United States presidential transition

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In the United States, a presidential transition is the process during which the powers of the president of the United States are transferred from an incumbent president to the president-elect. The transition formally takes place between election day, which is on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November every four years, and inauguration day, when the incoming president takes the oath of office, though the planning for transition can start at any time before the election.

The 20th Amendment to the Constitution, adopted in 1933, shortened the transition period by moving the beginning and ending of the terms of the president and vice president from March 4 to January 20. The outgoing president is commonly referred to as a lame duck president. A transition can also arise intra-term if a president dies, resigns or is removed from office.

The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 established the modern day mechanisms that facilitate an orderly and peaceful transition of power.[1][2] Under existing federal law and custom, major-party presidential candidates become eligible to receive classified national security briefings once their nomination is formalized at their party's national convention.[3] They are also afforded presidential transition services and facilities by the General Services Administration, including office space, equipment and payment of certain related expenses.

It normally involves some pre-election planning, and involves consideration of key personnel from the outgoing and incoming presidents’ staffs, requires resources, and includes a host of activities, such as vetting candidates for positions in the new administration, helping to familiarize the incoming administration with the operations of the executive branch, and developing a comprehensive policy platform.[4] With only 72 to 78 days between election day and inauguration, good governance experts and recent federal officials have been pushing for candidates to start planning a potential administration earlier and earlier in the election calendar.[5]

Process[edit]

For much of U.S. history, presidential transitions were carried out without very much advance planning or even cooperation from the sitting chief executive. Legally, a president-elect is not required to come to the capital until the inauguration and need not have substantial policy or procedural discussions with the outgoing administration.

President Harry Truman adopted a positive course by extending his hand to President-elect Dwight D. Eisenhower after the 1952 election, inviting Eisenhower to the White House and ordering federal agencies to assist with the transition. Eight years later, John F. Kennedy engaged in extensive transition planning on domestic and foreign policy issues, but did not meet with Eisenhower until January 6, 1961, two months after the election.[6]

The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 (Pub.L. 88–277) has been amended by the Presidential Transitions Effectiveness Act of 1998 (Pub.L. 100–398), the Presidential Transition Act of 2000 (Pub.L. 106–293), the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010 (Pub.L. 111–283) and the Presidential Transitions Improvements Act of 2015 (Pub.L. 114–136). These laws established formal mechanisms to facilitate presidential transitions. Specifically, the act directs the Administrator of General Services to provide facilities, funding of approximately $5 million, access to government services, support for a transition team, and to provide training and orientation of new government personnel and other procedures to ensure an orderly transition.[4]

The transition process begins as leading presidential contenders forming a transition team to start making preliminary plans for building an administration and assuming the presidency should they be elected. This can take place at any time of the candidate's choosing. In 2008, the Obama presidential campaign began informally planning for a possible presidential transition several months before Election Day. Obama's transition team, called the "Obama-Biden Transition Project", analysed prior transition efforts, the workings of federal government agencies, and what priority positions needed to be filled by the incoming administration first.[7] In April 2012, before Mitt Romney became the Republican Party nominee, the Romney presidential campaign began planning for a potential transition. Romney's transition team made extensive plans for the transfer of power, called the "Romney Readiness Project", which also included a legislative agenda for the first 200 days of a Romney administration.[8][9]

During the 2016 presidential election cycle, Donald Trump began assembling his transition team in May, after he became the presumptive Republican nominee. His fall campaign opponent, Hillary Clinton, lagged behind in this regard, not forming a team until August, which was after she became the Democratic Party nominee.[10] Key activities in this pre-election phase include: setting goals for the transition; assembling and organizing the key transition team staff; allocating responsibilities among the team and allocating resources and personnel for each core work stream; developing an overall management work plan to guide the team through the entire transition process; and establishing relationships with Congress, the outgoing administration, General Services Administration, the Office of Government Ethics, the FBI and the Office of Personnel Management to encourage information sharing and to begin the security clearance process for select personnel.[11]

