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Michael McGough is the Los Angeles Times’ senior editorial writer, based in Washington, D.C.
On Monday, Emily Murphy, the administrator of the General Services Administration, authorized the release of funds for the transition from the Trump administration to the incoming administration of Joe Biden.
In a grudging and self-pitying letter (Murphy said her pets had been subjected to threats!), the administrator told Biden that she was activating the transition “because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results.”
Murphy insisted that “I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official — including those who work at the White House or GSA — with regard to the substance or timing of my decision.”
But on Monday evening President Donald Trump tweeted that “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.”
Trump has continued to insist that there is election fraud and that “we will prevail” in legal challenges to Biden’s victory. On Tuesday, he retweeted a post from Randy Quaid in which the Trump-besotted actor wrote: “I just don’t see Americans rolling over for this election fraud. Do you?” Trump replied: “No!”
Coupled with Biden’s confident rollout of some of his Cabinet choices, the GSA action indicated that, whatever Trump says, the transition is taking place. Trump can continue to mount frivolous court challenges, but they will be a pathetic postscript to that fact.
Still, Trump’s continued insistence that he was robbed of a legitimate victory makes trouble for Biden. So does the craven refusal of some prominent Republicans — especially Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California — to acknowledge Biden’s victory promptly and denounce Trump’s distortions.
As long as Trump sulks and sows confusion about his defeat, this is not a case of “all’s well that ends well.”
As the ubiquitous election-law expert Richard L. Hasen noted in an OpEd in The New York Times: “Mr. Trump’s wildly unsubstantiated claims of a vast voter fraud conspiracy and the litigation he has brought against voting rights have done — and will increasingly do — serious damage to our democracy” including by fostering “a voter-hostile jurisprudence in the federal courts.”
Republicans who continue to indulge Trump in his tantrum must share responsibility for the corrosive consequences of his refusal to admit defeat.