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Trump administration approves start of formal transition to Biden

WASHINGTON – President Trump’s administration on Monday authorized President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to begin a formal transition process after Michigan certified Mr. Biden as its winner, a strong sign that the president’s latest attempt to canceling the election results was drawing to a close.

Mr Trump did not concede and vowed to persist in efforts to change the vote, which have so far proved unsuccessful. But the president said on Twitter Monday evening that he had accepted the decision of Emily W. Murphy’s decision, the administrator of the General Service Administration, to allow a transition.

In his tweetMr. Trump said he had told his officials to begin “initial protocols” involving the transfer to Mr. Biden “in the best interests of our country,” although his announcement follows weeks of attempted subvert a free and fair election with false allegations of fraud.

Ms. Murphy’s designation of Mr. Biden as the apparent winner provides the incoming administration with federal funds and resources and paves the way for advisers to the president-elect to coordinate with Trump administration officials.

Ms Murphy’s move came after several other senior Republican lawmakers, as well as personalities in business and global affairs, denounced the delay in starting the peaceful transfer of power, a heist that Mr Biden and its main collaborators have said they are threatening national security and the ability of the incoming administration to effectively plan for the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

And it follows a key decision by the Pennsylvania court, where the state Supreme Court ruled on Monday against the Trump campaign and the president’s Republican allies, declaring that around 8,000 ballots with signature or signature irregularities date should be counted.

In Michigan, the state prospecting board, made up of two Republicans and two Democrats, voted 3-0 to approve the results, with one Republican abstaining. He formally handed Mr. Biden a key battleground that Mr. Trump wrested from Democrats four years ago and pushed back on the president’s legal and political efforts to reverse the results.

On Monday night, as Mr Biden moved forward with plans to fill his cabinet, large sectors of the nation had sent a direct message to a defeated president: his campaign to stay in the White House and subvert the election, unrealistic from the start. beginning, approaching the end.

Ms Murphy said she made her decision on Monday due to “recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results”, most likely referring to the certification of votes by Michigan election officials and a series almost unbroken court rulings that have dismissed Mr. Trump’s challenges in several states.

In a statement, Yohannes Abraham, executive director of Mr. Biden’s transition, said Ms. Murphy’s decision was “a necessary step to begin addressing the challenges facing our nation.”

He added that Mr. Biden’s aides would soon begin meeting with Trump administration officials “to discuss the response to the pandemic, get a full account of our national security interests, and gain a full understanding of the efforts of the Trump administration to hollow out government agencies.

Mr. Trump had resisted any move towards a transition. But in the conversations of the past few days, which escalated Monday morning, key contributors – including Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; Pat A. Cipollone, lawyer for the White House; and Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal lawyer – told the president the transition had to begin. He didn’t need to say the word “concede,” they told him, according to several people briefed on the discussions.

Mr Trump continued to seek advice from associates, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, who told him there were still legal avenues to pursue, the people said.

Some of the advisers have drafted a statement for the president to issue. Ultimately, Mr Trump did not post one, but aides said the tone was similar to his evening tweets, in which he appeared to take credit for Ms Murphy’s decision to allow the transition to begin.

“Our case continues STRONG, we will continue the good fight, and I believe we will win!” he wrote. “Nonetheless, in the best interest of our country, I recommend that Emily and her team do what needs to be done regarding the initial protocols and have told my team to do the same.”

In a letter to Mr Biden, which was first reported by CNN, Ms Murphy refuted Mr Trump’s claim that he ordered her to make the decision, saying: ‘I have come to my mind. decision independently, based on the law and the facts available. . She said she had “never been subjected to direct or indirect pressure from a representative of the executive – including those who work in the White House or the GSA”

“I don’t think an agency tasked with improving federal procurement and property management should place itself above the constitutionally-based electoral process,” she wrote, defending her delay, saying she did not want to preempt the constitutional counting process. vote and choose a chair.

His letter seemed designed not to upset Mr. Trump and his supporters. In it, she did not describe Mr Biden as the president-elect, although she said the transition could begin.