The actual transition phase begins immediately following the presidential election (barring any electoral disputes) when a sitting president is not re-elected or is concluding a second term. On the day after the election, November 9, 2016, 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 (apparent election winner) Donald Trump and formally invited him to the White House for discussions to ensure "that there is a successful transition between our presidencies." Obama said he had instructed his staff to "follow the example" of the George W. Bush administration in 2008, who he said could "not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition".[12] This phase of the process lasts between 72 and 78 days, ending on the inauguration day. During this time, the transition team must handle the influx of campaign staff and additional personnel into daily operations and prepare to take over the functions of government. Key activities in this phase include staffing the office of the president-elect; deploying agency review teams; building out the president-elect’s management and policy agendas and schedule; and identifying the key talent necessary to execute the new president’s priorities.[11]

Noteworthy transitions[edit]

Presidential transitions have existed in one form or another since 1797, when George Washington handed over the presidency to John Adams. Some have gone smoothly, many have been bumpy and a few verged on catastrophic.[13]

Buchanan–Lincoln[edit]

During the 1860–61 transition from James Buchanan to Abraham Lincoln (November 6, 1860 to March 4, 1861), seven states seceded in February. Buchanan held the opinion that states did not have the right to secede, but that it was also illegal for the federal government to go to war to stop them. The American Civil War began on April 12.

Grant–Hayes[edit]

In the 1876 election, there were disputes regarding 20 electoral votes in four states, along with multiple allegations of vote fraud. This made it unclear who would take the office of president on inauguration day. This constitutional crisis was resolved only two days before the scheduled inauguration through the Compromise of 1877 under which federal troops were withdrawn from the South, and the Reconstruction Era was brought to an end.

Hoover–Roosevelt[edit]

President Hoover and President–elect Roosevelt riding together to the United States Capitol prior to the March 4, 1933 presidential inauguration.

The 1932–33 transition (November 8, 1932 to March 4, 1933) from Herbert Hoover to Franklin D. Roosevelt was during the Great Depression. After the election, Roosevelt refused Hoover's requests for a meeting to come up with a joint program to stop the crisis and calm investors, claiming it would limit his options, and as this "guaranteed that Roosevelt took the oath of office amid such an atmosphere of crisis that Hoover had become the most hated man in America".[14] During this period, the U.S. economy suffered after thousands of banks failed.[15] The relationship between Hoover and Roosevelt was one of the most strained between Presidents. While Hoover had little good to say about his successor, there was little he could do. FDR, however, supposedly could and did engage in various spiteful official acts aimed at his predecessor, ranging from dropping him from the White House birthday greetings message list to having Hoover's name struck from the Hoover Dam along the Colorado River border, which would officially be known only as Boulder Dam until 1947.

Clinton–Bush[edit]

President Clinton and President–elect Bush depart the White House for the inaugural ceremony at the United States Capitol on January 20, 2001.

The 2000-01 transition from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush was shortened by several weeks due to the Florida recount crisis that ended after the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Bush v. Gore, which made Bush the president-elect.

On a more malicious level, it was marred by accusations of "damage, theft, vandalism and pranks". The General Accounting Office (GAO) estimated the cost of those pranks at $13,000 to $14,000. They included graffiti in the men's bathroom at the White House, glue smeared on desk drawers, and missing doorknobs, medallions, and office signs. However, they note that similar pranks were reported in prior transitions, including the one from Bush's father to Clinton in 1993.[16] Press secretary Ari Fleischer followed up the GAO report with a White House-produced list of alleged vandalism including removal of the 'W' key from keyboards.[17] The Clintons were also accused of keeping for themselves gifts meant for the White House.[18] The Clintons denied the accusations, but agreed to pay more than $85,000 for gifts given to the first family "to eliminate even the slightest question" of impropriety.[19]

Bush–Obama[edit]

The 2008-09 transition from Bush to Barack Obama was considered seamless, with Bush granting Obama's request to ask Congress to release $350 billion of bank bailout funds.[20] At the start of his inaugural speech, Obama praised Bush "for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and co-operation he has shown throughout this transition".[21] The White House website was redesigned and “cut over” at exactly 12:01pm, January 20, 2009. This was described by some as a "new inaugural tradition spawned by the Internet-age".[22] Additionally, the information system was provided to the Obama administration without a single electronic record from the previous administration. Not only were emails and photos removed from the environment at the 12:01pm threshold, data elements like phone numbers of individual offices and upcoming meetings for the senior staff were also removed.[citation needed] Nonetheless, by April 2012, the Bush administration had transferred electronic records for the presidential components within the Executive Office of the President to the NARA. Included in these records was more than 80 terabytes of data, more than 200 million emails and 4 million photos.[23]

Obama–Trump[edit]

Trump presidential transition website, launched on the evening of November 9, 2016.

