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As Biden's transition finally begins, there's good news and bad

As Biden and his team begin a daunting, 53-day sprint to Inauguration Day, Trump still isn't conceding -- or accepting reality.
Image: President-elect Joe Biden speaks Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del.
President-elect Joe Biden speaks Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del.Carolyn Kaster / AP file

President-elect Joe Biden and his team have tried to move forward with the transition process, but they've been waiting for a specific piece of paper: General Services Administrator Emily Murphy needed to sign an "ascertainment" letter, which in turn would allow the incoming administration's transition team to formally get to work.

After some needless delays, the GSA chief finally gave Biden's team the green light yesterday afternoon.

GSA Administrator Emily Murphy said in a letter that Biden, whom she referred to as "the apparent president-elect," is now able to get access to millions of dollars in federal funds and other resources to begin his transition to power. In her letter, Murphy also denied that she had been under pressure from the White House to delay the process.

Now that this undue hurdle has been cleared, the incoming administration can begin a daunting, 53-day sprint to Inauguration Day, hopefully with the cooperation of the outgoing Republican team.

But as encouraging as it is to see the gears of the transition machine finally start to turn, the good news is not without caveats.

Right off the bat, Emily Murphy's letter was problematic. She did not address it to the president-elect; she did not use the word "ascertainment"; and she included complaints about alleged mistreatment for reasons that weren't altogether clear.

Complicating matters, the GSA administrator claimed in writing that she arrived at yesterday's decision "independently." That was soon after contradicted by Donald Trump himself, who said in a tweet, "I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done."

But just as importantly, while the formal start of the transition process seems to signal a new milestone in the process, the outgoing president is still embracing the fantasy that his fight to hold onto power has merit and must continue. Indeed, his tweet about the GSA added, "Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!"

Hours later, echoing nonsensical and discredited conspiracy theories, Trump added, "What does GSA being allowed to preliminarily work with the Dems have to do with continuing to pursue our various cases on what will go down as the most corrupt election in American political history? We are moving full speed ahead. Will never concede to fake ballots & 'Dominion.'"

Or put another way, Biden's transition process can finally begin, but Trump hasn't conceded -- and it's entirely possible he never will.

A senior Trump campaign adviser told the Washington Post last night, in reference to the outgoing president, "He basically just conceded. That's as close to a concession as you will probably get." Another told Politico, "You'll have stuff like this that's very close, but you'll never be an outright confirmation of the results or acknowledgment of a loss."