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How the GSA's 16-day blockade on Biden's transition finally ended

November 24, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Close-up of American government official and Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) Emily Murphy as she testifies at a US Senate subcommittee hearing (on the Challenges and Opportunities of the Proposed Government Reorganization) on Capitol Hill, Washington DC, July 26, 2018. (Photo by Alex Edelman/CNP/Getty Images)

Two weeks after Joe Biden was projected to win the presidential election, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy was finally prepared to stop stalling the transition.

So GSA officials gave the White House a heads up that if Michigan and Pennsylvania certified their elections as expected, Murphy would formally start the transition for Biden in a process known as ascertainment, according to multiple sources familiar with the conversations.

It was a step that Murphy's critics say was long overdue, arguing the Trump political appointee was overly deferential to the White House and Trump after it was clear Biden had won the election, and that her failure to sign off on the election result had significant national security and health consequences as the Covid-19 pandemic raged on.

The message to the White House on Friday set up Murphy's decision to finally send the letter to Biden on Monday saying he could begin the transition -- as well as an effort inside the West Wing preparing Trump for his administration's first official acknowledgment of his defeat, something the President has refused to accept.

During the 16 days between the major news networks projecting the win for Biden and Murphy's letter to the former vice president on Monday evening, Trump did not directly tell Murphy to prevent the transition from starting.

Sources familiar with her thinking tell CNN that Murphy struggled with the decision as she faced a barrage of attacks, being thrust into the spotlight as one of the most visible symbols of the Trump administration's refusal to acknowledge Biden's victory.

Murphy was concerned about the precedent that would be set by granting ascertainment when the losing candidate had yet to concede, the sources said, arguing that the GSA had waited until the race was over in the 2000 election between George W.

By late on November 9, it was clear Murphy was going to side with Trump's challenge to the election, and she would not sign off on allowing the transition to begin.

As Trump continued to make false claims that the election had been stolen from him, establishment Republicans, a group Murphy considers herself a part of, mostly refused to say Biden had won the election or to speak out against the President's attacks on the electoral process.

Roughly a week ago, Murphy started inching toward ascertainment when the Trump campaign lost or dropped nine court cases challenging Biden's victory in a single day, said sources familiar with the decision.

But a little more than an hour after Michigan certified its election, Murphy sent a letter to Biden saying that he could begin the transition.

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