On November 9, 2016, the day after the presidential election, the Trump transition team announced that a transition website—greatagain.gov—had been launched. The website provided information on transition procedures and information for the media.[24] The website was later criticized for reposting content originally created by the Partnership for Public Service. However, Partnership CEO Max Stier declined to criticize the use and noted that the organization had been working with the major campaigns on transition planning, explaining that he hoped the group's materials would be "a resource that is used for the betterment of transitions".[25] Content on the transition website was licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.[26]

The team was led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence. It had six vice-chairs, including former transition head Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Newt Gingrich, Michael Flynn, Rudy Giuliani and Jeff Sessions.[27]

List of presidential transitions[edit]

  Unaffiliated  Federalist  Democratic-Republican
  Democratic  Whig  Republican  National Union
Outgoing president
(Party)
Incoming president
(Party)
Transition began
following
Transition concluded
with
George Washington
(Unaffiliated)
John Adams
(Federalist)
Election of 1796 Inauguration of John Adams,
March 4, 1797
John Adams
(Federalist)
Thomas Jefferson
(Democratic-Republican)
Contingent election of 1801
February 17, 1801
First inauguration of Thomas Jefferson,
March 4, 1801
Thomas Jefferson
(Democratic-Republican)
James Madison
(Democratic-Republican)
Election of 1808 First inauguration of James Madison,
March 4, 1809
James Madison
(Democratic-Republican)
James Monroe
(Democratic-Republican)
Election of 1816 First inauguration of James Monroe,
March 4, 1817
James Monroe
(Democratic-Republican)
John Quincy Adams
(Democratic-Republican)
Contingent election of 1825
February 9, 1825
Inauguration of John Quincy Adams,
March 4, 1825
John Quincy Adams
(Democratic-Republican)
Andrew Jackson
(Democratic)
Election of 1828 First inauguration of Andrew Jackson,
March 4, 1829
Andrew Jackson
(Democratic)
Martin Van Buren
(Democratic)
Election of 1836 Inauguration of Martin Van Buren,
March 4, 1837
Martin Van Buren
(Democratic)
William Henry Harrison
(Whig)
Election of 1840 Inauguration of William Henry Harrison,
March 4, 1841
William Henry Harrison
(Whig)
John Tyler
(Whig)
Death of William Henry Harrison,
April 4, 1841
Inauguration of John Tyler,
April 6, 1841
John Tyler
(Unaffiliated)
James K. Polk
(Democratic)
Election of 1844 Inauguration of James K. Polk,
March 4, 1845
James K. Polk
(Democratic)
Zachary Taylor
(Whig)
Election of 1848 Inauguration of Zachary Taylor,
March 5, 1849
Zachary Taylor
(Whig)
Millard Fillmore
(Whig)
Death of Zachary Taylor,
July 9, 1850
Inauguration of Millard Fillmore,
July 10, 1850
Millard Fillmore
(Whig)
Franklin Pierce
(Democratic)
Election of 1852 Inauguration of Franklin Pierce,
March 4, 1853
Franklin Pierce
(Democratic)
James Buchanan
(Democratic)
Election of 1856 Inauguration of James Buchanan,
March 4, 1857
James Buchanan
(Democratic)
Abraham Lincoln
(Republican)
Election of 1860 First inauguration of Abraham Lincoln,
March 4, 1861
Abraham Lincoln
(National Union)
Andrew Johnson
(National Union)
Death of Abraham Lincoln,
April 15, 1865
Inauguration of Andrew Johnson,
April 15, 1865
Andrew Johnson
(Democratic)
Ulysses S. Grant
(Republican)
Election of 1868 First inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant,
March 4, 1869
Ulysses S. Grant
(Republican)
Rutherford B. Hayes
(Republican)
Electoral Commission ruling
March 2, 1877
Inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes ,
