WASHINGTON, D.C. November 13, 2020 – Despite the acknowledgment from major news networks, U.S. senators from President Trump’s own party, and numerous world leaders that Joe Biden is the president-elect, the Trump administration continues to recklessly withhold critical government resources needed for the transition process in the middle of a worsening pandemic and recession. Under federal law, the Government Services Agency (GSA) must “ascertain” the winner of a presidential election to trigger these resources, but is refusing to — drawing bipartisan alarm about the consequences for national security and public health.
While the Trump administration has offered no prudent reason why it is going down this dangerous path, government watchdog Accountable.US released a new report — previewed in Government Executive — highlighting how four senior GSA officials, including Administrator Emily Murphy, Deputy Administrator Allison Brigati, General Counsel Trent Benishek, and Chief of Staff Robert Borden all have significant records as partisan operatives. The findings call into question whether the resources necessary for the presidential transition are being withheld due to partisan political reasons.
“The longer partisan operatives running the Trump GSA deny critical resources to President-elect Biden’s transition team, the greater the threat posed to our national security and public health. President Trump is leaving behind a recession and a worsening pandemic that he gave up on — and the least he can do is get out of the way so others can clean up his mess,” said Kyle Herrig, president of nonpartisan government watchdog Accountable.US. “There is no time for sour grapes in the face of crises of this magnitude.”
Earlier this week, Accountable.US announced the formation of a Senate War Room to hold lawmakers accountable for standing in the way of a smooth transition of power and the swift approval of nominees to staff the new administration. Additionally, the project will seek to limit the corrosive influence of special interests on the Senate as the new president seeks to address the public health and economic crisis left behind by the current president.
- Emily Murphy, the head of GSA, got her start as a Republican National Committee (RNC) staffer who later worked under Senator Jim Talent — a prominent Trump supporter — on Capitol Hill. Murphy’s tenure at GSA has been marked by scandal after she “improperly” ignored the constitutional questions surrounding the Trump Organization’s lease of DC’s Historic Post Office building, and gave potentially “misleading” congressional testimony on Trump administration interference in the relocation of FBI headquarters.
- Deputy Administrator Allison Brigati, who is responsible for “managing GSA’s coordination effort during the presidential transition,” has a deep personal and professional history with the RNC. While a lawyer for the Party in 1996, Brigati appeared on ABC’s 20/20 to do damage control in response to a video exposing racist behavior at RNC headquarters and a related $21.5 million discrimination lawsuit. Brigati, whose father served a historically-long tenure as RNC Chairman during the Reagan administration, has maintained her partisan political leanings well into the 2020 presidential election, liking several tweets that have disputed the need for political healing, called the media a “‘collection of liars,’” and argued that the press should not hold officials accountable.
- Agency General Counsel Trent Benishek – nephew and longtime campaign staffer to former Republican Congressman Dan Benishek – only moved to his role as General Counsel at GSA on October 29, 2020, just five days before the presidential election. Previously, Benishek worked in the White House Counsel’s Office, and appears to have worked on President Trump’s defense team during impeachment proceedings.
- GSA Chief of Staff Robert Borden has had an extensive career working for House Republican leadership and committees. Borden served as the House Oversight Committee Republicans’ “primary staff liaison with House leadership and the administration,” and helped lead the Select Committee on Benghazi during its highly partisan investigation. He also directed oversight efforts for House Republican leadership. While at GSA, Borden was probed by the agency’s Inspector General about contradictory statements officials made about the controversy over the relocation of the FBI headquarters.
Accountable.US is a nonpartisan watchdog group that exposes corruption across all levels of government.