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Persistence pays off with story of bureaucrat blocking transition

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AP White House reporter Aamer Madhani wanted to know more about Emily Murphy, the little-known federal official who stalled the formal presidential transition by waiting more than two weeks to “ascertain” that Joe Biden was the apparent winner of the presidential race.

Madhani reached out to every recent administrator of Muphy’s agency — the General Services Administration — as well as some lawmakers Murphy had worked for, but he wasn’t having any luck. His 10th call, a fortuitous cold call to Dave Barram, who ran the GSA during the Bush-Gore standoff in 2000, proved to be the jackpot. Madhani found Barram’s number in an online database.

Barram revealed that he’d spoken with Murphy before the election to talk through how to handle the ascertainment process. He laid out his advice to her: “I’m looking at you and I can tell you want to do the right thing,” he said, adding: “I’ll tell you what my mother told me: ‘If you do the right thing, then all you have to do is live with the consequences of it.’”

The call with Barram didn’t occur until late in the day, but Madhani instantly knew he had a story and worked late to turn it around for AP’s most reader-engaged story of the day.

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