The General Services Administration has declared president-elect Joe Biden the apparent winner of the US election, clearing the way for the formal transition from Donald Trump’s administration to begin after weeks of delay.
The GSA said on Monday that it had determined that Biden was the winner of the 3 November race after weeks of Trump refusing to concede and violating the traditions of the transition of power at the White House.
Trump said on Twitter he had directed his team to cooperate on the transition, but vowed to continue fighting the election results, despite the lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud. Hours later, he said: “Will never concede to fake ballots & ‘Dominion’.”
Emily Murphy, who heads the GSA, said she made the determination based on “the law” and “facts.”
“Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts. I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any executive branch official including those who work at the White House or GSA with regard to the substance or timing of my decision,” Murphy wrote in a letter to Biden.
Murphy had faced growing pressure from Democrats and some Republicans to allow the transition to begin, as Trump’s efforts to challenge the results in numerous battleground states failed.
A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Saturday tossed a Trump campaign lawsuit that sought to prevent certification in that state. And on Monday, Michigan certified Biden’s victory, despite an unprecedented push by the president last week to undermine that move to allow for an audit of ballots in Wayne county, where Biden won by more than 330,000 votes.
GSA certification is a process that in typical election years occurs without fanfare or discussion shortly after the race is called by major news outlets.
Murphy’s refusal to declare Biden the winner weeks after the election prevented the transition team of Biden and Vice president-elect Kamala Harris from accessing federal funding and meeting with government officials to prepare for inauguration on 20 January.
The delay was particularly concerning given the urgent and unprecedented tasks facing the federal government amid a significantly worsening pandemic and economic crisis. The US must also begin work to prepare a national rollout of Covid-19 vaccines. There were also major concerns about the potential national security implications of a delayed transition, which blocked Biden from accessing classified briefings.
After Murphy’s letter was made public, Trump tweeted, “We will keep up the good fight and I believe we will prevail! Nevertheless, in the best interest of our country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”
The Trump legal team dismissed the certification as “simply a procedural step” and insisted it would fight on.
Yohannes Abraham, executive director of the Biden transition, said in a statement Monday that the move by the GSA “is a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track”.
He added: “In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies.”
With GSA permitting the formal transition to start, more Republicans started to acknowledge the reality that Biden is president-elect.
“President Trump’s legal team has not presented evidence of the massive fraud which would have had to be present to overturn the election,” said Bill Cassidy, a Republican senator from Louisiana. “I voted for President Trump but Joe Biden won.”
A majority of GOP senators have refused to recognize Biden’s win, arguing that Trump should be allowed to pursue his cases in court, despite the lack of evidence of any widespread fraud that would change the outcome of the race. Since the Associated Press and other news organizations across the country declared Biden the winner on 7 November, five days after polls closed, Trump and his allies have continued to spread misinformation and baseless conspiracy theories, seeking to undermine the legitimacy of mail-in voting and falsely asserting that the election was “stolen”.
Audits, recounts and the Trump campaign’s court cases, however, have resulted in no meaningful changes to the election results, and in some cases, Biden’s lead has only increased. Judges repeatedly thr ew out the Trump campaign team’s cases.
But the false accusations of fraud did lead some election officials to seek to delay certification of the vote. The city commissioner’s office in Philadelphia, where counting took days, reported facing death threats, and Trump supporters have staged protests outside election offices across the US.
Murphy’s letter came on the same day that Biden announced his selection for several key cabinet roles. The president-elect said he would be nominating Tony Blinken as secretary of state, Jake Sullivan as national security adviser and John Kerry as “climate tsar”, suggesting a return to the priorities of the Obama era.
Biden also selected Alejandro Mayorkas for homeland security secretary. If he is confirmed, he would be the first Latino and migrant to have the position. He has further chosen Avril Haines to be the first female director of national intelligence and Janet Yellen to be the country’s first female treasury secretary.