The top official at the General Services Administration (GSA) on Monday issued a letter to the projected winner of the presidential election, Joe Biden, granting him access to federal transition resources after a weeks long delay due to the uncertainty of the election.
Emily Murphy, the head of GSA, has faced heat for weeks for “holding up the presidential transition,” as the LA Times put it. In her letter, Murphy noted that she and her entire family—including their pets—had been subjected to thousands of threats “online, by phone and by mail” during that period.
The administrator pointed out that although no one at the White House, or in the Executive Branch pressured her to delay her decision to grant the funds, she did feel immense pressure to do so prematurely.
“I have dedicated much of my adult life to public service, and I have always strived to do what is right. Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts,” Murphy wrote. She explained that “recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results” had prompted her to finally make the resources and services available to Biden.
“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 continued. “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.”
Contrary to media reports and insinuations, my decision was not made out of fear or favoritism. Instead, I strongly believe that the statute requires that the GSA Administrator ascertain, not impose, the apparent president-elect. Unfortunately, the statute provides no procedures or standards for this process, so I looked to precedent from prior elections involving legal challenges and incomplete counts. GSA does not dictate the outcome of legal disputes and recounts, nor does it determine whether such proceedings are reasonable or justified. These are issues that the Constitution, federal laws, and state laws leave to the election certification process and decisions by courts of competent jurisdiction. I do not think that an agency charged with improving federal procurement and property management should place itself above the constitutionally based election process. I strongly urge Congress to consider amendments to the act.
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. As stated, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, I have determined that you may access the post-election resources and services described in Section 3 of the Act upon request. The actual winner of the presidential election will be determined by the electoral process, detailed in the Constitution.
Section 7 of the Act and Public Law, 116-159, dated October, 1 2020, which provides continuing appropriations until December 11, 2020 makes $6,300,000 available to you to carry out the provisions of Section 3 of the Act.
In addition, $1,000,000 is authorized, pursuant to Public Law 116-159, to provide appointee orientation sessions and a transition directory. I remind you that Section 6 of the Act imposes reporting requirements on you as a condition for receiving services and funds from the GSA.
In a couple of tweets late Monday afternoon, President Trump thanked Murphy for her “steadfast dedication and loyalty to country,” and declared that his legal case “STRONGLY continues.” Trump said that he recommended that Murphy and her team “do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols.”
…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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 23, 2020