A government agency administrator is refusing to trigger the release of resources meant to help the US president-elect’s transition, raising concerns that Joe Biden will not have access to full federal resources for an orderly transfer of power.
Emily Murphy, the Donald Trump-appointed head of the General Services Administration, has not yet signed a letter that would officially begin the transition process, 48 hours after US networks called the race for Mr Biden, and after former presidents ranging from Jimmy Carter to George W Bush congratulated Mr Biden on his victory.
During the standard transition process, the GSA hands over millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded resources to the winning presidential candidate’s transition team and gives it access to agency buildings and personnel to allow it to prepare for assuming office a few weeks later.
In a statement, the GSA confirmed that it had not yet begun the transition process, but insisted it was adhering to “all requirements under the law”, citing the 2000 transition — during the contested election between George W Bush and Al Gore — as precedent.
In that year, the GSA transition process began after Mr Gore formally conceded on December 13 2000, more than a month after the election.
“The GSA administrator does not pick the winner in the presidential election . . . The GSA administrator ascertains the apparent successful candidate once a winner is clear based on the process laid out in the constitution,” the agency said.
It was not immediately clear how or when the GSA would ascertain the winning candidate, and whether it would be linked to the formal vote of the electoral college on December 17 or a concession of defeat by Mr Trump.
Regulations require the GSA to make a determination to give the incoming president certain federal resources for transition once the president-elect is apparent.
The Biden transition team called on the GSA to “promptly” ascertain Mr Biden as the winner of the election, now that the race had been “independently called for Joe Biden”.
“America’s national security and economic interests depend on the federal government signalling clearly and swiftly that the United States government will respect the will of the American people and engage in a smooth and peaceful transfer of power,” the transition team said.
Other Democrats joined the call for the agency to reverse course.
Ms Murphy “must begin the Biden transition without delay”, Gerry Connolly, the Democratic chairman of the House subcommittee on government operations, tweeted.
“The administrator plays a critical role in the peaceful transfer of power and ensuring vital government services are not disrupted. This is all the more important amid a deadly pandemic. Do the right thing,” he added.
“This is not about [the president’s] political interest, this is about the nation’s interest,” Chris Lu, who served as Barack Obama’s transition director in 2008, told MSNBC.
The stalemate between the GSA and the transition team underscores the continuing difficulties Mr Biden and his team face before the president-elect is officially installed at the White House.
Were Ms Murphy and the GSA to begin the transition process, it would be seen as acceptance by the US government, and the Trump administration, of a Biden victory.
Mr Trump has so far refused to concede the race and has continued making unsubstantiated allegations of election fraud, which have been rebutted by numerous election officials, including members of his own party.
“At this point, we’ve not seen any sort of credible examples [of voter fraud],” Geoff Duncan, the Republican lieutenant-governor of Georgia, told CNN on Monday.