© Reuters. Profile of Joe Biden
By Andrea Shalal and Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. law contains clear instructions for the proper transfer of power from one president to the next, but Joe Biden's road is likely to be more rocky than that of most of his modern predecessors.
A protracted legal battle by President Donald Trump that triggers ballot recounts in several U.S. states could halt a lot of transition-related activity, as happened in 2000, when George W. Bush was declared the winner only five weeks after the election.
"A long litigation would delay the transition and that could be foreign policy dangerous," a Republican Congress source said. "The world does not stand still while we all focus on the elections."
With Democrat Biden getting enough votes to claim the presidency, there is concern that norm-breaker Trump could limit collaboration and make the typical process chaotic. On Saturday, after major TV stations scheduled the election for Biden, Trump accused his rival of "rushing to falsely pretend to be the winner," but did not provide any evidence of anything inappropriate.
Foreign diplomats and other observers are gearing up for possible abrupt political moves by the Republican president by January 20 inauguration day – from trade decisions to troop withdrawals to presidential pardons – that the future government could undercut if dealt quickly with the government must coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying economic crisis.
"We worry about the unpredictable," a US ally government official said at an embassy in Washington. "That kind of infighting is bad for America's credibility in the world."
First passed in 1964 and amended several times since, the Presidential Transition Act gives officials significant authority over the process of transferring data and expertise to new officials, an arrangement designed to limit the risk of politicization.
Biden's aides will be looking closely for signs that Trump or his loyalists are taking domestic or foreign policy action to sabotage the new Democratic president after he takes office, according to a person near Biden's camp. So far, no drastic steps have been planned.
The Biden campaign had no immediate comment.
It is also unclear whether Trump, who has so far refused to admit defeat, will adhere to historic protocol and meet in person with his successor, as President Barack Obama did with Trump shortly after the 2016 election.
The Biden transition team's website – buildbackbetter.com – went live on Wednesday, and even after its victory was declared on Saturday, only a single page was visible and no explanation of the plans.
Jordan Strauss, a former White House official and now chief executive of business intelligence at Kroll, a division of financial advisory services at Duff & Phelps, said around 200 Biden employees had been working for months creating plans and guidelines for the new administration.
They are deploying hundreds of representatives across dozens of agencies in the coming weeks to lay the foundation for Biden to replace more than 4,000 political officials from Trump, the core of a federal bureaucracy that has an annual budget of more than US $ 4.5 trillion -Dollars controlled.
COLLABORATION IS KEY
White House officials say they comply with legal requirements, but refuse to give details.
Since Trump took office in January 2017, he has openly attacked officials and Democrats, and it remains to be seen whether his outgoing administration will maintain that tone.
Acting officials have leeway over how cooperative and helpful they want to be, said people involved in previous transitions.
In 2016, then-President Obama instructed his staff to be "professional" and to work closely with Trump's team. But fluctuation in Trump's transition staff and reluctance to take material prepared by Obama's aide-roster seriously hampered efforts, several sources involved in the process said.
Even so, political scientist Martha Joynt Kumar, author of a 2015 book on transitions in the White House, was this time optimistic about the resilience of the process. Trump officials have so far adhered to rules such as facilitating security checks for Biden officials, Kumar said.
White House Assistant Chief of Staff Chris Liddell and others involved in the transition take their reputations seriously, she said, and peaceful transfer of power remains a core tenet of the US political system. "To what extent will people want this." at the end of the administration take part in the disruption of relationships and institutions? "Asked Kumar.
Biden's team is led by Ted Kaufman, a longtime advisor who was named after his election as Vice President of Obama in 2008 to serve his Senate term.
However, the legal framework cannot prevent potential severity between the transition teams or prevent Trump from issuing executive ordinances and administrative rules that Biden could potentially speak out against.
Kate Shaw and Michael Herz, law professors at Yeshiva University in New York, said career officer attendance should limit damage, but handover of intelligence and security data remains an issue as these briefings are overseen by National Intelligence Director John become Ratcliffe, a Trump loyalist.
Shaw and Herz wrote in an essay in The Atlantic: "Many things could go wrong before noon on January 20th."