The ‘Apparent’ Trap: Unpacking Presidential Transition Drama
On this very special holiday episode of democracy-ish, Danielle is hosting solo while Toure is chasing wild turkeys around Brooklyn.
Weeks after a plurality of media outlets “called” the race for Biden, several key swing states confirmed it. In the interim, U.S. General Services Administration head Emily Murphy withheld the crucial funds necessary to facilitate the transition of power.
Meanwhile, the inevitable pardons have begun. Nearly two months before the door hits him on his way out of the White House, Trump is using his remaining power to excuse his cronies from criminal prosecution and prison time.
Biden has signaled he will leave it to his Justice Department to make decisions about whether to prosecute Trump and his enablers. But what’s really the right path for America?
Three weeks after we (along with most of the planet) celebrated Joe Biden’s victory, the transition between the Trump and Biden administration has officially begun.
It’s been “three awfully long weeks,” says Danielle. “I feel like I aged at least 100 years.”
That’s because Emily Murphy, the administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration, was holding the transition funds hostage.
As a die-hard “Devil Wears Prada” fan, Danielle can’t think of Emily without hearing Meryl Steep cooly lambasting her assistant, portrayed by a real-life Emily (Blunt).
And if it sounds ridiculous that one particular Emily (a Trump appointee), or any person, can restrict access to the millions of taxpayer dollars the Biden-Harris team needs, that’s because it is.
That money is “necessary to begin the hard work of rebuilding the fuck show Trump has left for them,” says Danielle. “Peaceful transitions matter.”
But, citing precedent from the 2000 election, Emily wouldn’t release the funds until she ascertained Trump exhausted every single one of his (quasi-) legal paths to a second term.
On Monday, thanks to said Emily, President-Elect Biden will receive his first presidential briefing. But every single day his team was denied its ability to work could ultimately cost American lives.
In this all-Danielle episode, our resident pessimist breaks down the drama, including the inevitable Trump-crony pardons, why Biden’s Justice Department should prosecute Trump and where we go from here.
Episode Highlights – Reckoning Time???
(Emily) Murphy’s murky missive
While Rudy Giuliani and others in Trump’s legal goon squad filed reams of frivolous lawsuits that got laughed out of court, Emily was just churning her wheels. Then, finally, she penned a letter to the president-elect:
As the Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration, I have the ability under the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, as amended, to make certain post-election resources and services available to assist in the event of a presidential transition. 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.
Let’s pause for a moment to explain what happened this week that enabled Emily to do her job.
First, Georgia certified Biden’s win following a hand recount of more than five million votes. Then Republican canvassers in Michigan –– after two failed “coup attempts” to discount the votes of Black citizens –– finally certified the election results in Wayne County, which encompasses Detroit.
At that point, Trump’s already super-narrow, corrupt and litigation-littered path to 270 evaporated and Emily “had no grounds to fucking stand on,” says Danielle.
Apparently, democracy prevails
Emily goes on to humblebrag about her career in public service and her dedication to the American people –– “suck it,” Danielle says –– and then writes:
Contrary to media reports and insinuations, my decision was not made out of fear or favoritism. Instead, I strongly believe that the statute requires that the GSA Administrator ascertain, not impose, the apparent president-elect.
“This is why language is important,” Danielle argues. Apparent is also the word used by the handful of Republicans who’ve recognized Biden as the next president.
“It allows them to still have cover and favor with their king, Donald Trump, who they don't want to upset for fear of getting banished from the castle.”
Emily justifies the delay with:
Unfortunately, the statute provides no procedures or standards for this process. So I look to the precedent from prior elections involving legal challenges and incomplete counts.
Again, Danielle notes, the facts were clear. There were no incomplete counts. But Republican legislatures across the country enacted measures that confused voters, slowed the counting process and made the entire process more difficult.
“They didn't want these mail-in ballots to be counted at all. Republicans will push back against any mechanism by which we make voting easier in this country. Because when more people vote, they lose.”
By people, Danielle means Black people and other people of color.
Republicans engage in voter suppression because they know –– and have feared for centuries–– that if POC were treated as full and complete citizens of these United States, they’d be out on their oppressive asses.
But in spite of every hoop we had to jump through –– and in the midst of a global pandemic –– we turned out.
“How dare you have the audacity, after people risk their lives to vote, to tell people that their votes don't count and they don't matter,” she says.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Republican Party says nothing –– neither to defend our democracy or admit they need to present better policies to win Black votes.
