As I have repeatedly noted, part of the official process to determine a winner in a presidential race, absent a concession, is to have the votes certified by the states, and for the Electoral College to meet in December. Neither has been met yet.
But there is also one other critical step before a presidential transition can officially begin – that is the “ascertainment” of a winner by the General Services Administration (GSA) of the federal government. This is required by the Presidential Transition Act of 1963.
As much as Joe Biden believes he is “president-elect,” and the media insists he is, without these steps, it just isn’t so. Especially in the case of GSA ascertainment. And Team Biden is begging for GSA to ascertain him as the winner. GSA for its part, citing lack of election certainty and certification, has thus far declined to do so.
Without this certification from GSA, there can be no official transition process, no funds released for a transition, and no contact between a presumptive “president-elect” and the White House or any executive agencies.
And for now, Trump and the GSA head, Emily Murphy, seem to be saying – not so fast.
The president hasn’t directly commented on this issue, but he retweeted a post about veterans from the GSA chief, saying, “Great job Emily!” So, we can all infer where he stands.
As the Wall Street Journal notes:
The Trump administration hasn’t issued a typically routine technical designation that would allow Mr. Biden’s staff to view detailed classified information, send representatives to embed with government agencies and have the State Department facilitate calls with foreign leaders. The delay could also hamper Mr. Biden’s selection of cabinet officials because the ability to conduct background investigations for security clearances is frozen.
All this is unfortunate for Team Biden. Some argue that Trump should simply concede, and GSA ascertain Biden. But until and unless Trump does, or the votes get certified, and the Electoral College convenes to make Joe Biden president-elect, nothing will change, and GSA should continue to withhold the certification.
Of course, after trying the national security excuse, Team Biden will keep using the Covid card to get recognized. They argue that without immediate ascertainment, they can’t meet with White House health officials, and desperately need to coordinate to roll out the Covid vaccine that President Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed” efforts helped accelerate.
And even the Wall Street Journal is helping Biden along. The WSJ reported that:
Joe Biden’s top adviser said Sunday that a government agency’s delay in officially acknowledging his electoral victory could hinder his efforts to prepare for the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine, among other critical issues.
Ron Klain, named to become Mr. Biden’s White House chief of staff, said Sunday that the transition team would press the General Services Administration this week to issue a designation that would allow his aides to meet with Health and Human Services officials over the looming logistical hurdles of manufacturing and distributing a vaccine for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a CNN interview Sunday, according to WSJ, that “of course” the government’s public health officials would be more effective if they could work with Biden’s presumptive incoming team. And “of course” Fauci would say that.
But all this is less about Covid or national security than it is a concerted Team Biden effort to get around the fact that – well – Biden is not yet officially president-elect.
And, just as with the intelligence briefings and other coordination, if Biden is ultimately designated the “president-elect,” by early to mid-December, there is still plenty of time until Inauguration Day – January 21 – for that all to occur.
In 2000, thanks to the recounts and litigation by Democrat Al Gore contesting the election, George W. Bush was not certified as president-elect until mid-December and did not begin getting intelligence briefs and his transition until then.
Would it be better for a new incoming administration to have more transition time? – “of course.” Will it be catastrophic if it’s less time? – “of course not.”
So, “not so fast” – if Biden is soon certified as president-elect, great for him, but he can also easily wait as long as GW Bush did in 2000. The Republic survived then and will survive now.