Will 'the Donald' leave White House without a fight?

Democrats led by Biden appeared to be granting some time to Republicans to bow out.

Credit : NBC News

Donald Trump appears bent on muddying Joe Biden’s path to White House. Alliance partners of the president-elect have started sensing that the transition of power on January 20 is not likely to happen smoothly due to a likely legal tussle, said a CNN report quoting officials.   

Democrats led by Biden appeared to be granting some time to Republicans to bow out.

However, General Services Administration (GSA) head Emily W. Murphy, who has been appointed by Trump, looks reluctant to declare the transition. It is her duty to announce the new president-elect, which subsequently kicks off the transition.

According to a statement released by the GSA on Monday, Biden's victory has been inaccurately compared with that of George W. Bush against Al Gore in 2000 polls. The results were not clear at this stage during that election. This would put the Democrats camp in a quandary over a possible confrontation with the federal agencies to legitimise the election results. The officials said the Democrats and their allies will now become more vocal over the matter in the media and elsewhere.

"We believe that it is clear that President-elect Biden and (Vice President-elect) Kamala Harris should be entitled to all GSA functions and all functions across government and we're asking GSA administrator to make a proper ascertainment," said an official.

The officials from the Biden camp said the $6.3 million worth funds the Congress has allocated for the transition is not being made available. They said federal agencies or their staffs are not accessible to the transition officials. They no legitimate access to get and discuss confidential details.

In an initial nudge to federal agencies, Democrats Gerry Connolly (Virginia), Bill Pascrell (New Jersey) and Dina Titus (Nevada) have written to Murphy seeking a meeting. The letter stated that she was "undermining the urgent need for a prompt and effective transition of power in the midst of a global pandemic that must be focused on the safety and well-being of our citizens."

As an initial part of the transition process called ‘ascertainment’, Murphy has to arrange for funds to the transition team from the Biden camp. This would mean that the Trump administration has accepted that Biden has won the election. Moreover, the move would grant access to national security tools for background inquiries and more money for training and staff to be appointed in the new administration.

However, Murphy appears reluctant to hand over the baton even after over 48 hours the media has made it public that Biden has won. A GSA spokesperson could not specify a timeline for the ascertainment process. CNN quoted GSA spokesperson Pamela Pennington as saying "An ascertainment has not yet been made."

"There are no updates at this time and GSA's position remains the same. An ascertainment has not yet been made. GSA and its administrator will continue to abide by, and fulfill, all requirements under the law and adhere to the prior precedent established by the Clinton Administration in 2000," said Pennington, again erroneously comparing with the 2000 poll.

A statement released by Pennington said the GSA does not confirm the winner in the election. It instead "ascertains the apparent successful candidate once a winner is clear based on the process laid out in the Constitution." She did not respond to CNN's query as to what form the threshold for an "apparent successful candidate." An expert said it has "always been a quick decision" on confirming the winner.

The Obama administration confirmed Trump’s election the day after in 2016, said the source. The same was done during the poll night around 1 am in 2008. The delayed, said the source, was caused in 2000 as a mandatory recount was called for in Florida and ‘ascertainment’ was announced after the Supreme Court direction.

In his statement on Sunday, President George W. Bush said the poll "was fundamentally fair, its integrity will be upheld, and its outcome is clear." Many Republican office-bearers have said Biden is the "President-elect."

Transition officials dismissed the comparison to the 2000 poll during a press meet on Monday night.

"This is not 2000 by any stretch. That involved one state that had a 500 vote-plus margin, that had a number of different lines of contention of ballots that would have altered the outcome of that election and therefore the entire Electoral College vote," said an official.

"This is a very different situation," they added, pointing to announcements made by all major news organisations calling Biden a winner.