White House Nods to Possible Transition to New President in 2021

(Bloomberg) -- The White House instructed federal agencies on Monday to begin preparations in case Donald Trump is defeated in November and a new president takes office in January, a routine contingency ahead of the election.

Russell Vought, acting director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, issued a memorandum ordering dozens of agencies to appoint a transition director by Friday, in keeping with the Presidential Transition Act.

The law helps prepare for the potential inauguration of a new president, but is also “helpful to prepare for leadership transitions that occur between the first and second terms of administrations,” Vought wrote.

Each agency’s director will make up the Agency Transition Directors Council, which will meet on May 27, Vought wrote. Its responsibilities include creating a strategy for addressing “interagency challenges and responsibilities” during a transition, and coordinate any transition activities and prepare career staff to backfill certain roles during a transition.

Presumptive Democratic Nominee Joe Biden has said be believes Trump may seek to use the coronavirus pandemic to delay the election.

“Mark my words I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” Biden said during a virtual fund-raiser last week.

He cited Trump’s threat to block funding to the Post Office, which would handle mail-in ballots if the election were conducted that way to preserve social distancing. “Now what in God’s name is that about? Other than trying to let the word out that he’s going to do all he can to make it very hard for people to vote. That’s the only way he thinks he can possibly win.”

At a news conference on Monday, Trump said Biden was wrong.

“I never even thought of changing the date of the election,” Trump said, suggesting that Biden had that statement written for him. “No, let him know I’m not thinking about it at all.”

Speaking at another virtual fundraiser on Monday, Biden said he was working on a transition, assisted by a longtime adviser, Ted Kaufman, a former senator from Delaware, Biden’s home state.

“You can’t wait until you win, if you win. You’ve got to start right now,” Biden said.

Incoming administrations typically have to fill 2,800 positions immediately after Election Day, he added, and the president-elect has to figure out “who’s going to be your secretary of A,B,C,D and E.”

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