Trump administration officially begins transition to Biden after weeks of delay

Key Points
  • General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy told President-elect Joe Biden the Trump administration is making federal resources available for his transition into office.
  • The letter from Murphy, who had withheld her decision on ascertaining Biden's electoral victory for weeks after the Nov. 3 election, was revealed minutes before President Trump tweeted that he approved of the move.
  • The letter marks one of the first clear indications of the Trump administration acknowledging defeat in the 2020 election. But Trump still refuses to explicitly concede the race to Biden.
The Trump administration allows President-elect Biden's transition to begin after weeks of denial

After near three weeks of delay, General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy told President-elect Joe Biden the Trump administration is making federal resources available for his transition into office.

The letter from Murphy — the Trump administration's clearest acknowledgment of defeat in the Nov. 3 election — was revealed Monday minutes before President Donald Trump tweeted that he approved the move. But Trump has still refused to explicitly concede the race to Biden, who is projected to win 306 Electoral College votes to Trump's 232.

Trump has falsely asserted that he won the election "by a lot," and has promoted a variety of conspiracies that allege widespread electoral fraud without evidence.

Lawyers for the Trump campaign, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have lodged lawsuits in many of the key swing states that helped put Biden over the top in the election. Most of them, which in some cases have asked judges to block states from certifying their final vote tallies, have been rejected.

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Murphy's letter followed the latest series of setbacks in Trump's efforts to overturn the projected outcome of the election, including another court loss in Pennsylvania and the certification of the vote totals in Georgia and Michigan.

Murphy said in her letter to Biden that her decision frees up more than $7 million in federal funding for his transition. Biden's team was already fundraising in the wake of Election Day and had been on track to achieve its fundraising goals.

"Today's decision is a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track," the Biden transition team said in a statement.

"This final decision is a definitive administrative action to formally begin the transition process with federal agencies."

Under federal law, the head of the GSA held the power to free up millions of dollars that are allocated toward presidential transition spending. After withholding those funds for weeks despite news outlets projecting Biden's victory, the low-profile agency was thrust into the spotlight.

Murphy had become the target of intense criticism and pressure from the public and lawmakers alike, who insisted that she immediately make the ascertainment of Biden's win and allow his team to make use of the funds. House Democratic committee leaders last week demanded that Murphy brief them personally on the funding hold up.

In the letter to Biden, Murphy strongly defended her actions and pushed back on her critics, who in some instances accused her of acting with political motivations.

"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. 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.

"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," Murphy wrote.

"Contrary to media reports and insinuations, my decision was not made out of fear or favoritism," she added. "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."

Trump, in a pair of tweets following the release of the letter, thanked Murphy by name "for her steadfast dedication and loyalty to our Country."

"She has been harassed, threatened, and abused – and I do not want to see this happen to her, her family, or employees of GSA," the president tweeted.

Trump maintained that his legal efforts continue "STRONGLY," adding, "I believe we will prevail!"

But he added: "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."

Biden's team has been preparing for the White House throughout the post-election period, despite the lack of federal funding. The transition has already unveiled some of the key officials who will populate Biden's Cabinet, including the announcement earlier Monday that he has chosen former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to be Treasury secretary.

CNN first reported the GSA letter to the president-elect.

Read Murphy's letter to Biden: