A presidential transition in the US is usually a fairly smooth process. The outgoing president will welcome their successor to the White House, give the president-elect access to their daily briefings, and offer some helpful tips about the job. Then, on January 20, there will be a peaceful transfer of power as the new leader takes the oath of office.
This year, the process has been anything but smooth.
Joe Biden was declared the winner of the election on November 6, but President Donald Trump initially claimed victory himself, falsely alleging that Biden’s victory was the result of widespread voter fraud. Some of his top officials have even said they are operating under the assumption that Trump will begin a second term in January. To be clear, Trump conceding is not a requirement for a peaceful transfer of power — it’s just a norm that previous outgoing presidents have followed. And Trump’s legal challenges have essentially no chance to succeed, so there’s no realistic scenario in which Trump stays in office past Inauguration Day.
But just because there’s no democratic crisis doesn’t mean everything is going well. The head of the General Services Administration, a Trump appointee, has been obstructing the transition process.
In the meantime, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have begun preparing to assume their new roles. Biden announced a 13-member Covid-19 task force the Monday after the election, to be co-chaired by Drs. Vivek H. Murthy, David Kessler, and Marcella Nuñez-Smith. Two days later, he announced that Ron Klain will be his chief of staff, the same role he held while Biden was vice president.
One of the Biden administration’s biggest challenges, beyond dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change, will be to restore America’s relationship with some of its closest allies. World leaders like Canada’s Justin Trudeau, the United Kingdom’s Boris Johnson, France’s Emmanuel Macron, and Germany’s Angela Merkel have all offered their congratulations to Biden and Harris.
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