March 3, 1877
Rutherford B. Hayes
(Republican)
James A. Garfield
(Republican)
Election of 1880 Inauguration of James A. Garfield,
March 4, 1881
James A. Garfield
(Republican)
Chester A. Arthur
(Republican)
Death of James A. Garfield,
September 19, 1881
Inauguration of Chester A. Arthur,
September 20, 1881
Chester A. Arthur
(Republican)
Grover Cleveland
(Democratic)
Election of 1884 First inauguration of Grover Cleveland,
March 4, 1885
Grover Cleveland
(Democratic)
Benjamin Harrison
(Republican)
Election of 1888 Inauguration of Benjamin Harrison,
March 4, 1889
Benjamin Harrison
(Republican)
Grover Cleveland
(Democratic)
Election of 1892 Second inauguration of Grover Cleveland,
March 4, 1893
Grover Cleveland
(Democratic)
William McKinley
(Republican)
Election of 1896 First inauguration of William McKinley,
March 4, 1897
William McKinley
(Republican)
Theodore Roosevelt
(Republican)
Death of William McKinley,
September 14, 1901
First inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt,
September 14, 1901
Theodore Roosevelt
(Republican)
William Howard Taft
(Republican)
Election of 1908 Inauguration of William Howard Taft,
March 4, 1909
William Howard Taft
(Republican)
Woodrow Wilson
(Democratic)
Election of 1912 First inauguration of Woodrow Wilson,
March 4, 1913
Woodrow Wilson
(Democratic)
Warren G. Harding
(Republican)
Election of 1920 Inauguration of Warren G. Harding,
March 4, 1921
Warren G. Harding
(Republican)
Calvin Coolidge
(Republican)
Death of Warren G. Harding,
August 2, 1923
First inauguration of Calvin Coolidge,
August 3, 1923
Calvin Coolidge
(Republican)
Herbert Hoover
(Republican)
Election of 1928 Inauguration of Herbert Hoover,
March 4, 1929
Herbert Hoover
(Republican)
Franklin D. Roosevelt
(Democratic)
Election of 1932 First inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt,
March 4, 1933
Franklin D. Roosevelt
(Democratic)
Harry S. Truman
(Democratic)
Death of Franklin D. Roosevelt,
April 12, 1945
First inauguration of Harry S. Truman,
April 12, 1945
Harry S. Truman
(Democratic)
Dwight D. Eisenhower
(Republican)
Election of 1952 First inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower,
January 20, 1953
Dwight D. Eisenhower
(Republican)
John F. Kennedy
(Democratic)
Election of 1960 Inauguration of John F. Kennedy,
January 20, 1961
John F. Kennedy
(Democratic)
Lyndon B. Johnson
(Democratic)
Death of John F. Kennedy,
November 22, 1963
First inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson,
November 22, 1963
Lyndon B. Johnson
(Democratic)
Richard Nixon
(Republican)
Election of 1968 First inauguration of Richard Nixon,
January 20, 1969
Richard Nixon
(Republican)
Gerald Ford
(Republican)
Resignation of Richard Nixon,
August 8, 1974
Inauguration of Gerald Ford,
August 9, 1974
Gerald Ford
(Republican)
Jimmy Carter
(Democratic)
Election of 1976 Inauguration of Jimmy Carter,
January 20, 1977
Jimmy Carter
(Democratic)
Ronald Reagan
(Republican)
Election of 1980 First inauguration of Ronald Reagan,
January 20, 1981
Ronald Reagan
(Republican)
George H. W. Bush
(Republican)
Election of 1988 Inauguration of George H. W. Bush,
January 20, 1989
George H. W. Bush
(Republican)
Bill Clinton
(Democratic)
Election of 1992 First inauguration of Bill Clinton,
January 20, 1993
Bill Clinton
(Democratic)
George W. Bush
(Republican)
U.S. Supreme Court
decision in Bush v. Gore
December 12, 2000
First inauguration of George W. Bush,
January 20, 2001
George W. Bush
(Republican)
Barack Obama
(Democratic)
Election of 2008 First inauguration of Barack Obama,
January 20, 2009
Barack Obama
(Democratic)
Donald Trump
(Republican)
Election of 2016 Inauguration of Donald Trump,
January 20, 2017

