Arnold Ahlert / May 18, 2020

Revisiting the Presidential Transition Period

Team Obama attempted to totally delegitimize Team Trump in just two months.

“[The] revelation that an astounding 39 Obama administration officials — including then-Vice President Joe Biden — made 53 requests to unmask incoming Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s name from National Security Agency phone intercepts between Election Day on Nov. 8, 2016 and Jan. 12, 2017 was a bombshell.” —Fred Fleitz Fox News

Other than a thoroughly corrupt media, perhaps no group of people were more surprised by President Donald Trump’s victory over “sure thing” Hillary Clinton than former President Barack Obama and members of his administration. And now that America (hopefully) stands on the verge of learning about the almost incomprehensible scope of their corruption, it’s time to address a reality highlighted by the above quote: Why is the time between a presidential election and an inauguration as long as it is?

In 2016, that time spanned 73 days — as in more than enough time for Obama administration officials and their allies at the highest levels of law enforcement to put the finishing touches on their attempted coup d'état. In fact, only 17 days before Trump’s inauguration, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed off on rules allowing the NSA to share raw surveillance data with the other 16 agencies that comprise America’s intelligence network, including the CIA, FBI, DHS, DIA, and DEA.

Moreover, less than two months after the inauguration, one of the former administration’s most reliable mouthpieces sought to frame that effort in terms Americans now know led to a wholly unwarranted Russian-collusion investigation that lasted almost three years. “In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government,” The New York Times reported.

Why is the transition period so long? Surprisingly, it used to be longer: Inauguration Day used to be March 4. But during the onset of the Great Depression, the animosity between an outgoing Herbert Hoover, who opposed direct government aid to the unemployed, and an incoming Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose New Deal was the antithesis of that policy, ultimately precipitated the passage of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in 1933. Also known as the “Lame Duck Amendment” it moved Inauguration Day to Jan. 20, and also established the succession of the vice president to the Oval Office if the president died or “failed to qualify” before the time fixed for the beginning of his term.

Regardless, the most reasonable answer is that government is very large and complicated. Scores of incoming politically appointed positions require Senate confirmation, and those taking national security and economic positions must be vetted, obtain security clearances, and be knowledgeable about issues and procedures. Moreover, between Election Day and Inauguration Day, a president must also fill approximately 30 Cabinet and White House staff positions, including chief of staff, the national security adviser, counsel, press secretary, and the top economic and domestic policy aides.

Some transitions have been smooth and others chaotic, but the procedure itself wasn’t even formalized until the passage of the Presidential Transition Act (PTA) of 1963. It established mechanisms to facilitate the process, and authorized the Administrator of General Services to provide facilities and services to eligible presidential candidates and the president-elect. That law also provided federal funding for the effort to reduce reliance on private contributions, and was amended in 1976, 1988, and 2000 to raise the amount of transition funds available. The 1998 Amendment also capped private donations at $5000 per individual and/or organization, with requirements to disclose how the money was spent. In 2004, Congress again revisited transition as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which reorganized the intelligence community following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Far more germane in the current context is a quote from the Congressional Research Service. While it notes that most transitions are smooth and orderly, some involve considerable drama. “Interparty transitions in particular might be contentious,” it states. “Using the various powers available, a sitting President might use the transition period to attempt to secure his legacy or effect policy changes. Some observers have suggested that, if the incumbent has lost the election, he might try to enact policies in the waning months of his presidency that would ‘tie his successor’s hands.’”

Or, as millions of American are currently discovering, attempt to completely delegitimize one’s successor — by any means necessary.

Yet for those intent on making mischief — or engaging in criminal behavior — perhaps the election-inauguration time frame is irrelevant. But one suspects most Americans on both sides of the aisle are put off by the possible machinations that can occur, not just at the executive level but the legislative level as well, when the White House and Congress change hands from one party to the other, especially when such changes are of landslide proportions. An outgoing president and Congress of one party has ample time to complicate, if not outright undermine, the agenda of the incoming party — and the will of the electorate by extension.

Is reform possible? The double whammy of out-of-control politicians exploiting a pandemic, and the emergence what is arguably the largest scandal in the nation’s history, may precipitate wholesale changes. Maybe Americans are ready to curtail or eliminate some of the “various powers available” that allow for the securing of legacies or the effectuation of policy changes.

For example in 2016, Americans decided eight years of attempting to “fundamentally transform the United States of America” didn’t exactly engender “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” They also decided that a transnational agenda controlled by an elitist class with no loyalty whatsoever to their fellow Americans was equally despicable.

Yet as the last three-and-a-half years indicate, some of those elitists and their allied useful idiots believe elections should be largely irrelevant when the “wrong” choices are made. And in a great indication of their insufferable arrogance, they justify making the effort to actively undermine that choice as a noble commitment to a “higher loyalty.”

A naked power grab is more like it, and the idea that so much of their effort could be undertaken after the people have spoken makes a complete mockery of the presidential transition period.

The shorter it is, the better for everyone — save those whose interests are wholly antithetical to preserving our constitutional republic.

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