Joe Biden said Wednesday the delayed transition process is slowing down his ‘war’ on COVID as General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy feels like she’s in a no-win situation as she deals with death threats coming in from her refusal to certify the presidential election.
Murphy’s refusal to ‘ascertain’ a winner in the contest between President Donald Trump and Biden means the president-elect’s transition team cannot speak to federal agencies about the transfer of power or have access to federal funds.
Biden, in a virtual briefing with frontline healthcare workers, said that is hampering his ability to fight the pandemic, which has killed more than 250,000 Americans.
‘This is like going to war,’ he said of combating the coronavirus.
‘I am optimistic, but we should be further along’ in the transition process, he noted.
Joe Biden said the delayed transition process is slowing down his ‘war’ on COVID
The president-elect specifically called out the GSA for not allowing the formal transition process to begin – part of a public pressure campaign he and his team are waging on Murphy to sign off on the process.
‘One of the problems that we’re having now is the failure of the administration to recognize – the law says that the General Services Administration has a person who recognizes who the winner is,’ Biden said, referring to Murphy’s power to set the wheels of change in motion.
‘That’s the only slow down right now that we have. We put together, I think, a first-rate team that you would all be proud of. And we’re all ready to go and doing an awful lot of work right now,’ he said.
But, Biden said, the delay means ‘we’ve been unable to get access to the kinds of things we need to know about’ including stockpile details.
Trump has refused to concede the contest, has tweeted multiple times he’s the ‘winner’ and has launched a series of lawsuits in battleground states. But most of the lawsuits have gone no where, his campaign has turned up no evidence of major voter fraud, and Biden has won 306 electoral votes – more than enough to take the presidency.
General Services Administrator Emily Murphy
Democrats on Capitol Hill and the Biden campaign have expressed their fury and frustration with Murphy, a 47-year-old lawyer and longtime government employee, who is the solo sign off on the transition process starting.
Her friends and allies told CNN she never thought she would be in such a situation.
They could not say whether or not Murphy has spoken to White House officials about the situation but note she is examining agency guidelines and studying what happened in 2000, when the election was dragged out by a recount of Florida votes.
‘She absolutely feels like she’s in a hard place. She’s afraid on multiple levels. It’s a terrible situation,’ one friend and former colleague of Murphy’s told CNN. ‘Emily is a consummate professional, a deeply moral person, but also a very scrupulous attorney who is in a very difficult position with an unclear law and precedence that is behind her stance.
‘She’s doing what she believes is her honest duty as someone who has sworn true allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America, and the laws that govern her position,’ the friend added.
They described her as a policy wonk and said, despite her being a political appointee, she was not an avid Trump supporter or loyalist.
‘She’s going to be really thoughtful about both the letter of the law, any guidelines, explicit guidance, any precedence, as well as the overall intent. She comes out of contracts, where that is the whole nature of the work,’ a former colleague said.
President-elect Joe Biden is putting public pressure on Emily Murphy to start the transition process but President Donald Trump has refused to concede and has sued in several states
States are in the process of certifying their election results and electors will meet on January 6, 2020, on Capitol Hill, which is when the electoral votes are counted.
Before the November 3 election, Murphy held a zoom call with Dave Barram, the man who was in her shoes 20 years earlier during that contentious 20000 contest.
He told Murphy about his torturous experience with ‘ascertainment’ — the process of naming the winner of the presidential election, which launches the official transition process, the Associated Press reported.
Murphy, who went to law school at the University of Virginia and worked for years as a Republican staffer on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch, leads one of the most obscure yet powerful federal agencies.
‘I am not here to garner headlines or make a name for myself,’ Murphy said at her Senate confirmation hearing in October 2017. ‘My goal is to do my part in making the federal government more efficient, effective and responsive to the American people.’
She became GSA chief in December 2017 after the Senate confirmed her, taking the lead in the 12,000-person agency that manages the government’s real estate and its shopping list: the GSA runs all federal buildings and procures supplies for the executive branch.
Its task range from cleaning the West Wing of the White House to managing the federal government’s 215,000 vehicle motor pool to negotiating multi-million dollar contracts.
Murphy has given no indication of when the ‘ascertainment’ will come.
Emily Murphy being sworn in as GSA administrator in December 2017
Friends say Emily Murphy has received death threats
The Biden transition team and the president-elect himself are putting public pressure on Murphy to kick start the transition process.
On Monday, when talking about the coronavirus pandemic, Biden warned without access to information and plans being made under Trump’s administration, more people could die.
‘We’re going into a very dark winter. Things are going to get tougher before it gets easier,’ he said.
‘More people may die if we don’t coordinate,’ he noted, calling on the transition process to begin.
Biden and his transition team are doubling down on their call for the Trump administration to share information on the virus and are demanding a laundry list of items to help them in their response to the pandemic.
‘Cooperation and communication must be the foundations of our COVID-19 response. We have to work together as quickly and efficiently as possible. We have to share information,’ Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former surgeon general leading Biden’s task force, told reporters in a briefing on Tuesday.
He pointed out that many government staffers working on the pandemic are career federal employees who will stay on the job during the Biden administration.
‘They will be our partners in addressing COVID-19,’ Murthy said.
In a briefing with reporters Tuesday, Dr. Vivek Murthy (left) and Dr. David Kessler (right) listed information they need in their work as part of Biden’s coronavirus task force and said the Trump administration’s refusal to start the transition process is hampering them
Biden’s team is asking for a variety of information about medical supplies, staffing, and protective gear, in addition to the information on they’re seeking on the administration’s plan to distribute a vaccine to the 300 million Americans will need it.
They argued that lack of information and the administration’s refusal to start the formal transition process is hampering their work to counter the pandemic.
That includes, according to what officials on the briefing call said and a list of demands reported by NBC News:
- The total number of N95 masks, plastic gloves and syringes available for medical professionals nationwide.
- Information on the size of the nursing staff available to administer millions of doses of the vaccine, including in rural areas.
- An understanding of where existing supplies are stored, whether they meet the projected demands of all 50 states, how quality control checks will be conducted, and how to prevent state and hospital system bidding wars.
- Terms of vaccine contracts with pharmaceutical companies, including logistics, and the role of the Department of Defense.
- Real time data on supplies hospital beds, ventilators and the capacity of the Strategic National Stockpile.
- Existing databases on testing, vaccinations and protective gear.
‘We don’t know when this will peak,’ Dr. David Kessler, another leader of Biden’s task force, said of the pandemic, which is seeing cases rise across the United States. ‘We have no time to waste.’
‘Getting everyone vaccinated who wants to be vaccinated is a daunting task even under the best of circumstances,’ he noted, adding that the federal government has said they are working on plans for February and March, as is their team.
‘The sooner everyone can cooperate the more seamless it will be,’ Kessler said on the briefing with reporters.