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Key government agency acknowledges Biden’s win and begins formal transition

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The letter is the first step the administration has taken to acknowledge President Donald Trump’s defeat, more than two weeks after Biden was declared the winner in the election.
Murphy said she had not been pressured by the White House to delay the formal transition and did not make a decision “out of fear or favoritism.”
“Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts,” Murphy wrote. “I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official — including those who work at the White House or GSA — with regard to the substance or timing of my decision. To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination.”
The letter marks Murphy’s formal sign off on Biden’s victory, a normally perfunctory process known as ascertainment. The move will allow the transition to officially begin, permitting current administration agency officials to coordinate with the incoming Biden team, and providing millions in government funding for the transition.
The Biden team has not waited for the formal transition process to begin preparing for the presidency, as Biden announced several Cabinet picks on Monday. But the delay in ascertainment meant that Biden’s team was locked out from government data and could not make contact with federal agencies, nor could it spend $6.3 million in government funding now available for the transition. A Biden official said the most urgent need was for the transition to be given access to Covid-19 data and the vaccine distribution plans.
The Biden team will now have access to additional office space inside the agencies and the ability to use federal resources for background checks on Biden’s White House staff appointments and Cabinet picks.
Yohannes Abraham, executive director of Biden’s transition, said the start of the transition was a “needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track.”
“This final decision is a definitive administrative action to formally begin the transition process with federal agencies,” Abraham said. “In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies.”
The ascertainment letter was sent Monday after Michigan formally certified its election results earlier in the day and more Trump lawsuits were dismissed. Georgia certified its razor-thin presidential results on Friday, and Pennsylvania is nearing certification of its election results, too.
It’s the latest sign that Trump’s conspiracy-laden legal bid, led by Rudy Giuliani, to circumvent the outcome of the election is nearing an end. The Trump campaign’s lawsuits to delay certification of the election have been dismissed in multiple states, as his legal team has failed to provide any evidence of widespread voter fraud.
But until now, Murphy had refused to move forward with the ascertainment process, despite Biden’s clear victory. Murphy, a Trump political appointee, has faced intense scrutiny and political pressure from Democrats and, in recent days, Republicans calling for the start of a smooth transition. In a statement Monday, Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, said that “there is no evidence as of now of any widespread fraud or irregularities that would change the result in any state” and called on the transition process to begin.
In the letter, Murphy suggested that the ascertainment rules were vague and should be updated.
“GSA does not dictate the outcome of legal disputes and recounts, nor does it determine whether such proceedings are reasonable or justified,” she wrote. “These are issues that the Constitution, federal laws, and state laws leave to the election certification process and decisions by courts of competent jurisdiction. I do not think that an agency charged with improving federal procurement and property management should place itself above the constitutionally-based election process. I strongly urge Congress to consider amendments to the Act.”
Trump tweeted moments after the letter was reported, thanking Murphy for her work and affirming the decision to start the transition.
“I want to thank Emily Murphy at GSA for her steadfast dedication and loyalty to our Country. She has been harassed, threatened, and abused — and I do not want to see this happen to her, her family, or employees of GSA. Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!” Trump tweeted. “Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”
Two Trump advisers said the President’s tweets are being read by people in his orbit as essentially a concession.
“A veiled attempt to justify continued fundraising solicitations,” the second adviser said.
The General Services Administration informed federal departments on Monday night that it has ascertained Biden to be the winner of the presidential election, according to an email obtained by CNN.
“In accordance with the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, as amended, today, November 23, 2020, the GSA Administrator has ascertained Joseph R. Biden and Senator Kamala Harris the apparent successful candidates for the offices of President and Vice President, respectively,” Mary Gibert, the federal transition coordinator, wrote in an email to federal department contacts.
A senior White House official said some staffers were initially caught off guard by the GSA letter, learning about it first from CNN. But the official said staffers will begin to cooperate with the Biden transition team, adding that they were seeking more information on next steps.
For two weeks after the election was called for Biden, Murphy was silent as the ascertainment delay dragged on, sparking public pressure from congressional Democrats and Biden himself, who warned that the delay could cost lives due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Democrats were demanding a briefing from Murphy on Tuesday to explain her decision-making, rejecting the GSA’s proposal earlier Monday for her deputy to brief Congress next week. Democratic committee chairmen sent a slew of new letters to Murphy on Tuesday demanding she allow the transition to begin and warning of the consequences for failing to do so.
This story has been updated with additional reporting on Monday.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Mary Gibert’s name.

