After Joe Biden’s victory, will Donald Trump wreck the transition?
The president can make the handover of power unpleasant, but he cannot stop it
THE ECONOMIST (Nov 8, 2020)
SHORTLY after the Associated Press declared Joe Biden the winner of Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes—and therefore the presidency—video clips of celebratory scenes began appearing on Twitter. Bells rang over the Paris skyline in the gloaming. People danced in the streets in Houston. Whoops echoed through Manhattan’s concrete canyons. A parade of cars, horns honking in joy, drove through streets thronged with cheering people outside the White House. Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, congratulated Mr Biden and Kamala Harris—who will become the first female, black and Asian-American vice-president. Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, quickly followed suit, as did other world leaders.
Donald Trump, in contrast, released a statement as ungracious as it was predictable. The president accused Mr Biden of “falsely pos[ing] as the winner”, and claimed his campaign wanted “ballots counted even if they are fraudulent, manufactured or cast by ineligible or deceased voters”. Not a shred of evidence exists for any of those accusations, and the more Mr Trump makes them the more insubstantial and churlish they seem. Whether he likes it or not, a presidential transition is already under way. How much sand can he throw in its gears? That depends in part on how much loyalty Mr Trump can still command across the government, on the success of his (increasingly desperate) lawsuits and on whether he devotes himself to frustrating the incoming administration—or simply rage-tweets his way through the next few weeks.
Until 1933 the president was inaugurated in March, giving an incoming administration five months of planning time. It now has around 11 weeks. The Presidential Transition Act, which Congress passed in 1963 to try to forestall “results detrimental to the safety and well-being of the United States and its people” during the transition, establishes a framework. Before the election, each federal agency must designate a career official to head transition planning, and ensure continuity as political appointees depart. Six months before the election, the White House must create a White House Transition Coordinating Council (Mr Trump’s is led by Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, who tested positive for covid-19 this week).
That council works with the incoming president’s team—headed in this case by Ted Kaufman, a longtime Biden confidant who led his vice-presidential transition 12 years ago….
Biden plans immediate flurry of executive orders to reverse Trump policies
Although transitions of power can always include abrupt changes, the shift from Trump to Biden — from one president who sought to undermine established norms and institutions to another who has vowed to restore the established order — will be among the most startling in American history.
Biden’s top advisers have spent months quietly working on how best to implement his agenda, with hundreds of transition officials preparing to get to work inside various federal agencies. They have assembled a book filled with his campaign commitments to help guide their early decisions.
Biden is planning to set up a coronavirus task force on Monday, in recognition that the global pandemic will be the primary issue that he must confront. The task force, which could begin meeting within days, will be co-chaired by former surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy and David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner.
There has also been a recognition of those around him that he may have to lean more on executive actions than he had once hoped. He can reorient various federal agencies and regulations, and he can adopt a different posture on the world stage.