With 50-ish days until the inauguration, Danielle asks: “What's next in the Trump fuckery before he fucks off for good?”
She says we’ll all be watching a new game show called “Who Wants to Get Pardoned?”
In the first few months of his administration, Trump’s pardons “should have been an alarm to everybody,” she adds.
The president pardoned dubious figures like cartoonishly racist Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff Joe Arpaio –– and commuted the sentence of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who attempted to sell Barack Obama’s “f**king golden” Senate seat.
Later, he also commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, who was facing 40 months in prison for a panoply of wrongdoings, including witness tampering and lying to Congress.
Nearly everyone who Trump has pardoned has been a bigot, a criminal, or flunky, says Danielle. The only exceptions were “thanks to the likes of Kim Kardashian West” –– low-level drug offenders, notably women caught up in the crimes of the men in their lives.
“Why? Because Donald Trump really cares about celebrities and about being relevant,” she argues.
Rudy’s dye-ing for a pardon
What should trouble us all, though, is Trump’s apparent intent to pardon disgraced General Michael Flynn –– who lasted fewer than 30 days as his national security advisor and pled guilty twice for lying to the FBI about his relationship with Russia. [Ed note: the president pardoned Flynn later on November 25, after this episode was recorded.]
Trump claims Flynn was wrongly prosecuted. But according to the New York Times’ reporting about transcripts declassified in May, Flynn had extensive discussions with Russian officials.
Those conversations focused on how to improve the relationship between Washington and Moscow, particularly how Putin should respond to punitive actions by the departing Obama administration in response to Russian election interference.
“It's just so fucking obvious and clear what Flynn was involved with. Why Jeff Sessions, Trump’s initial AG, recused himself from anything to do with Russia.”
When it comes to those in Trumpworld, nobody’s hands are clean. So there's a distinct possibility Donald Trump will attempt to pardon himself, his entire family –– “literally everyone around him,” says Danielle. “Including Rudy Giuliani, of course. He has client-attorney privilege, but we all see that Giuliani is skeezy.”
The hair dye dripping down Rudy’s face at a recent presser “was even better than the fly landing on Mike Pence's head,” she adds.
“They both signal the deterioration of this administration. Flies land on shit. Hence, Pence. Rudy Giuliani melting before our eyes like the Wicked Witch from ‘The Wizard of Oz’: That's what the light of day does; it reveals who they are. It’s the greatest disinfectant.”
All the president’s lawsuits
Meanwhile, President Trump “hasn't done dick in over two weeks, except golf,” Danielle notes. “260,000 Americans are dead and this motherfucker was at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend … with nothing on his schedule. Nothing we’re able to see.”
Despite Trump’s myriad, desperate legal challenges to the election results, he “doesn't actually want to be president,” she adds. “He just wants the bulletproof shield of the presidency.”
That tracks, considering the lawsuits he’s facing, and even criminal charges, Trump may be up against as a private citizen.
President-Elect Biden signaled this week in an interview with NBC's Lester Holt that he would neither direct or discourage the Department of Justice from prosecuting Trump.
“Now, let's be clear: We have been living in a ‘Black Mirror’ version of America over the last four years. The Department of Justice is supposed to operate as an independent agency, not the personal law firm of the President,” says Danielle.
But she finds Biden’s stance disheartening.
“Trump is a criminal. And if we're not going to prosecute him, and everyone involved, what comes in his place will be worse. There is no healing without justice."
I’m not crying; you’re crying
Danielle wasn’t chopping onions in Thanksgiving-prep mode when she teared up this week as she listened to personal stories from Biden’s incoming cabinet members.
“Listening to them talk about their service to this country, not service to any particular president … as immigrants, as children of color, wanting to dedicate their lives to democracy, to lifting this nation up, creating a compassionate and hopeful country –– I got choked up,” she says.
That being said, she needs Biden “to say what Adam Schiff told us right before the House voted to impeach,” Danielle adds. “That it’s midnight in America, and if we don’t hold presidents to the same standards we hold the American people, our system crumbles.”
As we move forward, all of us have a responsibility to ensure our elected officials don’t walk away from theirs because they think we, the American people, have been through enough.
“We've endured incredible heartache, pain, anxiety, loss,” she says. “But the only way we heal is to have a reckoning.”
And that reckoning must mean “prosecuting those who tried to destroy us.”
Next week, Toure and his wild turkeys will be back, if there is a country.