Top House Democrats demand briefing on transition hold-up

President-elect Joe Biden said that he has not ruled out legal action to force the hand of the General Services Administration.
President-elect Joe Biden said that he has not ruled out legal action to force the hand of the General Services Administration.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Four top House Democrats on Thursday (Nov 19) demanded that the chief of the General Services Administration (GSA) give a first-person briefing by next Monday on the continuing refusal of President Donald Trump's administration to allow President-elect Joe Biden's transition team access to government services and facilities.

"Your actions in blocking transition activities required under the law are having grave effects, including undermining the orderly transfer of power," the lawmakers said in a letter sent to GSA administrator Emily Murphy on Thursday.

They added that those actions are "impairing the incoming administration's ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, hampering its ability to address our nation's dire economic crisis, and endangering our national security".

The four go on to point out that Trump officials claim the White House is not pressing Ms Murphy to block the ascertainment determination on the election "and that you have made this determination entirely on your own".

"If this is accurate, it is critical that you now follow the law and make the ascertainment designation without any further delay," they write. "For these reasons, we ask that you personally brief us and our Ranking Members by no later than Nov 23, 2020."

The lawmakers write that they will afterward determine whether to hold a hearing with Ms Murphy, deputy GSA administrator Allison Brigati, Chief of Staff Robert Borden and General Counsel Trent Benishek.

"We have been extremely patient, but we can wait no longer," they said in the letter.

It was signed by Representatives Carolyn Maloney of New York, the chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee; Nita Lowey of New York, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Mike Quigley of Illinois, the chairman of the Financial Services subcommittee; and Gerald Connolly of Virginia, the chairman of the subcommittee on Government Operations.

Earlier on Thursday, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Frank Pallone of New Jersey wrote to Mr Trump that "stonewalling is unacceptable" and that he must begin the transition process for the Covid-19 response.

"Ultimately, the American people will be the ones who suffer should your intransigence continue," Mr Pallone wrote.

In a separate letter to Ms Murphy, Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, was joined by his Senate Democrats in calling on Ms Murphy to end her "unprecedented delay".

A decision by Ms Murphy would free up millions of dollars for the transition. Mr Trump, however, has refused to concede that he lost the election, and his lawyers have mounted a campaign across several states to reverse the outcome.

Mr Biden said earlier on Thursday that he has not ruled out legal action to force the hand of the GSA.

He called on the administration to allow his team to get details on a coronavirus vaccine and plans for distribution.

"I would like to know exactly what this administration has in mind in terms of their Operation Warp Speed and how they plan it," he said.