Eleven days after the general election and a week since most major sources called the presidential race in favor of Democrat Joe Biden, President Donald Trump continues to allege voter fraud in several states, thus far without any legitimate evidence, and pretending he won re-election, despite losing the popular vote by more than 5 million votes and the electoral race by as many as 73.
Georgia’s 16 electoral votes will be determined after a hand recount. If that new count somehow swings Trump’s way, he’d still lose the election by 47 electoral votes. If he also manages to convince someone in authority that Pennsylvania — which he lost by more than 56,000 votes — also ought to be recounted, and were to also win that state — and keep in mind that recounts, even in elections totaling millions of votes, generally swing only hundreds of votes at most — Trump would STILL lose.
Yet, there are legal avenues he is entitled to pursue in his quixotic effort. The Georgia recount is one. He can also file suit in multiple states, charging election fraud, though to win any relief he’ll need to provide at least some substance to his claims. A democratic form of government not only allows, but relies upon, giving everyone their say, and that includes mechanisms to vet such grievances.
However, it also relies on the peaceful and orderly transition of power. Such is necessary to keep the wheels of a huge bureaucracy running; to maintain security; and to begin the process of finding as many as 4,000 new appointees whose positions typically change under a new administration. This transition is particularly vital as it occurs during a global coronavirus pandemic that’s already cost hundreds of thousands of American lives. Giving Biden a potential leg up ought to be a priority for any caring public servant. It could have huge consequences.
These transitional wheels are powered in large part by the federal General Services Administration, a supposedly independent, nonpartisan agency that helps manage and support the basic functioning of federal agencies. The GSA is tasked with providing assistance to the incoming administration, including funding for the transition. Importantly, the GSA must also formally acknowledge the coming change of power before other agencies may engage with their successors.
So far, that isn’t happening. Emily Murphy, the head of the GSA, still hasn’t signed the official letter that would allow the incoming Biden team to formally begin the transition. Murphy was quietly appointed to her position by Trump shortly before the election, and while some caution might be appropriate in a disputed election, to hold up the entire transition for what may be weeks is downright negligent. It smacks of partisanship.
In a $3 trillion federal budget, the $6 million in funds the GSA could free up to start even a potential transition is negligible. Meanwhile, the entire government, including national security functions, is being set back.
Does it matter? Well, it’s been argued, in fact by the 9/11 Commission itself, that the weeks-long delay caused in 2000 by the Florida election uncertainty resulted in George W. Bush not having the right people in place early enough to potentially ferret out and prevent the 9/11 attacks. That might be a bit speculative, but there’s no question that national security briefings are essential to getting a new administration up to speed.
That point was made this week by several Republican senators who would love to see Trump win, but see the danger of not allowing Biden’s team to be briefed on potential threats. GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham, Roger Wicker, Mike Rounds, John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, Roy Blunt, Susan Collins and Ron Johnson have all spoken out, saying Biden ought to be getting the same daily briefings Trump gets. Wednesday, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., went further, pledging to “step in” if Biden is not given access to the intelligence briefings.
Give Trump the legal footing to which he is entitled. But in the meantime, let the transition begin. If, somehow, the president manages to wheedle a second term out of the courts and recounts, he won’t be harmed by giving Biden and his team access to the resources due them.
But if, as most of us expect, it turns out the president is simply denying reality, his uncooperative tantrum could leave the nation less secure, and will surely set back efforts to address the deadly pandemic he’s chosen to ignore.