A federal US agency has ascertained that Joe Biden is the “apparent winner” of the November 3 election, clearing the way for the start of the transition from Donald Trump’s administration.
The move by the General Services Administration (GSA) allows Mr Biden to co-ordinate with federal agencies on plans for taking over on January 20.
Mr Trump, who had refused to concede the election, said in a tweet that he was directing his team to co-operate on the transition but vowed to keep up the fight.
GSA administrator Emily Murphy made the determination after Mr Trump’s efforts to subvert the vote failed across battleground states, citing, “recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results”.
Michigan certified Mr Biden’s victory on Monday, and a federal judge in Pennsylvania threw out a Trump campaign lawsuit on Saturday seeking to prevent certification in that state.
Yohannes Abraham, the executive director of the Biden transition, said in a statement that the decision “is a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track”.
He added: “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.”
Ms Murphy, a Trump appointee, had faced bipartisan criticism for failing to begin the transition process sooner, preventing Mr Biden’s team from working with career agency officials on plans for his administration, including in critical national security and public health areas.
“Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts. 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,” she wrote in a letter to Mr Biden.
Mr Trump tweeted shortly after her letter was made public: “We will keep up the good fight and I believe we will prevail!
“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.”
Pressure had been mounting on Ms Murphy as an increasing number of Republicans, national security experts and business leaders said it was time for that process to move forward.
Retiring Tennessee senator Lamar Alexander, who had repeatedly called for the transition to begin, released a new statement saying Mr Trump should “put the country first” and help Mr Biden’s administration succeed.
“When you are in public life, people remember the last thing you do,” Mr Alexander said.
Republican senator Rob Portman had called for Ms Murphy to release money and staff needed for the transition.
Mr Portman, a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also said Mr Biden should receive high-level briefings on national security and the coronavirus vaccine distribution plan.
The two men, who had both aligned themselves with Mr Trump, joined a growing number of Republican officials who in recent days have urged him to begin the transition immediately.
Meanwhile, more than 160 business leaders had asked Ms Murphy to immediately acknowledge Mr Biden as president-elect and begin the transition to a new administration.
“Withholding resources and vital information from an incoming administration puts the public and economic health and security of America at risk,″ the business leaders said in an open letter to Ms Murphy.
Separately, more than 100 Republican former national security officials — including former Homeland Security director Tom Ridge, former CIA director Michael Hayden and former director of National Intelligence John Negroponte — said in a statement that Mr Trump’s refusal to concede and allow for an orderly transition “constitutes a serious threat” to America’s democratic process.
The officials signing the letter worked under four Republican presidents, including Mr Trump.
The statement called on “Republican leaders — especially those in Congress — to publicly demand that President Trump cease his anti-democratic assault on the integrity of the presidential election”.
Mr Trump had publicly refused to accept defeat and launched a series of losing court battles across the country making baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and seeking to overturn the election results.
Ms Murphy had missed a deadline on Monday set by House Democrats to brief legislators about the delay in beginning the transition, which is usually a routine step between the election and the inauguration.
A spokeswoman for the GSA said a deputy administrator would instead hold two separate briefings for House and Senate committees on November 30.
In response, the Democratic chairs of four committees and subcommittees said they could reschedule the meeting for Tuesday, but no later.