Editorial: Do Your Job, Emily Murphy!

Emily Murphy has demonstrated that with Donald Trump in office, even the systems we took for granted and thought would never break—like the lawful transition of presidential power—are breaking under the weight of corruption and sycophancy. As administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA), Emily Murphy is the one whose job it is to ascertain the presidential election, certifying former Vice President Joe Biden as the winner and president-elect. But Emily Murphy refuses to do so.

Emily Murphy knows that without her ascertainment of the election, president-elect Biden and his team cannot move forward with the transition process. This means that the president-elect is not allowed access to intelligence briefings or executive branch agencies, or even the members of the current White House coronavirus task force. He is also not allowed access to designated office space or to essential funds to support his team’s transition. All of this is pleasing to Donald Trump.

It’s clear that Donald Trump has been working his plan to make Joe Biden’s presidency as difficult as possible, with no regard for the domino effect it will have on our country and its people for years to come. But along with Trump, Emily Murphy is aware of the danger of preventing the next president from being able to prepare adequately to take office. Murphy is not a sixth-grader; she is an attorney who understands the democratic process. Disappointingly, like her current boss, she appears to suffer from severe disregard.

We could give Emily Murphy more benefit of the doubt, though. Maybe she’s waiting for a sign. Or something. Some have speculated that her inaction is based on the fact that she considers the 2000 race between George W. Bush and Al Gore as the precedent; the results of the 2000 election were decided by the Supreme Court more than a month after Election Day.

But that “precedent” begins to sound more like an excuse when we consider that the 2000 election hinged on a very close race in one state: Florida. The margin between the two candidates, again, in that one state, was only a little over five hundred votes. The Associated Press hadn’t yet called it. After a recount, the margin narrowed even more. The Supreme Court ruled in Republican George Bush’s favor, and Al Gore quickly and graciously conceded.

Does Murphy expect the outcome of this election to go to the Republican-heavy Supreme Court, and then for Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, to be declared the winner? She is a lawyer. She should understand precedents.

In the 2020 election, Biden has won by tens of thousands of votes in numerous states, and with 306 electoral votes to Donald Trump’s 232. His victory was clear enough that the Associated Press called it. Donald Trump would need to turn over not one, but three states in order to reverse the results of the election. And though Trump has brought numerous lawsuits to contest the election outcomes of various states, he has lost or been laughed out of court with all but one, and the one was ultimately reversed. 2000 was not exactly (or at all) a precedent for this election.

Some close associates to Murphy are convinced that she wants to “do the right thing,” but she can’t decide what that is. What a quandary: Bow to a petty, despotic president by continuing to block the president-elect from moving forward, thereby delaying processes that would preserve the democratic process and our faith in it, protect our national security, and even save lives from a deadly virus? Or allow the routine and lawful presidential transition process to take place, which is what is supposed to happen, since Joe Biden, by both electoral and individual vote margins is the clear winner of the election?

When asked what he saw as the biggest threat to his transition, given Trump’s unprecedented attempts to obstruct and delay a smooth transfer of power, Joe Biden replied “More people may die.”

Gee whiz, what’s a GSA administrator to do?

It would be good if this GSA administrator could just do her job. But, like so many other Trump appointees, Emily Murphy demonstrates that loyalty to Donald Trump takes precedence over loyalty to country and to doing one’s job well, and with integrity. Like the Republicans who remain silent, Emily Murphy is complicit in Donald Trump torching of democracy.

Biden forges ahead with transition as Trump administration holds up resources | CBS News [2020-11-09]

GSA Appointee Delays Biden Transition Process, Citing Need For ‘Clear’ Winner | Bloomberg Quicktake:Now  [2020-11-10]

Editorial: Trump’s Replacement of Pentagon Leadership with Loyalists Shows Contempt for Americans

One of the most dangerous ways in which Donald Trump is acting out his anger at the American people for not re-electing him is by firing key Pentagon leaders whose job is to help keep us safe. Donald Trump’s petulant response to losing the 2020 presidential election doesn’t, in itself, surprise many Americans; we know who he is. We knew Trump was likely to lash out in a burn-down-the-house way, and we still expect that he will refuse to physically leave the White House on January 20 without being forcefully escorted out. What is dismaying, shocking, and terrifying, however, is the depth to which Donald Trump has demonstrated not just a self-absorbed disregard, but a profound contempt for Americans, our safety, and our democratic systems.

At times, we can imagine Donald Trump consulting a mail-order copy of the Acme Handbook for Authoritarian Rulers, or perhaps Despotism for Dummies; his actions and words often seem to come straight from some step-by-step tutorial for plunging a democratic republic into authoritarian rule. Malign the press: check. Undermine elections and suppress voting: check. Promote an “us vs. them” divide among citizens: check. Align with world dictators and strongmen: check. Flout the country’s Constitution and laws: check. Refuse to accept the results of a fair and free election: check, check, check. And the item that has picked up momentum as of late: Install loyalists and sycophants in government positions: check.

