But the decision to bungle his own transition was Trump’s. The Obama team did not hinder him in any way, and the GSA certainly did not. Of course, many people were upset about Trump’s election at the time, and many suspected Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Those suspicions were more than justified: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would eventually show how Russian-controlled social-media accounts, coupled with the Russian security-service hack of the Democratic National Committee, sought to affect voters’ perceptions of Hillary Clinton. But they did not render the voting fake or the voting machines dysfunctional, and nobody in any senior post ever claimed that they had. Nobody—no civil servant, no political appointee, no politician—tried to stop the transition either. The rules were the rules.
John Dickerson: Why you don’t mess around with presidential transitions
But now it is 2020. For four years, the White House has been occupied by a team of people who do not care about the rules. The president and his family have disregarded rules about security clearances, rules about the use of private email for public purposes, rules about the intersection of political and government business. They have profited financially from the presidency while still in the White House. They have sought to use American foreign-policy tools for personal and political gain. While they did so, they accustomed everyone around them to accept new standards. Slowly, members of the Trump administration got used to tolerating blatant, bold-faced lies. Dozens, hundreds, thousands of lies—important lies, stupid lies, insignificant lies, lies about attendance at the inauguration, lies about economic growth, lies about a hurricane forecast in Alabama.
Over time, everyone who worked for Trump learned to tolerate his lying. Some concluded that they had to lie too in order to keep their jobs. Some began to believe the lies, because that made things easier. Some began to think defending the president’s lies was patriotic, because he was the president. Some became excited by the lies, because they broke so many taboos. That feeling of radicalism kept them going, gave them strength. When the president began to lie about the election result, they were ready to defend him.
Not everybody has succumbed to this ideology. Just last week, Chris Krebs, the head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, was fired for refusing to lie. He would not support the president’s baseless claims of electoral fraud, and so he was told to leave his job.
But not everybody is Chris Krebs. Clearly, Emily Murphy is not Chris Krebs. Confronted with the reality of Joe Biden’s victory, and with the predictably mendacious reaction of the president, Murphy, along with an astonishing number of elected and appointed Republican officials, has chosen to stand by him too. “Friends” are now speaking to the national media on her behalf. One of these “friends” told CNN that Murphy is distressed: “She’s doing what she believes is her honest duty as someone who has sworn true allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America, and the laws that govern her position.”