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Emily W. Murphy

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Emily W. Murphy
Emily W. Murphy official photo.jpg
Administrator of General Services
Assumed office
December 12, 2017
PresidentDonald Trump
DeputyAllison Brigati
Preceded byTimothy Horne (Acting)
Personal details
Emily Webster Murphy

1973 (age 46–47)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
EducationSmith College (BA)
University of Virginia (JD)

Emily Webster Murphy (born 1973) is an American attorney and government official who is the administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA).[1] Before serving in the GSA, Murphy was an attorney for the Republican National Committee and worked for several congressional committees and executive departments in the field of acquisition policy.

She was appointed as administrator in 2017 by President Donald Trump.[2] She came under scrutiny after the 2020 presidential election for her delay in starting the transition to a Biden administration after Biden apparently won the election on November 7. Murphy initially refused to sign a letter allowing Biden's transition team to access federal agencies and transition funds; this came as Trump refused to acknowledge Biden's victory.[3] She signed the letter on November 23, allowing the presidential transition process to begin.[4]

Early life and education

Murphy was born in 1973 and raised in St. Louis, Missouri.[5] She has a brother and a sister.[5] Her father James J. ("Jim") Murphy Jr. was chairman of Murphy Company Mechanical Contractors and Engineers, and her mother, Mimi Murphy (née Webster), was an attorney.[6][7] Murphy attended Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School, from which she graduated in 1991. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Smith College in 1995 and a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2001.[8][9][5]

Early career

After graduating from Smith, Murphy moved to Washington, D.C., beginning her career at the Republican National Committee (RNC). She worked for the RNC as Assistant to the Director of Administration from October 1995 to January 1997. She then worked as a staff member for Jim Talent while he served as Chair of the House Committee on Small Business from January 1997 to July 1998, before leaving to pursue a law degree.[10]

Murphy previously served as counsel at the United States House Committee on Armed Services, where she specialized in acquisition policy and reform. She has also held roles at the Small Business Administration and at GSA, where she served as the agency's Chief Acquisition Officer from 2005 to 2007.[11] During this stint, she attended a 2007 briefing of GSA political appointees by Karl Rove.[12] During the briefing, then GSA administrator Lurita Doan asked those in attendance how the GSA could be used "to help our candidates."[12] Murphy was among several attendees who reported the incident as a violation of the Hatch Act, and Doan was asked to resign by President George W. Bush.[12]

She served under three chairmen of the United States House Committee on Small Business. Her private sector experience includes five years in executive positions at a technology startup company engaged in federal contracting and three years as a government contracts attorney with two D.C. law firms.[13][14]

General Services Administration leadership

After President Trump took office in January 2017, Murphy was appointed to the position of senior advisor to acting General Services Administration administrator Timothy Horne.[2][8] On September 2, 2017, Trump nominated Murphy to the post of GSA administrator. The Senate confirmed Murphy's appointment by unanimous consent on December 5, 2017.[2]

In March 2018, an Inspector General's report found that Murphy had a policy of permitting alcohol consumption on agency property.[15][16]

In 2018, Murphy became involved in a dispute surrounding a decision to cancel plans to relocate the Federal Bureau of investigations headquarters outside Washington D.C. and sell the land on which the J. Edgar Hoover Building stands for development. Instead, a more expensive rebuild at the existing location was proposed.[17][18][19] House Democrats alleged that this decision was influenced by Trump's desire to prevent a rival hotel being built on Pennsylvania Avenue.[11] Murphy faced questions at a 2018 congressional hearing regarding the White House's involvement in this decision; she said that Trump was not involved in the decision and that the direction was received from the FBI.[11][18] A GSA Inspector General report published in August 2018 revealed Murphy's testimony "left the misleading impression that she had no discussions with the President or senior White House officials in the decision-making process about the project"; Murphy had failed to disclose her meetings with the president on two occasions regarding the project, and one with his Chief of Staff John Kelly.[11][20]

2020 presidential transition

Murphy's letter to Joe Biden notifying him of her decision to permit his transition team access to U.S. federal resources for the transition of the presidency of Donald Trump to the presidency of Joe Biden.

The GSA administrator is the government official responsible for "ascertaining" the existence of an upcoming transition of the presidency, thus permitting the president-elect and their staff access to federal agencies and transition funds. After November 7, 2020, when Joe Biden became generally acknowledged as the winner of the 2020 election, Murphy did not immediately issue a letter doing so, thus preventing Biden's transition team from federal support to facilitate an orderly transition of power.[21][3]

Before the 2020 election, Murphy spoke with David Barram, who was President George W. Bush's GSA administrator during the 2000 election, about the appropriate steps to take during a possible transition of power.[11][12] On November 10, four former Secretaries of Homeland Security—Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff, Janet Napolitano, and Jeh Johnson—called upon Murphy to initiate the transition.[22][23] On November 19, the Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform formally requested that Murphy brief Congress "on [her] ongoing refusal to grant the Biden-Harris Transition Team access to critical services and facilities".[24][25] The next day, House Democrats sent Murphy a letter reading that her inaction was "undermining the orderly transfer of power, impairing the incoming Administration's ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, hampering its ability to address our nation's dire economic crisis, and endangering our national security."[26]

