WILMINGTON, Del. – Joe Biden’s transition team didn’t wait for the verdict of the presidential race to get to work.
Long before Biden was projected as the winner on Saturday, longtime aide Ted Kaufman had been spearheading efforts to ensure that the former vice president could begin forming a government in anticipation of a win.
Kaufman, a former Delaware senator, was appointed to fill Biden’s seat when he was elected vice president. He also served on Barack Obama’s transition team in 2008 and helped draft an initiative that formalized the presidential transition process.
Biden initially asked Kaufman in April to start work just in case on an interim transition, shortly after the former vice president secured the presidential bid at the end of the Democratic primary.
Transition can be an intense process even under normal circumstances. But this time, before Saturday’s decision, the outcome of the elections entered a peculiar political limbo.
Biden’s team was moving forward but couldn’t pin down everything that needed to be addressed; President Donald Trump alleged without proof that the election was being “stolen” from him.
Joe Biden will become the 46th president of the United States, according to projections by NBC News.
This situation was at least reminiscent of the 2000 presidential race and the post-election legal dispute over a recount in Florida. After more than a month, the Supreme Court decided the dispute between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore, truncating the transition period to just 39 days before the presidential inauguration in January 2001.
Clay Johnson, who led Bush’s transition team, said that Biden’s advisers could not “wait to be certain that the president-elect is really the president-elect.”
“You have to assume you are without being presumptuous, but they better be working hard as if they were,” Johnson said of Biden’s team. “And they should have started doing it last Tuesday night.”
Look at the moment captured on cameras.
Biden’s team declined to comment on the transition process. His closest advisers say the top priority will be announcing a White House chief of staff, and then putting together the pieces needed to tackle the coronavirus.
A president must make 4,000 appointments and more than 1,200 must be ratified by the Senate. This could pose a hardship for Biden as the Senate could remain under Republican control.
The transition process formally begins once the General Services Administration determines the winner based on all available facts. It’s a definition ambiguous enough that it would allow Trump to pressure the agency’s director to prolong the process.
“I may have to leave the country,” Trump recently said of the possibility of losing to rival Joe Biden.