An associate with knowledge of Ms Murphy’s thinking said she still plans to sign the transition, but needs a defensible rationale for doing so in the absence of a concession from Mr Trump; recent pro-Biden developments in Michigan and Pennsylvania, as well as Georgia, which certified Mr. Biden’s victory last Friday, have provided a clear rationale for moving forward.

The move was part of a cascade of events over the past few days that appeared to mark the end of Mr. Trump’s attempts to resist the will of voters.

The great counties of Pennsylvania formalized Mr. Biden’s victory in the state. And in a major break with the president, General Motors has announced that it will no longer support the administration’s efforts to overturn California’s fuel economy rules.

On Capitol Hill, most of Mr. Trump’s Republican allies were by his side for the past two weeks as he tried to undo Mr. Biden’s victory. But on Monday, some of the top Republicans in the Senate urged Ms Murphy to allow the transition.

Retiring Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has made his second appeal in recent days for a swift transition.

“Since it seems obvious that Joe Biden will be the president-elect, I hope that President Trump will be proud of his tremendous accomplishments, put the country at the forefront and have a swift and orderly transition to help the new administration succeed,” said Mr. Alexander, a close friend of Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and majority leader. “When you’re in public life, people remember the last thing you do.”

Earlier today, Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, both Republicans, issued statements breaking with Mr. Trump and calling on Mr. Biden to begin receiving briefings on the coronavirus and national security.

“At some point, the 2020 elections must end,” Ms. Capito said.

The pressure on Mr. Trump extended beyond the political sphere. More than 100 business leaders on Monday sent a letter to the administration asking it to ease a transition, and a group of Republican national security experts pleaded with Republican members of Congress to demand Mr. Trump concede.

One of the chairman’s strongest supporters, Stephen A. Schwarzman, managing director of private equity firm Blackstone, did not sign the CEO letter but said in a statement that “the result is very certain today and the country should move forward. “

But the most dramatic proof that Mr. Trump’s efforts to contest the election were fading on Monday came in Michigan, where days of speculation over the state’s certification of the vote ended in a 3-0 vote. solicitation advice. It came after hours of commentary from local clerks, elected officials and the public, most of whom said the council’s only legal role was to certify election results, not audit them.

As the meeting progressed, it became clear that a Republican member of the canvassing board, Aaron Van Langevelde, was leaning towards certification. He repeatedly asked if the council had the legal authority to do anything else.

“There is nothing in the law that gives me the power to request an audit,” he said. “I think the law is on my side here. We have no authority to request an audit, delay or block certification. “

The other Republican on the council, Norm Shinkle, abstained in the vote.

Jocelyn Benson, the Democratic Secretary of State for Michigan, said in a statement that “democracy has prevailed” against “an unprecedented attack on its integrity.” She said the state would now initiate procedures, including a risk-limiting audit, to further assert the integrity of the election.

Another crucial pivot state, Pennsylvania, was also heading toward consolidation of the results on Monday, with several counties certifying the vote count, despite scattered efforts by local Republicans to stop the process. Mr. Biden won Pennsylvania by about 80,000 votes.

In Allegheny County, the second largest county in the state and seat of Pittsburgh, the county council voted 2 to 1 to certify the results. And in Philadelphia, the largest county, city commissioners certified the results Monday night after the state Supreme Court rejected a Republican demand to disqualify the 8,000 missing ballots.

Pennsylvania law says counties must certify their votes by the third Monday after the election, but there is no real penalty for missing the deadline.

Statewide results will not be formally certified until all counties report, after which the process will pass to Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, then Governor Tom Wolf for final signing and the allocation of voters. Both officials are Democrats.

Despite the county certifications on Monday, the Trump campaign filed an emergency appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, seeking to halt statewide certification.

Yet the Trump campaign legal challenges, led by Mr Giuliani, were so unsuccessful and widely ridiculed that the president admitted to councilors that the former New York mayor’s appearances had become a debacle.

Michael D. Shear reported from Washington, Maggie Haberman and Nick Corasaniti from New York, and Jim Rutenberg from Montauk, NY Kathleen Gray contributed reporting from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

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