Emily Murphy was right to hold off until yesterday to sign off on the release of federal funds for Joe Biden’s transition team. Now the president-elect and his crew can get travel, equipment, staff training and other costs covered until Inauguration Day.
We can’t ascertain Murphy’s thought process, but I’m guessing the certifications of vote counts in legally contested states, culminating in Michigan, sparked a signal from the White House to go ahead. That plus the unfavorable court rulings. President Donald Trump is a realist, and you can’t float a debenture to cover a vote deficit.
Those disagreeing with Trump’s controversial assertions of vote count fraud correctly called for evidence. Those issuing ad hominem attacks on Murphy, asserting she was doing political dirty work on behalf of the White House are equally required to produce proof. In the 2000 election, the then-administrator of the GSA, David Barram, told Congress on Dec. 4 that he could not ascertain the election results, but instead would make transition resources available to both George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Barram wrote, “While the Act gives no explicit criteria or deadlines for making this ascertainment, as the legislative history demonstrates, Congress made it perfectly clear that if there is ‘any question’ of who the winner is ‘in a close contest’ this determination should not be made.” It would be made a week later by the Supreme Court, closer to Christmas than to Thanksgiving.
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As more of a grasshopper than an ant, I like instant gratification as much as the next guy. Regardless of who you want to win in a given election, everyone prefers to know for sure the next morning. Sometimes you just can’t. This last time we couldn’t.
Watching the chorus of media excoriation of Murphy, and its amplification on social media, one might have thought the chief of the General Services Administration has ultimate Constitutional power to decide the fate of the nation. But as Murphy stated in her letter to Biden, “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.”
Biden deserves an orderly transition and is entitled to the resources Congress makes available to him. There is a reasonable case for Murphy to have acted sooner. But now that she’s proceeded as she has, it’s wrong to assail, without evidence, her motivation or character.
Murphy is a Trump appointee, no secret there. But as the person in charge of federal procurement of buildings and office space, computers, automobiles and trucks, and office supplies, hers is hardly a job fraught with political import — not like, say, attorney general or Environmental Protection Agency administrator.
More interesting in Murphy’s letter than the technical release of funds is her explanation of the seeming delay, and what was going on, and of how elections are in fact decided. Key here is that neither the GSA administrator nor, say, the Associated Press, decide who is the next president. They didn’t in 2000, and they don’t now.
She wrote, “To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination. I did, however,
receive threats online, by phone, and by mail directed at my safety, my family, my staff, and
even my pets in an effort to coerce me into making this determination prematurely. Even in the
face of thousands of threats, I always remained committed to upholding the law.”
Death threats? To her family? Her dogs? Who in any administration deserves that?