Politics

Be prepared: Joe Biden transition team at work amid limbo

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — 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.

“While we’re waiting for the final results, I want people to know we are not waiting to get the work done,” Biden said in a speech late Friday night, appearing with his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, at the convention center not far from his home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Biden noted that he and Harris had met virtually Thursday with public health and economic experts as they begin working to combat the coronavirus pandemic, saying it is becoming “significantly more worrisome all across the country.”

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 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 can’t tackle all that needs to be accomplished while 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.

Related: Protests following the U.S. Presidential Election

25 PHOTOSProtests following the U.S. Presidential ElectionSee GalleryProtests following the U.S. Presidential ElectionDETROIT, MI – NOVEMBER 4: Election challengers demand to enter to observe the absentee ballots counting but were dined after the room reached capacity during the 2020 general election in Detroit, Michigan on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)An elections worker rubs his head in the closing hours where absentee ballots were processed at the central counting board, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)Election challengers yell as they look through the windows of the central counting board as police were helping to keep additional challengers from entering due to overcrowding, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)Police block off traffic at the entrance to the central counting board where ballots in the general election are counted in the city at the tcf Center in Detroit, Mich., Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/David Goldman)Election challengers, left, wait outside after an election official, right, closed the door to the central counting board, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Detroit. Officials were saying the challenger quotas were met by Republicans, Democrats and Independent observers. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)Betsy Camardo, who supports Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden, holds a sign outside the central counting board where ballots in the general election are counted in the city at the TCF Center in Detroit, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/David Goldman)Absentee ballots are processed at the central counting board, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)Biden supporter Maceo Rhodes, left, debates with Trump supporter Bill Boring outside the central counting board where ballots in the general election are counted in the city at the TCF Center in Detroit, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/David Goldman)People attend a rally calling for every vote to be counted from yesterday’s general election near the Detroit Department of Elections building in Detroit, Mich., Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/David Goldman)Dorothy Hawkins, from left, Nia Winston and Zinnia Patcas, supporters of Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, look on their phones as news breaks that Wisconsin is called for Biden during a rally calling for very cote to be counted near the Detroit Department of Elections building in Detroit, Mich., Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/David Goldman)DETROIT, MI – NOVEMBER 04: Pro-President Donald Trump and pro-Joe Biden protesters argue outside the TCF Center as votes continue to be counted on November 4, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. With ballots still being counted in Michigan, the Trump campaign has filed a lawsuit to temporarily stop the counting until the campaign can gain “meaningful access” to the processing. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)Protesters hold “Count every vote” signs outside of the TCF center where ballots are being counted in downtown Detroit, Michigan on November 4,2020. – Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden on November 4 neared the magic number of 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House with several battleground states still in play, as incumbent President Donald Trump challenged the vote count. (Photo by SETH HERALD / AFP) (Photo by SETH HERALD/AFP via Getty Images)Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather outside TCF Center where absentee ballots for the 2020 general election are being counted, on November 4, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. – Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden on November 4 neared the magic number of 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House with several battleground states still in play, as incumbent President Donald Trump challenged the vote count. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)DETROIT, MI – NOVEMBER 04: A police officer separates protesters after an altercation erupted outside of the TCF center in Detroit as votes continue to be counted inside on November 4, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. With ballots still being counted in Michigan, the Trump campaign has filed a lawsuit to temporarily stop the counting until the campaign can gain “meaningful access” to the processing. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)Supporters of US President Donald Trump gesture and chant slogans as they gather outside the room where absentee ballots for the 2020 general election are being counted at TCF Center on November 4, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. – Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden on November 4 neared the magic number of 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House with several battleground states still in play, as incumbent President Donald Trump challenged the vote count. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)A police officer gestures to supporters of US President Donald Trump gathered outside the room where absentee ballots for the 2020 general election are being counted at TCF Center on November 4, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. – Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden on November 4 neared the magic number of 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House with several battleground states still in play, as incumbent President Donald Trump challenged the vote count. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)Supporters of US President Donald Trump gesture and chant slogans as they gather outside the room where absentee ballots for the 2020 general election are being counted at TCF Center on November 4, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. – Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden on November 4 neared the magic number of 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House with several battleground states still in play, as incumbent President Donald Trump challenged the vote count. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)Supporters of President Donald Trump pause for prayer during a rally outside the Maricopa County Recorders Office, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Supporters of President Donald Trump rally outside the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)President Donald Trump supporters rally, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, outside the Maricopa County Recorders Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)President Donald Trump supporters kneel as they rally, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, outside the Maricopa County Recorders Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)President Trump supporters gather for a voters rights rally, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, at the Capitol in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)PHOENIX, AZ – NOVEMBER 04: President Donald Trump supporters gather to protest the election results at the Maricopa County Elections Department office on November 4, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. The rally was organized after yesterday’s vote narrowly turned for Democrats in the presidential and senate races.(Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)PHOENIX, AZ – NOVEMBER 04: President Donald Trump supporters gather to protest the election results at the Maricopa County Elections Department office on November 4, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. The rally was organized after yesterday’s vote narrowly turned for Democrats in the presidential and senate races.(Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)PHOENIX, AZ – NOVEMBER 04: President Donald Trump supporters gather to protest the election results at the Maricopa County Elections Department office on November 4, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. The rally was organized after yesterday’s vote narrowly turned for Democrats in the presidential and senate races.(Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)Up Next

See Gallery

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.

“You have to assume you are it and not be presumptuous but they better be working hard as if they are it,” Johnson said of Biden’s team. “And they should have started doing that last Tuesday night.”

Biden’s campaign has refused to comment on the transition process. His closest advisers say the top priority will be announcing a White House chief of staff, then assembling the pieces needed to tackle the coronavirus.

A president gets 4,000 appointees, and more than 1,200 of them must be confirmed by the Senate. That could be a challenge for Biden since the Senate may well remain controlled by the Republicans.

The transition process formally starts once the General Service Administration determines the winner based on all available facts. That’s vague enough guidance that Trump could pressure the agency’s director to stall.

It’s also unclear if the president would meet personally Biden. President Barack Obama met with Trump less than a week after the election, but there was no dispute about him having topped Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College.

Whenever the process starts, Biden will have to cope with the coronavirus, which has killed more than 230,000 Americans. Biden has promised to use his transition period to meet with the governors of every state and ask them to impose a nationwide mask-wearing mandate. He says he plans to go around any holdouts to secure such rules from county and local officials.

Another key decision will be how Biden decides to deploy his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris. His campaign has indicated that Biden will establish a White House-level coronavirus task force like Trump did, but it’s not clear if he will tap Harris to run it. Vice President Mike Pence heads the current panel.

As his team awaits the results of the ballot counting, Biden is huddling in his Wilmington home with top advisers and family. Harris has stuck close too, occupying a Delaware hotel with her family since Election Night and joining Biden as he gave remarks in recent days.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a former Biden presidential primary rival, said he expects Harris to be “a real partner” to Biden and hopes to see her “managing major issues of importance.”

 

Source: Read Full Article