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Trump administration finally allows Biden transition to begin

WASHINGTON/WILMINGTON, Del. — After weeks of waiting, President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday cleared the way for President-elect Joe Biden to transition to the White House, giving him access to briefings and funding even as Mr. Trump vowed to continue fighting the election results.

Mr. Trump, a Republican, has alleged widespread voter fraud in the Nov. 3 election without providing evidence. Although he did not concede or acknowledge his Democratic rival’s victory on Monday, Mr. Trump’s announcement that his staff would cooperate with Mr. Biden’s represented a significant shift and was the closest he has come to admitting defeat.

Mr. Biden won 306 state-by-state electoral votes, well over the 270 needed for victory, to Mr. Trump’s 232. Mr. Biden also holds a lead of more than 6 million in the national popular vote.

The Trump campaign’s legal efforts to overturn the election have almost entirely failed in key battleground states, and a growing number of Republican leaders, business executives and national security experts urged the president to let the transition begin.

The president-elect has begun naming members of his team, including tapping trusted aide Antony Blinken to head the State Department, without waiting for government funding or a Trump concession. But critics have accused the president of undermining US democracy and undercutting the next administration’s ability to fight the coronavirus pandemic with his refusal to accept the results.

On Monday, the General Services Administration (GSA), the federal agency that must sign off on presidential transitions, told Mr. Biden he could formally begin the hand-over process. GSA Administrator Emily Murphy said in a letter that Mr. Biden would get access to resources that had been denied to him because of the legal challenges seeking to overturn his win.

That means Mr. Biden’s team will now have federal funds and an official office to conduct his transition until he takes office on Jan. 20. It also paves the way for Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to receive regular national security briefings that Mr. Trump also gets.

The GSA announcement came shortly after Michigan officials certified Mr. Biden as the victor in their state, making Mr. Trump’s legal efforts to change the election outcome even more unlikely to succeed.

Mr. Trump and his advisers said he would continue to pursue legal avenues but his decision to give Murphy the go-ahead to proceed with a transition for Mr. Biden’s administration indicated even the White House understood it was getting close to time to move on.

“Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good … fight, and I believe we will prevail! Nevertheless, 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,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter.

A Trump adviser painted the move as similar to both candidates receiving briefings during the campaign and said the president’s statement was not a concession.

The Biden transition team said meetings would begin with federal officials on Washington’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, along with discussions of national security issues.

Two Trump administration officials said the Biden agency review teams could begin interacting with Trump agency officials as soon as Tuesday. “This is probably the closest thing to a concession that President Trump could issue,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

Top Democrats in the House and Senate on Monday warned that an executive order signed by Mr. Trump in October could result in mass firings of federal employees in the final weeks of his presidency and allow the Republican president to install loyalists in the federal bureaucracy.

FOREIGN POLICY TEAM TAKES SHAPE
The now formalized transition and Michigan’s certification of Mr. Biden’s victory could prompt more Republicans to encourage Mr. Trump to concede as his chances of overturning the results fade.

Top Republicans in Michigan’s legislature pledged to honor the outcome in their state, likely dashing Mr. Trump’s hopes that the state legislature would name Trump supporters to serve as “electors” and support him rather than Mr. Biden.

Mr. Trump has been consulting his advisers for weeks, while eschewing standard responsibilities of the presidency. He has played several games of golf and avoided taking questions from reporters since the day of the election.

Mr. Biden, who plans to undo many of Mr. Trump’s “America First” policies, announced the top members of his foreign policy team earlier on Monday. He named Jake Sullivan as his national security adviser and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as US ambassador to the United Nations. Both have high-level government experience. John Kerry, a former US senator, secretary of state and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, will serve as Mr. Biden’s special climate envoy.

The president-elect is likely to tap former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to become the next Treasury secretary, according to two Biden allies, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a personnel decision that was not yet public.

Mr. Biden also took a step toward reversing Mr. Trump’s hard-line immigration policies by naming Cuban-born lawyer Alejandro Mayorkas to head the Department of Homeland Security. — Reuters

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