Biden Transition Federal Roadblock

General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy speaks during a ribbon-cutting ceremony in June 2019 for the Department of Homeland Security’s St. Elizabeths Campus Center Building in Washington. The head of the obscure federal government agency that is holding up Joe Biden’s presidential transition knew well before Election Day she might have a messy situation on her hands well.

NORTHAMPTON — A Smith College alumna and federal government official has come under fire nationally and at her alma mater for refusing to issue a letter facilitating President-elect Joe Biden’s transition to the White House.

As administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA), part of Emily W. Murphy’s job is to issue a letter of ascertainment that allows Biden’s team access to resources such as transition funds and federal agencies.

But as of Thursday afternoon — 12 days since the Associated Press and the major networks called the election for Biden — Murphy has remained silent amid criticism that her inaction blocks Biden’s team from receiving information and funding that would allow the incoming president to better address the COVID-19 pandemic and other emergencies.

Trump administration officials say they will not give Biden the classified presidential daily briefing on intelligence matters until the GSA makes the ascertainment official.

Murphy, who graduated from Smith in 1995, was appointed to her current role by President Donald Trump.

In a statement, a Smith College spokeswoman said that “while Smith College does not seek to influence the professional actions of any alumna, we hope that a peaceful transition of power takes place in alignment with the core values of democracy.”

On Twitter, many have directed messages at Smith College and Murphy, with some sharply criticizing Murphy as a poor example of the college’s values. Others have called on Smith to take a stronger stance and condemn Murphy’s actions.

Murphy, 47, who did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, leads a 12,000-person agency tasked with managing the government’s real estate portfolio and serving as its global supply chain manager. Before last week, she was hardly a household name in politics.

The University of Virginia-trained lawyer and self-described “wonk” had spent most of the last 20 years honing a specialized knowledge of government procurement through a series of jobs as a Republican congressional staffer and in senior roles at the GSA and the Small Business Administration. She did shorter stints in the private sector and volunteered for Trump’s transition team in 2016.

While many are inclined to see Murphy’s actions as part of Trump and his allies’ efforts to subvert the election, Dave Barram, who was in Murphy’s shoes as GSA administrator during the chaotic aftermath of the Bush-Gore election in 2000, said he felt sympathy for her.

“Republican lawmakers are asking her to be more courageous than they are,” Barram said. “Sure, it’s her decision to make, and she’s going to have to make it one of these days. But they could make it easier if five or 10 of them come out and say: ‘Biden’s won. Let’s congratulate our old Senate colleague.’”