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Emily Murphy is damaging the country for no defensible reason


CNN has a shape-of-the-Earth-views-differ piece of special pleading for Emily Murphy, the General Services Administrator who is refusing to provide the ascertainment that Joe Biden is entitled to as the president-elect. It is massively unconvincing, and indeed is unable to provide anything remotely resembling a decent reason for going along with Donald Trump’s electoral theft operation while obstructing transition during a deadly pandemic. As with many of these, it’s a strangely structured piece, alternating between arguing that Murphy is in an impossible spot and quietly noting that there’s no actual defensible basis for her actions:

As the only obstacle between President-elect Joe Biden and the formal start of the presidential transition, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy is struggling with the weight of the presidential election being dropped on her shoulders, feeling like she’s been put in a no-win situation, according to people who have spoken to her recently.This was never a position that Murphy thought she would find herself in, the people said. But as the government official in charge of signing off on the election result, President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the election has thrown Murphy into the middle of a political firestorm.Facing mounting pressure from both sides, and even death threats, the sources say Murphy is working to interpret vague agency guidelines and follow what she sees as precedent to wait to sign off on the election result, a process known as “ascertainment” that would allow the official presidential transition to begin.

Still, Murphy’s stalled sign-off is one of the more confounding decisions made since the election, since it’s clear Biden won and Trump’s legal challenges won’t change the outcome. Biden’s team has warned the delay has real-world consequences to national security and their Covid-19 response.

The last graf really should be the nut of it. Joe Biden has won; he should be treated as the president-elect, especially in this context. But the piece keeps retreating from the obvious:

Sources who spoke to CNN could not say whether Murphy has been in touch with the White House on the issue.”She absolutely feels like she’s in a hard place. She’s afraid on multiple levels. It’s a terrible situation,” one friend and former colleague of Murphy’s told CNN. “Emily is a consummate professional, a deeply moral person, but also a very scrupulous attorney who is in a very difficult position with an unclear law and precedence that is behind her stance.

“Consummate professional” and “deeply moral person” are descriptions that have to be justified in her actions, and neither is in the slightest evidence here. And the claim that the precedent is “unclear” is simply false; any other president-elect would have been ascertained by now, and 2000, the precedent Murphy is apparently relying on, is a transparently null analogy since in that case there was actually the possibility of a recount that could change the outcome in late November.

The only “uncertainty” here is being produced by ham-handed attempts to steal the election, and Murphy is simply betraying her office by going along with them.

But we keep hearing from people who assert that Murphy is nonpartisan, and of course we get the inevtiable IF YOU’RE CATCHING FLAK FROM BOTH SIDES YOU MUST BE OVER THE TARGET:

Democrats are furious with Murphy for playing into Trump’s false fantasies that the election was stolen from him. At the same time, Republicans are pressuring her to stand firm and not sign the ascertainment.Previous colleagues of Murphy told CNN that despite being a political appointee, she was not an avid Trump supporter or loyalist.”She’s going to be really thoughtful about both the letter of the law, any guidelines, explicit guidance, any precedence, as well as the overall intent. She comes out of contracts, where that is the whole nature of the work,” the friend and former colleague said.

Democrats want her to follow the law and act in the public interest, and Republicans want her to help them delegitimize the election and make the next president less prepared to take office. No matter how many times you assert that she isn’t partisan, the fact that she thinks this is an actual dilemma reveals her to be a massive partisan hack no matter what she thinks of herself.

Oh, and by the way:

This isn’t Murphy’s first brush with controversy as a Trump appointee. In 2018, she was part of a controversial decision to scrap plans for a new FBI headquarters outside Washington, DC, and instead rebuild on the same location — across the street from the Trump International Hotel. She faced questions at a 2018 congressional hearing over whether the White House was involved in the decision, which critics charged Trump influenced in order to keep a competitor from gaining the space across from his hotel.Murphy had spoken to Trump about the project in the Oval Office, which she did not disclose to lawmakers. The GSA Inspector General charged that her testimony “left the misleading impression that she had no discussions with the President or senior White House officials in the decision-making process about the project.” Murphy said the inspector general’s conclusion was “unfounded and unfair.”

Again, the actual facts in the story are incredibly damning, and yet they can’t stop going to her cronies asserting that she is a person of the highest Integritude:

“In a heightened political atmosphere, many people don’t know her, and they certainly don’t know the job that she’s responsible for,” Chvotkin said. “If you just isolate one or two topics it’s easy to reach the wrong conclusion.”

“You have sex with just one or two sheep and…”

Former Republican Missouri Sen. Jim Talent told CNN he has known Murphy 25 years and that she worked for him when he chaired the House Small Business Committee during the Clinton administration. Talent praised Murphy’s integrity, blaming the law for putting the onus on the GSA.”Something is wrong with the system where the responsibility for declaring the winner of a Presidential election seems to devolve upon the General Services Administration — it’s the Government’s landlord. They buy furniture,” Talent said. “I understand people’s frustration, but the problem is an electoral system that cannot come to a finality. It’s not Emily or the GSA.”

Oh, bullshit. This has never been a problem before; with the unusual exception of 2000, where the outcome was genuinely uncertain, ascertainment has never been delayed until certifications were formal. The American electoral system is a disaster, but it has produced a clear outcome in this case that Republicans are trying to deny, and Murphy’s disgraceful actions are one of the most important parts of their election theft/delegitimization scheme. This is exactly like the special pleading that James Comey got, and it’s equally specious. “But I will be criticized by Republicans if I do the right thing!” is, in fact, a terrible reason for not doing the right thing and reporters need to stop treating it as one.


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