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The laws behind the delay in the presidential transition of Trump to Biden

Supporters of President Donald Trump rally in Beverly Hills, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

There’s still been no cooperation between the Trump people and the Biden people on a transition. However, there are laws governing this, and debate about just how much control the current president has over the process. Former state Attorney General Rob McKenna joined Seattle’s Morning News to explain.

“So the Presidential Transition Act of 1963 is what governs this whole process of transition, planning, and execution. It’s been amended over the years, as recently as 2004. The General Services Administration doesn’t get a lot of attention normally, but they’re responsible under this act to provide office space and administrative support, like IT and communications, to a president elect and vice president elect,” McKenna said.

In terms of the recourse the president elect has, what happens from this point tends to be based on what the General Services Administration (GSA) does.

“Well, it’s not clear. The statute says that GSA must ‘ascertain the winner of the presidential election based on the election results that triggers this flow of government resources,’ and they haven’t done that yet. Now, historically, GSA has sent a letter identifying the winner based on the Associated Press declaring who the winner is. The Associated Press puts enormous resources into figuring out who the winner is,” he said.

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“In 2008, when you had a Republican GSA administrator and President Obama was the president elect, they sent the letter within just hours of President Obama being declared the winner by the AP,” he continued. “The AP has declared the winner of this year, but the GSA hasn’t issued its ascertainment.”

It appears as though the current agency leader is relying more on the electoral college process to make the declaration.

“The agency’s leader is Emily Murphy. She was appointed the head of GSA back in 2017, and she is sticking to this idea that she should ascertain the apparent winner ‘once a winner is clear based on the process laid out in the Constitution.’ I think she’s referring to the electoral college,” McKenna said.

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“She’s waiting for the electoral college to meet in December and declare the winner,” he added. “It’s just that that’s not the way anyone else has ever interpreted the Federal Transition Act of 1963.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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