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Politics Briefing: Trudeau says appointment of Payette was 'rigorous' – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government will take another look at its process for nominating governors-general, in the wake of Julie Payette’s resignation last night.

Ms. Payette, an accomplished pilot and astronaut who took office in 2017, has had a rocky tenure and appeared to have struggled with the public demands of the office. An independent investigation of her office, which the government ordered last year and received this week, appeared to validate concerns of harassment in the workplace.

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Mr. Trudeau was asked at his midday news conference whether Ms. Payette should have been vetted more carefully for the job, given she had earlier left a position at the Montreal Science Centre in a similar cloud.

“For all high-level appointments, there is a rigorous vetting process that was followed in this case,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters. “Obviously we will continue to look at that vetting process to ensure that it is the best possible process as we move forward.”

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

The drop in Pfizer-made COVID-19 vaccine doses coming to Canada is set to worsen, but the pharmaceutical company insists it can still catch up by the end of this quarter.

Newly released documents show that a Montreal manufacturer that won a $282.5-million contract to make ventilators last year produced machines that initially had serious problems that caused delays to delivering on time. The case illustrates the challenges associated with companies that pivoted in the early months of the pandemic to make medical technology that they had not previously made.

The U.S. Senate will receive the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump on Monday.

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And here is your weekend reading: Power Gap, a new Globe and Mail series by investigative journalists Robyn Doolittle and Chen Wang that gives a data-driven examination of how and why so many women are held back from positions of power and prestige in the workplace. While so much attention is paid to women in the top-most positions, the series explains how the real issues are at all levels – particularly middle management.

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the original appointment of Julie Payette as governor-general: “Less than four years ago, she was Mr. Trudeau’s celebrity pick. A former astronaut, an accomplished woman, bilingual, someone who already had schools named after her. On the surface, she was the very image of the modern governor-general the still-newish Trudeau Liberals wanted. But we now know that proper vetting might have shown her temperament was ill suited for the job.”

John Fraser (The Globe and Mail) on changing the appointment process: “Whatever anyone thinks of Stephen Harper and his Conservative administration, it had developed a good system for searching out and vetting possible candidates for all the vice regal positions in Canada – the lieutenants-governor of the provinces, as well as the governor-general. It was rejected by the Trudeau PMO, although officials there liked the system well enough to adopt it for appointments they made to the new-style Senate.”

Shachi Kurl (Ottawa Citizen) on repairing the office’s public image: “In 2021, at a time when worries about being seen as too elitist have the Prime Minister himself too scared to fix the house in which he’s supposed to be living, and given that Payette herself refused to even reside at Rideau Hall, should a home and all its associated domestic trappings still come with the job? Would Canadians be better served if the whole building were opened up to them, as a gallery, or museum, or place of learning?”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on Canada’s slow pace of vaccinations: ” Vaccinating as many people as we can isn’t just a matter of saving lives – although the faster we do it, the more lives we will save. It’s also a matter of some economic urgency. The country that emerges quickest from the pandemic, and from the curbs on activity most countries have adopted in response, will not only save that much more in lost GDP.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on making lockdowns more targeted: “At this point in the pandemic, we should know better than to extend curfews to homeless people, close down skating rinks and issue fines to mothers in pursuit of childcare.”

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Bria Hamilton (The Globe and Mail) on why the healthcare system needs to build more trust with Black Canadians: “My grandmother, my mother and I have all had extremely negative experiences with Canadian medical care. The most atrocious story was the removal of my grandmother’s uterus without her permission during unrelated surgery.”

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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A pick between dark politics or collective resistance – The Hindu

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The democratic world has a choice — either accept the politics of violence or kindle the urge to resist the status quo

All politics is a struggle for power; the ultimate kind of power is violence.” — C. Wright Mills

Donald Trump’s drive to upend a legitimate election has shaken faith in the functioning of democracy worldwide. When a president of a country himself condones the rioters or calls them “patriots”, a grim reality awaits democracy in the face of the pervasive political polarisation ripping apart the very political fabric of a nation. Politicians across the globe sink to new levels of unwarranted incitement of a malleable public, a disastrous and politically debasing tendency of constitutional democracy.

