An odd political limbo has set in — the Biden team is moving forward but can’t tackle all that needs to be accomplished; President Donald Trump continues to claim without evidence that the election is being stolen from him.
Joe Biden’s transition team isn’t waiting for a verdict in the presidential race before getting to work.
As officials continue to count ballots in several undecided states, longtime Biden aide Ted Kaufman is leading efforts to ensure the former vice president can begin building out a government in anticipation of a victory.
Kaufman is a former senator from Delaware who was appointed to fill the seat vacated when Biden was elected vice president. He also worked on Barack Obama’s transition team in 2008, and helped write legislation formalizing the presidential transition process.
Biden first asked Kaufman to start work on a just-in-case transition in April, shortly after the former vice president locked up the presidential nomination at the conclusion of a once-crowded Democratic primary. Now, each day after the election that goes by without a declared winner is one day fewer to formally begin preparing to take over the White House.
The transition can be a frenzied process even under normal circumstances.
In the meantime, an odd political limbo has taken told. The Biden team is moving forward but can’t tackle all that needs to be accomplished; President Donald Trump continues to claim without evidence that the election is being stolen from him.
It’s at least somewhat reminiscent of the 2000 presidential race and that year’s post-election legal fight over the recount in Florida. After more than a month, the dispute between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore was decided by the Supreme Court — truncating the transition period to just 39 days before the January 2001 inauguration.
Clay Johnson, who headed Bush’s transition team, said Biden’s advisers “can’t wait to be sure that the president-elect really is the president-elect. They have to hurry up and move forward.”
Johnson said that in June of 1999 — about 17 months before Election Day 2000 — Bush approached him about heading the possible transition, having seen his father go through the process 11 years earlier. Prior to Election Day, Bush had already settled on Andy Card to serve as chief of staff for both the transition and at the White House.
Johnson thought they were ahead of schedule. But then came the recount.
After an initial 10 days or so, Bush’s running mate, Dick Cheney, told Johnson to begin raising money and making staffing decisions, declaring that the race “is going to be resolved one way or the other.”
The Bush team was unable to conduct FBI background checks on potential Cabinet members and other appointees with no official winner declared. Instead, it used a former White House general counsel from the Reagan administration to conduct interviews designed to screen for potential problems that might have turned up in background checks.