Ever since Donald Trump took office, he has appointed cronies, top donors, and other loyalists to cabinet and top government positions, even though many of them had no qualifications for their appointments. This is nothing new for the Trump administration. Trump has also regularly removed those who have displeased him or otherwise shown “disloyalty,” real or imagined. Since losing the 2020 election, however, Trump’s actions along these lines have reached a new level of danger, as he replaces top officials with unqualified Trump loyalists in the Department of Defense— the agency charged with our national security, that is, with keeping Americans safe at home and abroad.

First, there was the ouster of former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Monday, November 9. Esper had openly opposed  Trump’s use of the military against sometimes-violent protests around the country following the death of George Floyd in May. Esper was aware that Trump wasn’t pleased, and expected he might eventually be fired, so had a resignation letter prepared. The firing of Esper seems to be the beginning of a trend at the Pentagon.

In light of Trump’s evident authoritarian tendencies, it’s not at all unreasonable to speculate that, during his dwindling lame duck period, he plans to weaken the Department of Defense in order to use the military to carry out domestic or global acts that he has been advised against up to this point. It’s also not beyond reason to imagine that this is only the beginning of the many possible ways Trump, in his rage at losing re-election, could imperil the country.

Says House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith, “It is hard to overstate just how dangerous high-level turnover at the Department of Defense is during a period of presidential transition. If this is the beginning of a trend — the President either firing or forcing out national security professionals in order to replace them with people perceived as more loyal to him — then the next 70 days will be precarious at best and downright dangerous at worst.”

By the end of the day on Tuesday, a number of other Defense Department civilian employees resigned and were quickly replaced with Trump loyalists, at least some of whom are known to promote “deep state” conspiracy theories.

Among those who left their Pentagon roles on Tuesday was acting under secretary of defense for policy James Anderson, who was known to have collided numerous times with the White House over its practice of installing Trump allies. Anderson was replaced by— yes, a Trump ally— Retired Brigadier General Anthony Tata. Some lawmakers have found Tata’s appointment as policy chief distressing, since he has demonstrated xenophobia, racism, and sexism. Tata has derided Islam, called former president Obama a “terrorist leader,” and promoted the conspiracy theory that Obama was a “Manchurian candidate.”

“Trump’s Defense Department purge is deeply dangerous to our national security—first firing SecDef Esper by tweet & now promoting a known racist Islamophobe,” said Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Also on Tuesday, Jen Stewart, the chief of staff to newly installed acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, resigned and was quickly replaced by Kash Patel. Patel, who has had numerous roles in the Trump administration, played a role in helping Republicans discredit the Russia probe.

A third high-level Pentagon employee to submit his resignation on Tuesday was retired Navy vice admiral Joseph Kernan as undersecretary of defense for intelligence. He was temporarily replaced by Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who was a close ally of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and who was known to be aligned with Flynn regarding his views on the failings of the CIA.

In addition to the swift replacement of these Defense Department heads, FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel may be in danger of being replaced. Trump has said that he might fire Wray after the election; he has been frustrated with Wray for, among other things, his refusal to investigate alleged corruption within the FBI, as well as his refusal to announce an investigation into Trump’s opponent, Joe Biden. Further demonstration of Wray’s “disloyalty” to Trump was when Wray appeared in an election security video that debunked much of Trump’s conspiracy theory about election fraud.

As for Gina Haspel, most recently, the Trump administration has commented that Haspel should be fired for not objecting to the use of election software, which, according to Trump, allowed “election fraud,” and resulted in Joe Biden’s winning the 2020 presidential election.

“This confirms what I have been saying for months,” said House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith. “The President’s singular obsession with loyalty has severely undermined the competence of our government and made us less safe. It is an insult to the American people to hamstring government, particularly during a period of presidential transition.”

Donald Trump, in his great need for absolute loyalty from those associated with him, and his malignant narcissistic rage at losing re-election, has demonstrated that issues like our national security, or the safety of Americans, are of no consequence to him. He not only sees those who disagree with him, such as the Pentagon officials he rapidly replaced, as disloyal, he sees any indication that the results of the election are accurate (and that he lost) as an expression of disloyalty. Donald Trump’s desire to exact revenge for having lost, as well as to retaliate against Democrats by setting President-elect Joe Biden up for failure, take precedence over any presidential, humanitarian, or rational thought processes.

President Trump fires Defense Secretary Mark Esper | ABC News

Trump continues Pentagon shake-up, gives loyalists key roles |
CBS Evening News [2020-11-11]