Planning for the presidential transition of Donald Trump, led by the Vice President-elect, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana (formerly by Chris Christie until November 10–11) began before Donald Trump won the United States presidential election on November 8, 2016, and became the President-elect.
He is expected to be formally elected by the Electoral College on December 19, 2016. At least 2.5 million people have signed an online petition requesting that the Electoral College cast their votes for the candidate “who won the popular vote”, a reference to Hillary Clinton who received a plurality of votes cast. That suggestion was described by The Independent as “almost impossible” while the Washington Post declared such a move would result in “a substantial portion of Clinton backers who would prefer President Trump to the immediate collapse of the American government”.
The results will be certified by a joint session of Congressin January 2017, and the transition will end when he is inaugurated at noon on January 20, 2017.
In accordance with the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010, candidate transition teams are provided office space by the General Services Administration (GSA).
Transition teams are also eligible for government funding for staff; spending on Mitt Romney’s transition team in 2012 was $8.9 million, all funds appropriated by the U.S. government.
Under existing federal law and custom, the Republican Party’s nominee became eligible to receive classified national security briefings once his/her nomination was formalized at the party’s national convention.
Key responsibilities of a presidential transition include the identification and vetting of candidates for approximately 4,000 non-civil service positions in the U.S. government whose service is at the pleasure of the president; arranging the occupancy of executive residences including the White House, One Observatory Circle, and Camp David; liaising with the United States Strategic Command for receipt of the Gold Codes; and briefing senior civil service personnel about a new administration’s policy priorities.
A law enacted by the United States Congress in 2016 requires the incumbent President to establish “transition councils” by June of an election year to facilitate the eventual handover of power.
The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), meanwhile, launched a new program called “Transition 2016” in 2016. Led by Ed DeSeve and David S. C. Chu, the program was described by NAPA as one which provide management and procedural advice to the leading candidates in establishing transition teams.
In April 2016, representatives from the Trump campaign, as well as the campaigns of four other then-running Republican candidates, met in New York with representatives of the Partnership for Public Service to receive a two-day briefing and overview of the transition process. According to Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, the campaign shortly thereafter began implementing the recommendations provided at the meeting.
In early May 2016, after Trump became the presumptive nominee, campaign officials announced they would name the members of a presidential transition team within the “upcoming weeks”. On May 6, The New York Times reported that Trump had asked Jared Kushner to begin work on putting a transition team together.
Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort worked with Kushner in the selection of a transition chief.
Three days later, Trump announced that New Jersey Governor (and former rival Presidential candidate) Chris Christie had agreed to head the effort.
On Friday, June 3, 2016, the Agency Transition Directors Council first assembled at the White House to review transition plans of each of the major executive departments; neither the Trump nor Clinton campaigns sent representatives to this initial meeting. At about the same time, the White House began transferring its preceding eight years of accumulated electronic files to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Electronic Record Archive for preservation.
The transition planning came under heavy criticism for lagging behind other recent transition planning efforts when it was shown to have hired only a “handful” of staff by late July.
In late July Chris Christie named Bill Palatucci, a corporate attorney from New Jersey and the state’s Republican National Committeeman, as general counsel; Palatucci reportedly began meeting with senior members of Mitt Romney’s 2012 transition team shortly thereafter.Meanwhile, on July 29, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough led a conference call with Chris Christie to discuss transition procedures. During the call, McDonough informed Christie that Anita Breckenridge and Andrew Mayock will be the administration’s primary “points of contact” with the Trump campaign moving forward. The pair also discussed the planned availability of office space at 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue for the Trump transition team, which the General Services Administration was to make available beginning August 2, 2016.
During the first week of August, the Trump transition office was officially opened. The same month William Hagerty, a former member of Mitt Romney’s transition team, was named director of appointments while John Rader, a senior aide to United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker, was retained in the position of deputy director of appointments.
In an example of “how removed the transition process is from the tumult and rancor of the campaign”, representatives of the Trump and Clinton transition teams began holding a series of meetings with each other, and with White House officials, to plan details of the transition process.
In the early hours of November 9, 2016, media outlets reported Trump would secure enough votes in the Electoral College to be chosen 45th president of the United States. Hillary Clinton conceded the election later that day.
Prior to Trump’s return to his private residence at Trump Tower, the United States Secret Service initiated “unbelievable security measures”, including closing East 56th Street to all traffic, reinforcing a cordon of sand-laden dump trucks that had been placed around the building the night before to defend the site from being rammed with a car bomb, and deploying New York City Police Department tactical teams around the skyscraper. The FAA, meanwhile, ordered a flight restriction over midtown Manhattan.
Trump business interests
Following the election, Trump began transferring control of the Trump Organization to the company’s other executives. According to a November 11 statement from the Trump Organization it was “in the process of vetting various structures with the goal of the immediate transfer of management of the Trump Organization and its portfolio of businesses”. The president-elect’s assets would also be moved into a blind trust, though some criticized the specific arrangement, with one observer characterizing it as a “one-eye-closed-and-one-eye-open trust”.
Procedures and protocol
Shortly after noon on November 9, outgoing president Barack Obama made a statement from the Rose Garden of the White House in which he announced that he had spoken, the previous evening, with Trump and formally invited him to the White House the next day, November 10, for discussions to ensure “that there is a successful transition between our presidencies”. President Obama said he had instructed his staff to “follow the example” of the George W. Bush administration in 2008, whom he said could “not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition”.
The same day, United States Secretary of Defense Ash Carter issued a memo to the United States armed forces informing them of the pending transfer of National Command Authority to a new administration.
Also on November 9, the U.S. Intelligence Community began providing the full President’s Daily Brief to Trump and Mike Pence
By the afternoon of November 9, a U.S. government website – greatagain.gov – had been launched. The website provided information on transition procedures and information for the media. Policy aspects of the Trump transition program are organized into two substantive components: government transformation, and appointments. These are under the supervision of Ron Nicol as director of agency action. An appointments lead has been designated for each department or agency of the federal government; these, in turn, are grouped into five functional areas: Defense (including the United States Department of Defense and United States Department of Veterans Affairs), National Security (including the United States State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. National Security Council, and others), Domestic Issues, Economic Issues, and Management and Budget. Each functional group is also headed by a designated lead.
At 11:00 a.m. on November 10, Trump and Obama held a private, 90-minute meeting at the White House, which was followed by a joint media availability in the Oval Office with a press pool composed of journalists from Reuters, Voice of America, Bloomberg, the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, ABC News, and McClatchey syndicate. During the availability, Trump thanked Obama for their meeting and said he looked forward to tapping him for future counsel.
According to Trump, Obama convinced him, during their discussion, to retain certain aspects of his signature policy Obamacare, including the ban on insurance companies denying new coverage to those with preexisting conditions and the right of parents to keep their adult children on their health insurance policies to the age of 25.
On November 11, Chris Christie was dropped by Trump as leader of the transition team, in favor of Mike Pence.
On the same day, Bill Palatucci and Richard Bagger were also both removed by Trump from the transition team; they each then returned to working in the private sector.
According to Politico, Trump made the move due to Christie’s involvement with the Bridgegate scandal; a transition staffer said “he’ll still be around” when asked about Christie’s future with the incoming administration, what Politico characterized as “hardly a ringing endorsement”.