Emily Murphy

Emily Murphy


Joe Biden stumbles on Emily Murphy on his way to the White House

General Service Administration boss Emily Murphy is the unexpected obstacle preventing the transition from Donald Trump to Joe Biden from getting started. It illustrates how a cog in the administration can derail the American democratic process.

An obscure official in a second-class administration has become the new face of post-election political chaos in the United States. The head of the General Services Administration (GSA), Emily Murphy, would have done well to be criticized by almost all experts in American law, to have drawn the wrath of four former American ministers of security national government or to call himself Donald Trump’s stooge who “ignores his duty to the American people”, by Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics.

This woman, whose main role is to manage all the real estate of the state, is accused of blocking, on her own, the transition between the administration of Donald Trump and the team of President-elect Joe Biden. What is the relationship between public buildings or the offices of various administrations and the transfer of power?

“Dangerous” obstinacy

The boss of this agency traditionally signs the document that kicks off the transition process. It is about “the ascertainment” which opens, in essence, the doors of the various administrations to the men of the elected president even before his official entry into office in January. It authorizes officials from other services to cooperate with the transition team, provides access to secure offices to consult confidential documents, make phone calls to foreign leaders and be briefed on sensitive national security issues.

The icing on the cake, the signing of this document also releases approximately $ 6 million made available to the elected president to enable him to start organizing his future administration. Funds which could, for example, allow Joe Biden to fill part of the 4,000 vacant civil servant positions, underlines Walter Shaub in a vitriolic article published, Thursday, November 19, in the magazine New York Review.

So is the security of the country

And Emily Murphy has stubbornly refused to put her signature at the bottom of this essential document for more than ten days. She would be playing “a dangerous game,” says Walter Shaub. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has already claimed the lives of 250,000 Americans, this refusal to recognize the outcome of the vote prevents the president-elect and his team from having access to information that could prove essential to put put in place a health strategy. “The crisis that Joe Biden will have to face when he comes to power is massive and it is imperative that he can start to prepare as quickly as possible”, regrets CNN.

The country’s security is also at stake, four former national security ministers – two Republicans and two Democrats – assured in an open letter published on November 11. “The Commission of Inquiry into [the attacks of] September 11 has concluded that a quick and smooth transition is essential,” they write. The last transfer of power that dragged on dates back to the 2000 election, when the votes had to be recounted in Florida to be able to declare George W. Bush the winner. This delay had delayed the organization of the Department of National Security “by about six months” which could have prevented the new administration from having an overview of all the warning signs of the forthcoming attacks, the Commission had estimated. survey in 2004.

Above all, observers do not understand by what right Emily Murphy refuses to sign the precious document. “It is usually one of the first acts that occurs after the election,” recalls the New York Times. The boss of the GSA referred to “the precedent of 2000” to wait for one of the candidates “officially recognize his defeat”. But the argument doesn’t hold up, according to Kate Shaw, a teacher at Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School in New York. She recalls, in a column published by the Just Security site, that the director of this agency had already been criticized at the time for his slowness and that the possibility of taking refuge behind the refusal of a candidate to recognize his defeat had been abandoned after this episode.

Hardworking or die-hard “loyalist”?

This stubbornness would, in fact, reveal the true face of Emily Murphy, believes CNN. She has always presented herself as a simple cog in the administration, happy to stay in the background. During her hearing before the Senate to validate her appointment in 2017, she described herself as “a hard worker” who prefers to keep a “low profile” and work in the general interest. Politicians, including those on the Democratic side, who dealt with this former lawyer who had spent part of her career in the General Service Administration under George W. Bush, had all found her “serious and professional” , recalls the Washington Post.

But the current crisis would demonstrate that she is, above all, a die-hard “loyalist” ready to block the democratic process to please her boss as president who continues to claim to be the real winner of the election, Judge Walter Shaub. The latter emphasizes that there had been warning signs. In 2018, it was she who blocked the move of the FBI from its premises in the heart of Washington. A change of address that displeased Donald Trump, because he freed a building that could, potentially, be transformed into a competing luxury hotel next to his famous Trump International Hotel, one of the jewels of his real estate empire, had concluded a House of Representatives commission of inquiry.

Beyond the simple case of Emily Murphy, this situation would demonstrate that there is something rotten in the kingdom of American democracy, believes former Republican Senator Jim Talent. “It does not make any sense that, in fact, the responsibility of validating the result of the presidential election rests on the shoulders of the person who deals with managing the real estate of the government, that is to say the who, in effect, decides what supplies to buy for administration offices! ”the politician told CNN. A summary may be a bit condescending, but it is certain that the American electoral process does not emerge enhanced from this affair.


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