The Washington Post reported Sunday that a Trump administration official key to facilitating a smooth and timely transition of power is refusing to sign a letter that would allow President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team begin work this week.
President Donald Trump has refused to concede that he lost the election, and The Post noted that this latest development is another sign that Trump 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.
GSA spokesperson Pamela Pennington said in a statement: “An ascertainment has not yet been made, and its Administrator will continue to abide by, and fulfill, all requirements under the law.”
Experts on the matter were left wondering when the White House anticipates the transition will begin, The Post reported — “when the president has exhausted his legal avenues to fight the results, or the formal vote of the electoral college on Dec. 14?”
Transitions are a “mammoth undertaking,” the newspaper wrote, and it falls to the GSA administrator to release “computer systems and money for salaries and administrative support.” This year, that comes to $9.9 million.
“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.
The Post also reported that “The delay has already gummed up discussions on critical issues, including plans to distribute a possible coronavirus vaccine,” according to one official.