The White House has told government agencies to start preparing for the transition should Donald Trump lose to Joe Biden in November as Democrats worry the president won’t cooperate with a handover should one become necessary.
Russell Vought, acting director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, issued a memo on Monday ordering 20 different agencies to appoint a transition director by Friday, in accordance with the Presidential Transition Act.
Each agency’s director will make up the Agency Transition Directors Council, which will meet on May 27, Vought wrote.
The White House has told government agencies to start preparing for the transition should Donald Trump lose November’s election
Joe Biden has tapped a longtime aide to head the transition effort from his side and said Monday night that preparation needs to start now
The 17-page memo also outlines the responsibilities of the group, including ensuring a ‘strategy for addressing interagency challenges and responsibilities’ around the transitions, coordinate the activities between the outgoing administration and the incoming one and prepare career government staff to backfill certain roles during the transition.
Congress has appropriated $9.62 million for transition activities this year. If President Trump is re-elected, any funds earmarked for transition activities are returned to the U.S. treasury.
Federal law requires the government to be prepared to change power should an incumbent president lose election. In 2012, then-President Barack Obama prepared to hand over the White House if Mitt Romney won that November – a scenario that did not come to pass.
Biden, who comes into the process with the advantage of having served as vice president, has gotten started too.
He appointed his longtime aide Ted Kaufman, who also served in Biden’s Senate seat, to head the process for him. The campaign won’t get formal transition space from the GSA until September but can start preparations for a handover in power.
Biden told a fundraiser Monday night that ‘you can’t wait until you win, if you win. You’ve got to start right now.’
He noted his campaign has put together a transition team and has already heard from people ready to serve in a Biden administration.
He said that although the Trump administration has seen an exodus of career civil servants, he’s optimistic he can bring some of them back.
‘You’ve got to be ready on Day One to be able to start naming people to head up these Cabinet positions, sub-Cabinet positions and those appointments that are in within the departments that are career positions, and bring people back,’ he said. ‘I think we can do it.’
He said he’s even heard from some Republicans who want their government jobs back should he win.
‘One advantage of being around a long time is you get to know an awful lot of people,’ he said. ‘I have had literally several hundred serious, serious players who have held positions in every department in the federal government who have said, including some Republicans, who have said: ‘If you win, I want to come back. I’m ready to serve.”
As government staff prepare for a possible transition of power in the White House, some Democrats are worried President Trump won’t cooperate if he loses
Federal law outlines the transition process between presidents: President Trump, Melania Trump and Barron Trump are seen walking in the January 2017 inaugural parade
Democrats, however, are worried President Trump may not go quietly should Biden defeat him.
‘They’re a ‘let’s burn the house down on the way out’ kind of crowd. I’d like to think it was different, but there’s nothing to indicate that they would play it straight,’ said John Podesta, who was a co-chair of Barack Obama’s transition in 2008 and chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, told NBC News.
Biden has expressed concern President Trump might try to change the November 3rd election given the interruption to daily life due to the coronavirus. The pandemic also has stunted the markets and Trump has based his re-election message on having a strong economy.
‘Mark my words: I think he is going to try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,’ the former vice president said at a fundraiser last week.
Trump, however, dismissed Biden’s speculation.
‘I never even thought of changing the date of the election. Why would do i that?’ Trump said at the White House Monday.
‘November 3. It’s a good number. No, I look forward to that election. That was just made up propaganda. Not by him. But by some of the many people that are working writing little statements,’ he noted.
Trump has joked about staying in White House beyond his time in office. The constitution limits a president to two four-year terms or 10 total years in office. Trump, at his campaign rallies, has joked about staying another eight or 12 years.
There have been reports of pranks in presidential transitions – including Clinton staffers allegedly removing the ‘W’ keys on computers before George W Bush took office; he’s seen with daughters Jenna and Barbara at the 2005 inaugural ball
President Obama and Vice President Biden on their inauguration day in 2013
President Obama, seen with Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha at his first inauguration in 2008, worked to give President Trump a smooth transition
First Lady Melania Trum, Second Lady Karen Pence, President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, former First Lady Michelle Obama, and former Second Lady Jill Biden stand on the West Front of Capitol after Trump was sworn into office on January 20, 2017
There’s also been a tradition of pranks in the past during hand overs of power.
Stephanie Grisham, when she was serving as White House press secretary for President Trump, told a Virginia radio station that Obama staff left ‘you will fail’ notes for them.
‘We came into the White House—I’ll tell you something, every office was filled with Obama books. And we had notes left behind that said ‘You will fail,’ ‘You aren’t going to make it.’ And in the press office, there was a big note taped to a door that said, ‘You will fail’,’ Grisham said.
Her claims were questioned given no photos of notes were provided.
Staffers for President Bill Clinton were reported to have removed the ‘W’ keys from computers before President George W. Bush took office.
Bush ordered his staff to forgo any hanky-panky and have an orderly transition. During the 2008 election to replace him, his Chief of Staff Josh Bolten reached out to both Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Obama to start the transition process.
Obama also ordered a smooth transition to Trump’s presidency and cited Bush’s model as one to follow when handing over power.