A Trump administration appointee is refusing to sign a letter allowing President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team to formally begin its work this week, in another sign the incumbent president has not acknowledged Biden’s victory and 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.
“An ascertainment has not yet been made,” Pamela Pennington, a spokeswoman for GSA, said in an email, “and its Administrator will continue to abide by, and fulfill, all requirements under the law.”
The GSA statement left experts on federal transitions to wonder when the White House expects the handoff from one administration to the next to begin — when the president has exhausted his legal avenues to fight the results, or the formal vote of the electoral college on Dec. 14? There are 74 days, as of Sunday, until the Biden inauguration on Jan. 20.