General Services Administration (GSA) chief Emily Murphy lamented in a CNN report that she feels like she’s in “a no-win” situation by refusing President-elect Joe Biden access to the resources offered for every incoming president.
But in a Washington Post column, Tufts University Professor Daniel Drezner, who teaches international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, wasn’t buying it.
“It would engender more sympathy if she were not bringing it on herself,” he said simply.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton conceded the day after Election Day when states were finally being called. The day after that, former President Barack Obama welcomed Trump to the day after that, before election week had even finished. Then-GSA head Denise Turner Roth told MSNBC in an interview that she signed the infamous “ascertainment” letter on the day Clinton conceded, which, again, was the day after the election.
The letter basically just authorizes government officials to talk to the Biden transition team. So, when international leaders call Biden, they’re allowed a safe line to speak. They’re allowed funds to bring the incoming president and vice president to Washington, D.C., and put them up in safe and secure housing used for heads of state. The magic letter also allows access to staff who can begin background checks so that military and national security officials can hit the ground running on day one.
Every media outlet has called the election for Biden, including Fox News. Still, Murphy hasn’t decided that Biden was the winner yet. But the problem is that Murphy does believe that Biden won. She’s already looking for another job, ABC News reported.
“It’s not clear what specific actions Murphy is waiting on before granting ascertainment. Sources tell CNN she is basing her decision on what she sees as the precedent set by the 2000 election, where there was not a clear winner for more than a month,” the CNN report explained.
In that election, George W. Bush won a single state by mere hundreds of votes. In the case of the 2020 election, Biden has won several states by several thousands of votes.
“The hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts has stared at that last sentence for a while now and has come to the conclusion that it makes zero sense. Because let’s be clear: There is no comparison between 2000 and 2020,” wrote Drezner, noting that if Trump wants to flip the 2020 election, he’ll have to change three states.
“The better comparison to 2020 is 2016,” said Drezner. “Trump won a couple of states by a narrow margin, and there was some push for recounts, but the outcome was not really in doubt after Election Day. The only difference between 2016 and 2020 is that the losing candidate in 2016 acted like a mature grown-up.”
He cited the George Clooney film “Michael Clayton” as a helpful guide for handling “a mercurial boss.” In the scene, a wealthy client may have hit a man with his car, fled the scene, and needs Clooney as Clayton to go and help the guy get the best trial lawyer in the area and fix his problem.
Drezner said that he wished he could take Murphy at her word, but most people in government try to do the right thing in his experience. That’s obviously not happening here. Murphy is attempting to keep her boss happy, not follow the law or do the right thing. What’s worse, she’s made it clear she knows better.
“I am not here to garner headlines or make a name for myself,” Murphy said during her 2017 confirmation hearing before the Senate. “My goal is to do my part in making the federal government more efficient, effective and responsive to the American people.”
But things have changed. Each day that ticks by shows that Murphy doesn’t believe it’s important to follow the law or precedent. Without her authorization, Trump can continue to block Biden’s work to create a seamless transition on national security, military affairs, and the coronavirus pandemic.
“Right now, without any apparent logic, Murphy is guaranteeing to make the federal government less efficient, less effective and much less responsive to the American people. I feel her pain. But she seems oddly unaware that it is self-inflicted,” closed Drezner.