WASHINGTON (AFP) – President-elect Joe Biden’s team on Monday welcomed the long-delayed release of government aid for his transition to the White House, a step he said was crucial to “a smooth and peaceful transfer of power.”
“The GSA administrator has ascertained President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the apparent winners of the election, providing the incoming administration with the resources and support necessary to carry out a smooth and peaceful transfer of power,” Biden’s team said in a statement.
“Today’s decision is a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track,” they added.
General Services Administration head Emily Murphy, who denies acting under political pressure, had refused since the November 3 election to release the standard package of aid that her agency manages to Biden’s incoming team.
Her decision came with Donald Trump refusing to concede, baselessly alleging vote fraud and seeking through legal challenges and other means to overturn the results of the November 3 election.
“In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain a complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies,” Biden transition executive director Yohannes Abraham said.
President Donald Trump came his closest yet to admitting election defeat Monday and acknowledged it was time for the GSA to “do what needs to be done.”
In the same tweet, he insisted that he was still refusing to concede, saying: “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!”
But for the Republican to sign off on the GSA’s decision to work with the Biden transition team signaled that even he sees the writing on the wall after three weeks of evidence-free claims that the November 3 election was stolen from him.
The sudden break in Trump’s dogged attempt to deny Biden’s win came after Michigan became the latest state to certify its results and more powerful Trump supporters came out demanding that the impasse ends.
Earlier, Biden announced a foreign policy and national security team crammed with veterans from the Barack Obama years, teeing up an end to the upheaval under Trump and a return to traditional US diplomacy.
Top of the list was former State Department number two Antony Blinken, tapped for secretary of state.
Blinken, a longtime advisor to Biden, will spearhead a fast-paced dismantling of Trump’s go-it-alone policies, including rejoining the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization and resurrecting the Obama-crafted Iran nuclear deal.
Biden named the first woman, Avril Haines, as director of national intelligence, and Cuban-born Alejandro Mayorkas to head the Department of Homeland Security, the agency whose policing of tough immigration restrictions under Trump was a frequent source of controversy.
Signaling the Democratic president-elect’s campaign promise to raise the profile of global warming threats, he named Kerry as a new special envoy on climate issues.
And in a further message of US reengagement with the international community, Biden named career diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador.
Jake Sullivan, who also advised Biden when he was vice president under Obama, was named national security advisor.
Picked to manage the world’s biggest economy as Treasury secretary was Janet Yellen, who will make history as the first woman in the job if confirmed. The 74-year-old was confirmed as Federal Reserve chairwoman under Obama in 2014 and replaced by Trump four years later.
The picks underline an emphasis on professionals whom Biden already knows well, in contrast to the Trump White House where officials were often picked without having a traditional background for the job or proved incompatible and departed in acrimony.
The president, meanwhile, has largely halted at least his public work duties, while heading out to a golf course he owns in Virginia half a dozen times since the election.
With Biden having won a comfortable victory, Trump’s last card is to disrupt the normal routine process of state-by-state certification of results, followed by the formal December 14 vote by the Electoral College.
More cracks appeared in the facade of Republican unity on Monday when Senator Rob Portman said it was “time to expeditiously resolve any outstanding questions and move forward.”
Senator Lamar Alexander, a senior Republican and close ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said “it seems apparent that Joe Biden will be the president-elect.”
“My hope is that President Trump will take pride in his considerable accomplishments, put the country first and have a prompt and orderly transition to help the new administration succeed,” he said.
There was also a push from Trump’s highest-profile Wall Street backer, Stephen Schwarzman, head of the Blackstone private equity group, who told Axios “the country should move on.”
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