Monday was a good day for democracy. First, Michigan’s board of canvassers voted 3-0 with one abstention to certify president-elect Joe Biden’s more than 150,000-vote victory in the crucial swing state. While this should have been a routine ministerial matter of rubber-stamping the state’s vote totals, President Donald Trump had managed to turn it into a high-stakes drama; his pressure campaign had aimed to compel local officials to delay certifying and ultimately overturn Michigan’s election results.
That effort, one of the Trump campaign’s final gasps to usurp an election he lost by 74 Electoral College votes and more than 6 million votes nationally, has clearly failed.
The bigger denouement moment, though, came later on Monday, when administrator of the General Services Administration Emily W. Murphy said she would be making transition resources available to the president-elect and his team, after more than two weeks of holding out. The GSA’s release of more than $7 million in funds came 16 days after every major media outlet called the election for Biden and followed a string of calls from Republican senators to make the money available.
The lack of transition process has meant that Biden’s team has not gotten access to top-level intelligence and has thus far been unable to cooperate with current executive branch officials to prepare to manage the winter’s devastating spike in positive COVID-19 cases. On Monday, top House and Senate Democrats said that Murphy’s decision to withhold “ascertainment” that Biden would be the next president threatened national security.
Her statement releasing funds was ultimately grudging and focused more on her personal situation than on the country’s. She noted that she has faced “thousands of threats,” including to her “pets,” over her unprecedented decision to withhold transition funds.
In one key portion, though, Murphy claimed that she made the decision free of political interference from President Trump, who has refused to concede the race and has made factually empty allegations of widespread fraud. “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,” she said in her letter releasing the funds to Biden and his team.
That claim, though, was immediately undermined by Trump, who tweeted for the first time in nearly a day (an uncommonly long period of digital silence from him) to say that he was “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.”
A formal concession from Trump seems exceedingly unlikely, but the certification of the second of a series of key swing states and the release of transition funds constitute an enormous marking point toward Trump being forced to face the reality that he will be leaving the White House one way or another come Jan. 20.
The ascertainment came after Republican Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, Lamar Alexander, and Pat Toomey joined Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, and Ben Sasse in acknowledging Biden’s victory and requesting transition funds be released. Earlier on Monday, the New York Times further reported that top business leaders had begun to push the administration to begin the transition process, including one of Trump’s biggest supporters, Blackstone private equity firm chief executive Stephen A. Schwarzman.
That pressure ultimately came after a weekend in which the Trump campaign went so far as to distance itself from Sidney Powell, a key member of its legal team, after she spent her public appearances last week spewing unfounded conspiracy theories about voter theft.
Perhaps in other important signs that the world is moving on from Trump’s years in charge, Biden named key Cabinet nominees, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced she was abdicating her perch as the Democrats’ top figure on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The 87-year-old senator’s genteel posture toward her opponents last month put her suitability as a party leader facing ruthless Republican opposition in extreme doubt.
Anyway, it was a good day.
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