U.S. Capitol | The siege of a historical power centre

History as a pointer

The loss of faith in the ruling elite points towards a disturbing future. The long and cyclic dark history of civilisation, of wars and violence, of religious fanaticism and irrationality is a loud indication of the failure to model society on rational principles. Our inherently dialectical history confirms the simultaneous birth of opposing forces at the very moment of assertion of any “truth”. For example, the trajectory of liberal democracy evolving into totalitarianism is evidently present in the brute forces of Italian fascism or German Nazism, two striking examples of the birth of vulgar nationalist fervour and racial superiority.

The shock of Capitol Hill

In the wake of the debacle on Capitol Hill, the world awakes to the reality of the scourge of violence within democracy, rousing a serious national debate on what comprises aggression, who perpetuates it, and why. It is imperative to halt the runaway course of democracy towards an environment increasingly subsumed in the violence of fear and hatred, an overwhelming plague in any civil society. Breaking, therefore, through the intellectual vacuity of the official discourse and coming to grips with the history of electoral violence we see that what happened on the Potomac is nothing new in the long history of racist and electoral violence.

But it is not Mr. Trump who is solely responsible. The people are as much to be blamed. Jason Brennan, in his valuable and bracing book, Against Democracy, makes the contrarian conclusion that democratic participation promotes human beings to forget common sense and common politesse. Voters, as he puts it rather uncharitably, are “biased, ill-informed football hooligans” who “can present arguments for their beliefs, but cannot explain alternative points of view”. Along with them are the “hobbits”, a section that lacks fixed strong views on political matters. These two categories have their antithesis in the “Vulcans” who, Brennan argues, “think scientifically and rationally about politics”. Nazism, Trumpism or Hindutva are outstanding examples of this syndrome and the analogy fits in aptly with the credentials of the demonstrators in Washington DC, the “superbiased” who mindlessly fall in line with the manifesto of the ruling dispensation.

Editorial | Fruits of incitement: On the mob attack on U.S. Capitol

Evasive promise

Philosophical democratic theory is, therefore, rather perplexing. One aspect is the idolised view of democracy as an inimitably just form of government where people have the right to equal share of political power that empowers the people. However, judging by the history of violence, this could be an absolutely off the mark argument within real-world politics. It only shows that political participation has the potential of making people more irrational, prejudiced and mean. It pulls apart, impedes the social order and creates antagonists of civic order. A higher form of life that democracy promises seems to evade the public.

The debatable questions, therefore, would be: Does democracy leave you smart and active, or dumb and uncivilised? Does it give us a broad outlook or is it selfishly limiting to one’s immediate needs? Does it not make people live in a world of delusion and deceit expediently passing the blame on to the Left or the “professional anarchists” responsible for violent acts of arson and loot, while thousands of protesters sustaining the powerful state apparatus are labelled as “peaceful” or as “patriots”. Death, pain and physical injury of people fighting back for civil liberties and human rights are of no consequence.

Also read | Arnold Schwarzenegger compares U.S. Capitol mob to Nazis

The power and brutality of state violence therefore stands legitimised while justifiable or innocent violence accompanying demonstrations against racism or police ferocity result in ruthless consequences. The nightmare of history indeed, brings us face to face with sinister times that impel the need to oppose the offensive right-wing narrative that discourages dialogue, economic welfare and freedom of expression. The erosion of egalitarianism and freedom through unprecedented challenges from anti-humanist forces pushing democratic institutions to the brink of failure is effectively in operation globally.

At the irreducible moment of confronting the nightmare of history, we have a choice before us. Either we accept the politics of ethnic intolerance, inequality and violence or arouse within us the unfaltering urge to resist the status quo. In the absence of activism, people are bound to fall prey to irrationality, resentment, xenophobia and the inexorable yearning for fear-inducing power. Shockingly, the right-wing fringe element anywhere in the world, America or India, seem untouched by the state brutality on the innocent and the marginalised.

In pictures | Chaos, violence, mockery as pro-Trump mob occupies U.S. Capitol

Political beginnings

Recognising the failures of the past while retaining hope for the future, we need to develop a critique of violence within democracies that is adequate to the times. Understandably, there is always a political struggle basic to the recognition of evident and hidden forms of injustice and violence that make people mindful of it, deliberate on it, and act. These are the “political beginnings” that Hannah Arendt optimistically spoke of in her perennially relevant book, Men in Dark Times. To her, the collective power of the people mattered more than the power of the state, but only when the struggle is against authoritarianism and bigotry, not when the masses begin to prop a fascist disposition.

