President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team was considering legal action over a federal agency’s delay in recognising the Democrat’s victory as President Donald Trump pushed ahead yesterday with longshot legal challenges to his loss in last week’s presidential election.
The General Services Administration (GSA) normally recognizes a presidential candidate when it becomes clear who has won an election so that a transition of power can begin.
That has not yet happened despite US television and news networks declaring Biden the winner on Saturday after he secured enough electoral votes to secure the presidency.
The law does not clearly spell out when the GSA must act, but Biden transition officials say their victory is clear and a delay is not justified, even as Trump refuses to concede defeat.
GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, appointed by Trump in 2017, has not yet determined that “a winner is clear,” a spokeswoman said. A source close to Murphy said she was a thorough professional who would take her time making a careful decision.
Trump has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that there was widespread voting fraud and has filed a raft of lawsuits to challenge the results.
Election officials across the country say there has been no evidence of significant fraud, and legal experts say Trump’s efforts are unlikely to succeed.
Pennsylvania Republican state lawmakers yesterday were scheduled to call for an audit of the results in the state that gave Biden enough electoral votes to win, a day after US Attorney General William Barr told federal prosecutors to look into “substantial” allegations of irregularities.
Congress’s top Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, on Monday lined up behind Trump, saying that he was “100% within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities,” without citing any evidence.
The dispute is slowing Biden’s work in preparing for the work of governing, as a Trump appointee who heads the office charged with recognizing election results has not yet done so.
Biden secured the more than the 270 votes in the Electoral College needed to win the presidency. He also led Trump in the popular vote by 4.6 million votes yesterday as states continued to count the remaining ballots.
BARR MOVE PROMPTS RESIGNATION
Barr’s directive to prosecutors prompted the top lawyer overseeing voter fraud investigations to resign in protest.
Barr told prosecutors on Monday that “fanciful or far-fetched claims” should not be a basis for investigation and his letter did not indicate the Justice Department had uncovered voting irregularities affecting the outcome of the election.
But he did say he was authorising prosecutors to “pursue substantial allegations” of irregularities of voting and the counting of ballots.
Richard Pilger, who for years has served as director of the Election Crimes Branch, said in an internal email he was resigning from his post after he read “the new policy and its ramifications”.
The previous Justice Department policy, designed to avoid interjecting the federal government into election campaigns, had discouraged overt investigations “until the election in question has been concluded, its results certified, and all recounts and election contests concluded.”
Biden’s campaign said Barr was fueling Trump’s far-fetched allegations of fraud.
“Those are the very kind of claims that the president and his lawyers are making unsuccessfully every day, as their lawsuits are laughed out of one court after another,” said Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to Biden.
One of Barr’s predecessors as attorney general, Republican Alberto Gonzales, told CNN that the timing of Barr’s memo was “very, very unfortunate” because it contributes to the perception that the Justice Department was being used for political purposes.
REPUBLICANS REMAIN LOYAL
Although a few Republicans have urged Trump to concede, the president still held the support of prominent party leaders who had yet to congratulate Biden.
Trump’s campaign on Monday filed a lawsuit to block Pennsylvania officials from certifying Biden’s victory in the battleground state, where Biden led by more than 45,000 votes.
It alleged the state’s mail-in voting system violated the US Constitution by creating “an illegal two-tiered voting system” where voting in person was subject to more oversight than voting by mail.
It was filed against Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and the boards of elections in Democratic-leaning counties that include Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Boockvar’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pennsylvania state Representative Dawn Keefer on Tuesday planned to call for a legislative audit of the state’s election results.