The Trump administration won’t clear paperwork to give the administration’s stamp of approval to presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden and allow his transition team to work fully with federal agencies.
With Mr. Trump’s legal battles mounting over the vote count in several states that will decide the 2020 election, Mr. Biden nonetheless said Monday that he was moving full steam ahead on major policy and staffing decisions.
The General Services Administration must formally recognize Mr. Biden as the “apparent” winner of the election, which unlocks access to additional government resources for the transition.
A GSA spokesperson said Monday that “an ascertainment has not yet been made” and that GSA Administrator Emily Murphy would continue to abide by the law.
Mr. Biden said Monday that he considered the election “over” as he pushed forward with plans to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re ready to get to work addressing the needs of the American people,” Mr. Biden said in Delaware after naming additional members to a coronavirus advisory board. “Today, that work begins.”
Multiple media outlets projected on Saturday that Mr. Biden won the election after awarding him Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes to push him over the 270 needed to clinch the presidency.
The presumptive president-elect also delivered a victory speech in Delaware on Saturday night, though President Trump has not conceded or acknowledged Mr. Biden as the apparent winner.
Under the amended Presidential Transition Act of 1963 (PTA), the GSA administrator determines the “apparent” successful candidate once a winner is clear.
Even before that happens, the statute still gives Mr. Biden’s team the pre-election access they have had to limited office space, computers, and background investigations for security clearances, according to GSA.
“GSA has met all statutory requirements under the PTA for this election cycle and will continue to do so,” the agency spokesperson said.
Several House Democrats asked Ms. Murphy on Monday whether Mr. Trump personally directed her to block the presidential transition process.
“We demand that you provide answers to our questions, immediately release congressionally-appropriated funds for the incoming Biden Administration, and cease obstructing the transition to our 46th Presidential Administration,” wrote Reps. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, Gerry Connolly of Virginia, and Dina Titus of Nevada.
Separately, Mr. Pascrell said the GSA needed to “stop being an accomplice to Trump’s attempted hijacking of democracy.”
Sen. Roy Blunt, who is helping organize planning for the inauguration, pointed out that recent presidents-elect, including George W. Bush in 2000, didn’t immediately get federal money for the transition.
“I don’t think the transition is as hinged on the federal government stepping up and saying ‘we’re going to start paying for everything today’ as it is on knowing what you’re doing,” said Mr. Blunt, Missouri Republican.
Zac Petkanas, director of the “Coronavirus War Room” arm of the advocacy group Protect Our Care, said the GSA is intentionally trying to sabotage Mr. Biden.
“This is outrageous and dangerous,” Mr. Petkanas said. “With cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all skyrocketing, the decision to once again put politics ahead of public health will cost American lives.”
He said that, without getting the green light from the GSA, transition officials cannot fully work with members of the administration at agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which have been deeply involved in the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19.
Chris Lu, executive director of Barack Obama’s 2008 transition team, said he heard from the GSA under President George W. Bush within hours of the networks’ calling the election for Mr. Obama at about 11 p.m. on Election Night.
“Right now, the Biden team already has access to a government facility,” Mr. Lu said on CNN. “They don’t have access to several million dollars of federal funding, which would allow them to pay their staff.”
Nevertheless, some names in a potential Biden administration have been circling. Those include:
⦁ Ronald Klain, chief of staff: Mr. Biden’s chief of staff when he was vice president, who also ran point on the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak;
⦁ Michele Flournoy, defense secretary: former undersecretary of defense for policy under Mr. Obama who also co-led the former president’s transition team at the Defense Department;
⦁ Tony Blinken, secretary of state: former deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration, longtime foreign policy adviser to Mr. Biden
⦁ Pete Buttigieg, Veterans Affairs secretary: former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and former 2020 presidential candidate
⦁ Symone Sanders, White House press secretary: spokeswoman for Mr. Biden’s 2020 campaign and former spokeswoman for Sen. Bernard Sanders’ 2016 campaign
The president’s team has signaled that a legal battle over the results is forthcoming and that allowing even the mundane motions of a transition to occur could undermine that fight.
Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller said Monday on Fox Business Network that the word “concede” isn’t even in the Trump team’s vocabulary right now.
With votes still being counted, Mr. Biden was leading by razor-thin margins in such key states as Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin.
Some Republicans have said it’s time to prepare for the new administration, while also saying the president has every right to pursue remedies in the courts if he doesn’t think the results are above-board.
Newly reelected Sen. Susan Collins of Maine congratulated Mr. Biden on his “apparent victory” and referred to him as the president-elect on Monday.
“Presidential transitions are important, and the president-elect and the vice-president-elect should be given every opportunity to ensure that they are ready to govern on January 20th,” Ms. Collins said.
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, said the GSA should clear the way for the transition process to move forward.
“There’s a very likely prospect that there will be a change in administration,” Mr. Romney said. “We have a national interest in the transition proceeding as rapidly as can be done.”
The nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition, part of the Partnership for Public Service, had applauded White House staff and career federal officials for meeting statutory requirements under the Presidential Transition Act thus far.
“We urge the Trump administration to immediately begin the post-election transition process and the Biden team to take full advantage of the resources available under the Presidential Transition Act,” said a statement from members of the center’s advisory board.
The statement was from Josh Bolten, former chief of staff to former President George W. Bush; Michael Leavitt, a former Utah governor and secretary of Health and Human Services in the George W. Bush administration; Thomas McLarty, former chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton; and Penny Pritzker, a secretary of Commerce under Mr. Obama.
A modified version of the PTA that Mr. Obama signed into law in 2016 was named after Mr. Leavitt and Ted Kaufman, a longtime Biden aide who is helping lead Mr. Biden’s transition team.
Mr. Kaufman was also appointed to serve out the rest of Mr. Biden’s U.S. Senate term after Mr. Biden was elected vice president in 2008.
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