On November 23, after Michigan certified its results, Murphy issued the letter of ascertainment, thus permitting the Biden transition team access to federal funds and resources for an orderly transition.[4] Breaking with recent precedent, the letter did not call Biden "president-elect", instead fulfilling her requirements under the Act without implying that he won the election,[27] calling the Act "vague", and recommending that Congress "consider amendments to the Act" to improve the standard it sets for post-election allocation of resources.[28]


  1. ^ Nicholas, Scott (December 6, 2017). "Senate Clears Emily Murphy as Next GSA Administrator". ExecutiveGov. Archived from the original on December 6, 2017. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Mazmanian, Adam (December 5, 2017). "Senate confirms new DHS, GSA chiefs". FCW. Archived from the original on December 7, 2017. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Rein, Lisa; O'Connell, Jonathan; Dawsey, Josh (November 8, 2020). "A little-known Trump appointee is in charge of handing transition resources to Biden — and she isn't budging". The Washington Post. ProQuest 2458469267. Archived from the original on November 9, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Daly, Matthew; Jalonick, Mary Clare (November 23, 2020). "GSA ascertains Joe Biden is 'apparent winner' of election, clears way for the transition from Trump administration to formally begin". The Baltimore Sun.
  5. ^ a b c Raasch, Chuck (October 18, 2017). "St. Louis native faces tough task heading Trump's federal procurement, facilities office". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Archived from the original on December 21, 2017. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  6. ^ "Emily Murphy Confirmed to Lead the U.S. General Services Administration". Mechanical Contractors Association of America. Retrieved November 21, 2020.
  7. ^ "Jim Murphy, Jr. Receives MCAA Honor". ConstructForSTL. March 24, 2015. Archived from the original on December 7, 2017. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Raasch, Chuck (September 5, 2017). "Trump taps St. Louis native to head federal agency". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Archived from the original on December 9, 2017. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  9. ^ Raasch, Chuck (December 6, 2017). "Senate okays St. Louis native Murphy to head government's General Services Administration". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Archived from the original on December 6, 2017. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  10. ^ "Nomination of Emily W. Murphy to be Administrator, U.S. General Services Administration". October 18, 2017. Archived from the original on December 7, 2017. Retrieved December 9, 2017. This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the General Services Administration.
  11. ^ a b c d e Holmes, Kristen; Herb, Jeremy (November 19, 2020). "'It's a terrible situation': Inside a government bureaucrat's pressure-filled decision to delay the transition". CNN. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  12. ^ a b c d "Who's Emily Murphy, the woman blamed for holding up the Biden transition?". Los Angeles Times. November 17, 2020. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  13. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Personnel to Key Administration Posts". The White House. September 2, 2017. Archived from the original on December 10, 2017. Retrieved October 13, 2017.  This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the White House.
  14. ^ Adams, Ramona (September 5, 2017). "Emily Webster Murphy to Receive GSA Administrator Nomination". ExecutiveGov. Archived from the original on October 19, 2017. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  15. ^ Carl Ochoa, Inspector General (March 8, 2018). Report of Investigation: Re: P. Brennan Hart, III (PDF) (Report). Office of Inspector General, General Services Administration. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 17, 2020. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  16. ^ MacFarlane, Scott (August 21, 2019). "Ex-GSA Official Had Sex With White House Staffer on Govt. Agency Rooftop: Investigation". NBC4 TV. Washington, D.C. Archived from the original on August 23, 2019. Retrieved August 23, 2019.
  17. ^ Dlouhy, Jennifer A. (November 9, 2020). "Trump Gets Help Again From Appointee Holding Up Transition". Bloomberg News. Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  18. ^ a b "Trump Intervened In FBI HQ Project To Protect His Hotel, Democrats Allege". Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  19. ^ O'Connell, Jonathan (February 12, 2018). "In abrupt shift, federal government proposes keeping FBI downtown". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  20. ^ Herb, Jeremy; Holmes, Kristen (November 25, 2020). "Here's how Trump's transition blockade finally ended". CNN. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  21. ^ Shear, Michael D.; Haberman, Maggie; Crowley, Michael (November 10, 2020). "Trump Appointee Stands Between Biden's Team and a Smooth Transition". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 10, 2020. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  22. ^ Shaub, Walter M. (November 20, 2020). "The Presidential Transition Meets Murphy's Law". The New York Review of Books. Archived from the original on November 14, 2020. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  23. ^ Gregorian, Dareh (November 13, 2020). "Ex-Bush, Obama Homeland Security chiefs call on Trump admin to begin transition". NBC News. Archived from the original on November 16, 2020. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  24. ^ Cheney, Kyle (November 19, 2020). "Democrats demand briefing from GSA chief on delay in ascertaining Biden's win". Politico. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  25. ^ "Letter from Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney, Nita M. Lowey, Gerald E. Connolly, and Mike Quigley to Emily Murphy" (PDF). November 19, 2020. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  26. ^ Segers, Grace (November 20, 2020). "House Democrats tell GSA chief her refusal to certify Biden's win is "having grave effects"". CBS News. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  27. ^ Jankowicz, Mia. "The letter enabling Biden's transition goes to extreme lengths to avoid saying he beat Trump and won the election". Business Insider. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  28. ^ Rein, Lisa (November 23, 2020). "Under pressure, Trump appointee Emily Murphy approves transition in unusually personal letter to Biden". Washington Post. Washington Post. Retrieved November 25, 2020.

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