US President Donald Trump agreed early on Tuesday to allow the transition process to begin, ending weeks of speculation.
But he did so only after certified election results also confirmed that his rival Joe Biden’s victory in the November 3 election was irreversible.
Biden, a Democrat, now has 306 electoral votes against Trump’s 232 and leads his Republican rival by almost six million popular votes; Biden has almost 80 million votes against Trump’s 74 million.
Biden’s 80 million votes are the highest ever received by a presidential candidate and Trump’s 74 million are the second highest.
“In the best interest of our country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same,” Trump said in a tweet posted on Monday night.
Although Trump is yet to formally concede, Emily Murphy — who heads the General Services Administration (GSA) — took the next step and announced that she was allowing the presidential transition to begin. GSA is responsible for running the White House and other federal offices.
Murphy, a Trump-appointee who had earlier blocked the process, also sent Biden a letter recognising him as the winner.
This opens access to funds, office space and classified briefings to Biden who derailed Trump’s bid for a second term in the White House.
“Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts. I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official — including those who work at the White House or GSA — with regard to the substance or timing of my decision,” Murphy claimed in her letter to Biden.
Trump’s tweet followed Michigan’s certification that Biden has won the state by almost 150,000 votes. On Saturday, a federal judge in Pennsylvania threw out a Trump campaign lawsuit seeking to prevent certification in that state.
Georgia, another of the four key states that ensured the former vice president’s re-entry into the White House as president, has already certified Biden’s win.
Although Trump insisted in his tweet that “we will keep up the good fight”, state certifications made it clear that he was running out of options.
So far, Trump had been hiding behind technicalities. Technically, all the results announced before the certification were media reports and, therefore, not legally binding.
But certified results are official. So, when it became obvious that certified results were also favouring Biden, he gave in.
Those observing the White House closely noticed that the first family too had started moving out of Washington during the weekend. Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, who are also his close aides, have both moved to New York.
On Monday night, senators Lamar Alexander and Bill Cassidy joined a growing number of Republican lawmakers who are recognising Biden as president-elect, although some top Republicans are still waiting for Trump to concede.
And Trump’s latest tweet made it even more difficult for them to take a clear stance on this issue.
“What does GSA being allowed to do preliminarily work with the Dems have to do with continuing to pursue our various cases on what will go down as the most corrupt election in American political history?” Trump wrote. “We are moving full speed ahead, and will never concede to fake ballots.”
Lawmakers in America face re-election every two-year and Trump’s huge vote bank means they will continue to need his support in the coming elections.
But Yohannes Abraham, the Biden-Harris transition executive director, said the decision was a “definitive administrative action” that could not be reversed.
“In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the [coronavirus] pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies,” he said in a statement.
The president-elect, however, had already started his part of the transition. By Monday, Biden had announced several key appointments and nominations for his national security and foreign policy team.
Former secretary of state John Kerry will serve as his special envoy to address climate change, and former deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken will lead the US State department.
Former Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen will head the Treasury. If confirmed, Yellen would become the first woman in US history to serve as treasury secretary.