US President Donald Trump finally relented on Monday, 16 days after he was projected to lose to President-elect Joe Biden, and instructed his officials to cooperate with the incoming administration, but he did not concede defeat and vowed to keep up the “good fight”, referring to his efforts to stay in office.
Trump’s refusal to concede is growing less consequential every passing day because of his failing legal challenges and political manoeuvres. Michigan certified Biden the victor in the state earlier in the day, becoming the third of the battleground states to do so after Georgia and Wisconsin.
Pennsylvania followed later in the day, all but killing Trump’s hopes of reversing the poll outcome and somehow win a second term.
Trump’s decision to allow the transition process to go ahead was seen by political commentators and experts as the most he will do to acknowledge his defeat.
But the president insisted he was not giving up. “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!” he wrote in a tweet, adding, “Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily [Murphy, head of the administration that flags off the transition process] and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”
Murphy, the chief of General Services Administration, had already issued a letter by then, allowing the transition process to start finally, getting out of the way. “I take this role seriously and, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, am transmitting this letter today to make those resources and services available to you,” she wrote.
The Biden transition team promptly declared the GSA statement as an “ascertainment”, a technical recognition of President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris as “apparent winners” pending finalisation by electors next month, and said in a statement, “This final decision is a definitive administrative action to formally begin the transition process with federal agencies.”
The transition team said that in the days ahead it will start discussing with the Trump administration its “pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies”.
In the absence of the ascertainment, President-elect Biden had been denied national security intelligence briefings, which he should have been getting as part of the transition process, and his team was denied access to the Trump administration’s preparedness to tackle the epidemic and distribution of vaccines that are expected to start rolling out around the middle of December, initially for first responders and those at high-risk.
The Biden transition team will also be entitled to federal funding for its operations and most importantly, start the routine process of background screening of the president-elect’s cabinet nominations, the first bunch of to be announced Tuesday, and the 4,000 federal positions to be filled with political appointees.