What is a Presidential Transition and How Does It Work in the US?

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by Oleg Burunov

This year’s presidential transition process in the US has been impacted by a delay in the release of the official election results and President Donald Trump’s unwillingness to concede defeat in what he has described as a “fraudulent” election.

US President Donald Trump has endorsed a move by the General Services Administration (GSA) to begin the country’s presidential transition process so that Democrat Joe Biden can potentially be sworn in on 20 January.

POTUS tweeted on Monday that “in the best interest of” the nation he is “recommending” that GSA administrator Emily Murphy and her team “do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same”. Here’s a brief insight into how the presidential transition process in the US works.

What is a Presidential Transition?

The term “transition” pertains to the time between a presidential candidate prevailing in the election and the inauguration ceremony, a process that is implemented by the president-elect’s nonprofit transition team which has its own staff and budget.

How Does it Work in the US?

The process is regulated by the Presidential Transition Act of 1963 and its amendments which stipulate that the transition officially starts when the outcome of the election becomes known.

Section 1 of the document points out that the Act aims to “promote the orderly transfer of the executive power in connection with the expiration of the term of office of a president and the inauguration of a new president”.

The transition starts after the winner of the presidential race is “ascertained” by the GSA, a Washington-based government agency responsible for managing federal property and supporting the basic functioning of federal agencies.

Does President-Elect Have Any Responsibilities During the Transition?

During the transition, a president-elect is typically tasked with selecting his White House staff, as well as those who will take over key government posts.

Overall, a president-elect has to name about 4,000 political appointees, including 1,200 individuals who need US Senate approval. The latter is the upper chamber of the US Congress.

When Does the Transition End?

The transition typically lasts from Election Day in early November to Inauguration Day, which is constitutionally scheduled for 20 January. The 11-week process, however, can be shortened if the election results are not immediately known, somethat occurred during this year’s elections.

The 2020 transition has been complicated due to President Donald Trump’s reluctance to concede defeat to Joe Biden, who was declared the projected winner by major US news networks several days after the 3 November elections, even though the vote count was still underway.

With Biden already announcing several key Cabinet picks, Trump tweeted on Monday that his legal team is still pursuing numerous cases to prove that this year’s race for the Oval Office was “the most corrupt election in American political history” and that he will “never concede to fake ballots”.

This was preceded by the Biden team welcoming the General Services Administration (GSA)’s decision to acknowledge the Democratic nominee as the “apparent winner” of the US presidential elections, describing the move as “a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation”.

Sputnik

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