See also[edit]

  • Contingent election, procedure used in U.S. presidential elections in cases where no candidate wins an absolute majority of votes in the Electoral College
  • Midnight regulations, rules created by an outgoing administration before it leaves office

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Presidential Transition Act of 1963". U.S. General Services Administration. March 7, 1964. Retrieved January 12, 2017. This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the General Services Administration.
  2. ^ MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES}
  3. ^ Berman, Russell (March 1, 2016). "Congress Tells Obama to Start Planning His Departure". =The Atlantic. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Halchin, L. Elaine (November 16, 2016). "Presidential Transitions: Issues Involving Outgoing and Incoming Administrations" (PDF). crs.gov. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved January 8, 2017.  This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Congressional Research Service.
  5. ^ Kopan, Tal (November 3, 2016). "What is a transition? Presidential turnover explained". cnn.com. CNN. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  6. ^ "Ready to Govern: Improving the Presidential Transition". Partnership for Public Service. January 2010. p. 1. Archived from the original on January 10, 2017. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  7. ^ Sweet, Lynn (November 5, 2008). "Jarrett, Podesta, Rouse to lead Obama transition; Bill Daley co-chair". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on December 10, 2008. Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  8. ^ Allen, Jonathan; Allen, Mike (October 25, 2012). "How Mitt Romney would govern". politico.com/. Politico. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  9. ^ Hicken, Jackie (May 29, 2013). "Blueprint outlines work former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, others did to prepare for President Romney". Deseret News. Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  10. ^ Karni, Annie (August 16, 2016). "Salazar to lead Clinton's transition team". Politico. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  11. ^ a b "Presidential Transition Guide" (PDF). Center For Presidential Transition. January 2016. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  12. ^ "President Obama Delivers a Statement". youtube.com/thewhitehouse. The White House. Retrieved November 9, 2016. This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the White House.
  13. ^ "Notable presidential transitions". Chicago Tribune. December 2, 2008. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
  14. ^ Gibbs, Nancy (November 10, 2008). "When New President Meets Old, It's Not Always Pretty". TIME.
  15. ^ Rudney, Robert. "Lessons Learned from the 1932–1933 Presidential Transition". www.commondreams.org. Retrieved October 30, 2008.
  16. ^ Pear, Robert (June 12, 2002). "White House Vandalized In Transition, G.A.O. Finds". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Evans, Mike (June 3, 2001). "Bush aide details alleged Clinton staff vandalism". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on June 10, 2001.
  18. ^ "Gifts Were Not Meant for Clintons, Some Donors Say". The Washington Post. February 5, 2001. Retrieved May 27, 2010.
  19. ^ "Tripp: I was told not to record White House gifts". CNN. February 9, 2001. Retrieved May 27, 2010.
  20. ^ [1][dead link]
  21. ^ [2]
  22. ^ Jim Puzzanghera (January 20, 2009). "On White House Website, Change Is Already Evident". Courant.com. Archived from the original on January 24, 2009. Retrieved December 13, 2016.
  23. ^ https://www.archives.gov/era/acera/presentations/bush-elec-records.ppt.
  24. ^ "45". Politico. November 9, 2016. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  25. ^ Scola, Nancy (November 15, 2016). "Trump transition website lifts passages from nonpartisan nonprofit". Politico. Retrieved November 15, 2016.
  26. ^ Trump Presidential transition (November 12, 2016), "Copyright Information - Copyright Notice", Greatagain.gov, retrieved November 12, 2016, Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. Content includes all materials posted by the Trump Presidential transition. Visitors to this website agree to grant a non-exclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free license to the rest of the world for their submissions to this website under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  27. ^ Thrush, Glenn; Nelson, Louis (November 11, 2016). "Pence to take over Trump's transition effort from Christie". Politico. Retrieved November 12, 2016.

External links[edit]