With Sufficient ‘Political Cover,’ Crucial Federal Agency Acknowledges Biden’s Win

The General Services Administration usually isn’t front and center when it comes to politics. But its leader was wary of supporting Biden’s team too soon.

By Rhonda Fanning, Alexandra Hart & Caroline CovingtonNovember 24, 2020 11:39 am

A government agency crucial to the presidential transition process finally recognized Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election. The General Services Administration, or GSA, usually isn’t front and center when it comes to politics. It provides administrative support to various government agencies, and enables incoming administrations to get access to basic things like office space and help with payroll.

But Jeffrey Engel, founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, told Texas Standard that GSA head Emily Murphy, an appointee of President Donald Trump, was wary of acknowledging a Biden win until she had sufficient “political cover” to do so.

“She decided the ruling yesterday, over the weekend in Pennsylvania, and the number of senators who came out yesterday in favor of a proper transition, that that was the political cover she needed, in essence, to be politically independent, as she’s supposed to be,” Engel said.

Acknowledgment of a winner by the GSA usually doesn’t take long. Engel says this instance only compares to the 2000 Bush versus Gore election when it took weeks and a U.S. Supreme Court case before a winner was decided. Even so, the GSA prepped both candidates’ teams so that they’d be ready.

But Engel says this acknowledgement from the GSA brings the Trump administration step closer to acceptance of Biden’s win. The “final nail in the coffin,” he says, will be when the Electoral College officially votes in December.

In the meantime, Trump is still trying to contest the election. His legal team hasn’t been successful, and Engel says judges have “laughed the lawyers out of the court” in many cases because of a lack of evidence. But Trump can still fight the day-to-day aspects of the transition.

“The bigger issue is that when you hand over power, the handing-over administration has to decide if they want to be enthusiastic about that or not,” Engel said. “Donald Trump still can affect whether or not the transition goes peacefully or combatively.”

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