Trump is actively using this mechanism to try to burn the place down on his way out.
As the Democrats demanded that Murphy disclose in their letter to her:
Have Donald Trump, adjutants of Mr. Trump, or other White House officials directed you to block commencement of the presidential transition? Please detail any interactions you have had with White House personnel on the presidential transition.
We deserve an answer to this question. Democrats should use all the tools at their disposal to extract one.
“The administrator’s silence shows contempt for both Congress and the nation, which just overwhelmingly elected President-elect Biden,” Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.), a member of the Ways and Means Committee, told me.
“It would be a damn shame if Ms. Murphy wants her legacy to be that of an accomplice to an attempted hijacking of our democracy,” Pascrell continued.
Something else is at stake here, too: The question of whether refusing to concede, and weaponizing the transition as a way to both sabotage the incoming administration and inflict revenge on the American people for rejecting an outgoing president, will become normalized as tools of political warfare. Or, more finely put, as weapons of warfare against the country itself.
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