Shelley Walia, a professor, has taught Cultural Theory at the Department of English, Panjab University, Chandigarh

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Biden and the future of clean energy politics | Greenbiz – GreenBiz

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Have you heard about the clean energy triangle? 

The theory goes that in order to rapidly deploy clean energy, you need three elements: technology; policy; and finance. When these components are integrated, we’re able to thoughtfully accelerate the speed and scale of clean technologies. The technology is there and is getting better. The finance is following as investors see there’s money to be made. The only missing piece, before this week, has been policy. 

The inauguration of Joe Biden as president is the dawn of a new political era; for the first time, the stars are aligning for the clean energy sector to unleash its full potential. 

Biden’s position on clean energy is as diametrically opposed to his predecessor as this analyst can fathom. On his first day, the new president signed executive orders killing the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and recommitting the United States to the Paris climate accord. As a candidate, Biden called for 100 percent clean energy in the U.S. by 2035. He’s integrating climate experts across all departments in “the largest team ever assembled inside the White House to tackle global warming.”

The political sea change is larger than the whims of a single politician. It’s a reflection of the growing, influential force of the clean energy sector itself that will be difficult for serious politicians to ignore forevermore. 

How clean energy pros helped POTUS land his new job

Biden didn’t always make clean energy his issue. He responded to the public’s growing concerns about climate change and listened to experts about its immense economic potential. 

That didn’t happen by accident. The clean energy sector has been growing and maturing for years, and in this election cycle, it helped Biden land his dream job thanks in part to the all-volunteer organization Clean Energy for Biden (CE4B)

“I’m not just hopeful, I’m pretty convinced [clean energy professionals were politically influential],” Dan Reicher, CE4B co-chair and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy, told me in a phone conversation. “They’ve shown themselves to be very capable in President Biden’s victory and made a real difference.”

CE4B brought together more than 13,000 individuals in all 50 states, including 40 regional affinity groups in key locations across the county. It raised $3.2 million through more than 100 fundraisers and held hundreds of phone banks to get out the vote. The effort brought together impressive, diverse and passionate professionals  excited about leaders who understand clean energy. (Full disclosure: I’m a volunteer for CE4B.)

The success of the CE4B’s organizing and campaign efforts inspired organizers to spin out a newly formed nonprofit, Clean Energy for America, which will support candidates and policies that will accelerate the clean energy transition at the state and national levels. 

“Clean Energy for America is a recognition that the transformation that we need to address our clean energy challenges and opportunities needs to happen up and down the ballot,” Reicher said. “It’s not enough to work on a presidential campaign and then close up shop. We’ve got to continue on a variety of races on the national level, but we have to get really focused on state and local races as well.”

It’s also a recognition that clean energy professionals are realizing their power and are here to stay. As clean energy continues to disrupt dirty energy incumbents, the sector will grow in numbers and power. It also means those in power today will decide the policy levers that shape our energy future; who benefits and in what way. 

Clean Energy for America is continuing with the key tenets of CE4B, organizing around the principles of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion to ensure that the clean energy transition is a just transition for all.

The long road to Clean Energy for America 

Before Clean Energy for Biden, there was CleanTech for Hillary. Before that, there was CleanTech for Obama. 

The evolution of the name — from cleantech to clean energy — is a reflection of the industry itself. 

“We treated it as a technology play, not ready for prime time,” said Reicher, who was involved in each organization. “We now call it clean energy. We had decided we had become mainstream; we were no longer a large tech sector backed by venture capital communities. It is a large, mainstream energy sector backed by large investment firms around the U.S. and world.”

Today, millions work in clean energy (about 3.4 million before the start of the pandemic), and those numbers translated into a larger network. 

“We still marvel today at how fast [CE4B] grew to 13,000 people,” Reicher said. “We never saw that level of growth in the other organizations.”

With the birth of Clean Energy for America, the group is poised to continue to mobilize in races quickly. That, combined with the virtuous cycle that promises millions more Americans will be employed by clean energy in the coming decades, plants a clean energy flag in the sand. 

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