Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Transition Roundup: Trump Refuses to Concede; Biden Teams Prepare to Go Into Agencies

There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.

General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy sent Joe Biden a letter on Monday ascertaining him as the apparent winner of the presidential election, thus allowing the formal transition to begin. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

Shortly after the news broke about GSA ascertainment, the president thanked Murphy for her service in a tweet and said that he will continue his legal challenges of the election results. He’s continued to tweet about GSA. “What does GSA being allowed to 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?” he said late on Monday night. “We are moving full speed ahead. Will never concede to fake ballots & ‘Dominion.’ ” Then on Tuesday morning, he tweeted, “Remember, the GSA has been terrific, and Emily Murphy has done a great job, but the GSA does not determine who the next President of the United States will be.” 

The nonprofit Partnership for Public Service applauded Murphy for ascertaining the election and emphasized how prepared Biden is. Also, “moving forward, we must pursue statutory remedies to ensure that a transition is never again upheld for arbitrary or political purposes,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership, in a statement on Monday night. “A clearer standard and a low bar for triggering access to transition resources are crucial to protecting the apolitical nature of presidential transitions.” In her letter, Murphy also suggested the law be amended. 

Yohannes Abraham, Biden-Harris transition executive director, outlined in a statement on Monday night the next steps. “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 complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies,” he said.  

The FBI is now able to begin background checks for Biden’s potential political appointees, NPR reported on Tuesday. 

Biden is expected to name former Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen as Treasury Secretary, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. She would be the first woman to hold the position. 

The transition website is now a “.gov,” as opposed to “.com,” as of Monday night.  

The Defense Department said on Monday night they were contacted by the Biden-Harris transition team and will immediately begin working with it. “The DoD transition task force will arrange and coordinate all DoD contact with the Biden-Harris team,” said a statement. “DoD is prepared to provide post-election services and support in a professional, orderly, and efficient manner that is befitting of the public’s expectation of the department and our commitment to national security.” Kash Patel, chief-of-staff for the acting Defense secretary, is going to head the department’s transition efforts, according to CNN

WestExec Advisors, a “secretive” consulting firm founded in 2017 by Tony Blinken, Biden’s pick for secretary of State, and Michèle Flournoy, a leading contender for secretary of Defense, has become the president-elect’s “government-in-waiting,” Politico reported on Monday. “But little is known about WestExec’s client list,” said the report. “Because its staffers aren’t lobbyists, they are not required to disclose who they work for. They also aren’t bound by the Biden transition’s restrictions on hiring people who have lobbied in the past year.” 

Murphy sent an email, obtained by Federal News Network, to her staff reiterating that she was not pressured by anyone in the White House regarding ascertainment. Meanwhile, the president said in a tweet on Monday night, “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.” 

White House Chief-of-Staff Mark Meadows said in a memo that the White House will “comply with all actions needed to ensure the smooth transfer of power;however, “unless specifically authorized,” those who work in the Office of the President “are not permitted to speak directly with a member of the Biden transition team or the federal transition coordinator,” Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. 

The Secret Service is getting ready to protect President Trump post-presidency. Agents have been asked if they are willing to relocate to Palm Beach, Florida, and the agency’s Miami field office is looking at the security around Mar-a-Largo, the president’s club, ABC News reported on Monday. 

There are two possible contenders for Office of Management and Budget director, according to Politico. One is John Jones, a veteran Capitol Hill staffer who is currently working for Nareit, a real estate trade group. The other is Bruce Reed, a long-time Biden staffer, now a technology adviser to the campaign. However, progressive groups launched an online petition to urge Biden against picking him due to his “history of putting deficit reduction ahead of economic recovery” and “antipathy towards economic security programs that working people rely on.”

Bloomberg looked at how the Biden administration will have to manage the hiring and staffing challenges at the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and two agencies within the Agriculture Department that Trump relocated outside of Washington, D.C. This was part of Trump’s “campaign’s promises to “drain the swamp” in D.C.; however, “opponents argued at the time that the moves would lead to the agencies being too far removed from decision-makers in Washington, while draining the bureaus of expertise.”

Upcoming: Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will introduce their recent foreign policy and national security nominees and appointees during a live-streamed event. The exact time is unclear so far. 

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode looks at the coronavirus response during the presidential transition. 

Help us understand the situation better. Are you a federal employee, contractor or military member with information, concerns, etc. about how your agency is handling the transition? Email us at newstips@govexec.com.

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