The Transition Formally Begins (Finally)

Trump’s government designates Biden as the apparent winner of the election, and more of Biden’s cabinet picks emerge — representing both a hard break from Trump and more of the same old in Washington. It’s Tuesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Where things stand

The moment that Joe Biden — and much of the country — has been waiting for arrived yesterday evening: The head of the General Services Administration formally acknowledged the presidential election results, giving Biden access to federal resources and allowing his advisers to begin coordinating with Trump administration officials.

The administrator of the G.S.A., Emily Murphy, said in a letter that she would move ahead with the transition process, and stated that the decision had been made without pressure from President Trump.

“Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts,” Murphy wrote, later adding, “To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination.”

Murphy had come under fire for refusing to move ahead with the process, and that pressure grew yesterday before her announcement when a number of Republican senators publicly called on Trump to move ahead with the transition.

In a series of tweets last night, the president indicated that he would not stand in the way of Murphy’s decision, even as he appeared to contradict her claims of independence — and vowed not to concede.

Trump wrote 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.”

But he said he would press on “full speed ahead” with his legal challenges to the election’s outcome. “We will never concede to fake ballots,” he wrote.

But the news coming in from states across the country has been almost uniformly dismal for Trump. Yesterday, elections officials in Michigan certified the state’s results, just days after the president summoned the state’s top Republican lawmakers to the White House in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade them to help prevent Biden from receiving the state’s electoral votes.

And in Pennsylvania, where the Trump campaign was handed a humiliating defeat in court over the weekend, a number of counties certified their results yesterday.

They included Philadelphia County, the state’s most heavily Democratic county and home to its largest city. Officials there certified the results in a 3-0 vote that came only after the state’s Supreme Court had delivered one more defeat to the Trump campaign, ruling yesterday that 8,000 ballots flagged for having minor problems must be counted.

“Despite all the meritless litigation and misinformation targeting our electoral system, I’m proud that the birthplace of our Republic held the most transparent and secure election in the history of Philadelphia,” Al Schmidt, the lone Republican member of the three-person city commissioners office, said on Twitter.

In Georgia, the secretary of state has already certified the election results after a manual recount confirmed Biden’s victory. But the Trump campaign has requested yet another recount, and county election officials there plan to begin that process today. They will have until the end of Dec. 2 to complete the final recount.

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who at 87 is the chamber’s oldest member, will give up her position as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, she announced yesterday.

The move comes amid intense pressure from progressives, who have butted heads with Feinstein on a wide array of issues over the years — and who expressed outrage over what they called her acquiescence to Republicans during Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court.

Feinstein praised Republicans for their handling of Barrett’s nomination last month, whereas most other Democratic leaders had condemned G.O.P. leaders for breaking with precedent to speed through her approval.

Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois is the next-most-senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and his spokeswoman said yesterday that he planned to pursue Feinstein’s position. The two Senate runoff elections in Georgia in January will determine whether Democrats regain control of the Senate. If they do, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee will also be its chairman.

Photo of the day

Trump supporters protesting the Michigan election results in Lansing yesterday.

So far, Biden’s top administration picks have fit a pattern.

Biden has begun rolling out his choices to serve as the nation’s top foreign policy, national security and economic policy officials.

While the list is full of historic firsts, it lacks any big surprises.

Most of the names served in senior roles during Barack Obama’s presidency. Taken together, they indicate that Biden is seeking to reposition the United States’ standing on the world stage by rebuilding pre-Trump alliances and restoring old diplomatic approaches.

And they suggest that progressives’ hopes that Biden’s administration would line up to the left of the Obama administration on matters of foreign policy are unlikely to be met.

Biden is expected to formally announce his first round of cabinet-level picks during a speech today in Wilmington, Del., but his team has already publicly confirmed a number of them.

His transition office said yesterday that Biden planned to nominate Alejandro Mayorkas as his homeland security secretary, and Avril Haines as the director of national intelligence. Mayorkas would become the first Hispanic official and the first immigrant to run the Department of Homeland Security, and Haines would become the highest-ranking woman in the national security bureaucracy.

Both come with years of experience in the Obama administration. Mayorkas served as deputy homeland security secretary from 2013 to 2016, and Haines was the deputy national security adviser during Obama’s last two years as president. Before that, she had served as the deputy director of the C.I.A.

Biden plans to select Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be his ambassador to the United Nations, and he will restore the job to cabinet-level status, giving her a seat on his National Security Council. Thomas-Greenfield filled a variety of roles at the State Department during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, as well as serving as ambassador to Liberia from 2008 to 2012. She left the State Department in 2017 after Trump took office.

Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, served as his national security adviser when Biden was vice president, then became the deputy national security adviser to Obama during his second term. Blinken is seen as a coalition builder and an interventionist, and he is expected to lead an attempt to shore up the United States’ allegiances in its global power struggle with China.

To fill a new, forward-looking position, Biden picked John Kerry, an establishment figure who served as secretary of state during Obama’s second term. He will become Biden’s special envoy for climate, which will become a cabinet-level position in the incoming administration but will not be subject to Senate confirmation.

Biden plans to choose Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary, making her the first woman to fill that role. She previously served as the chair of the Federal Reserve during Obama’s presidency.

A labor economist by trade, Yellen is among the more liberal of Biden’s picks so far. She is expected to bring to bear a fondness for government intervention on behalf of workers as she helps to shape the new administration’s response to the economic downturn brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

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