Presidential Transition Transparency

The peaceful transfer of power from one administration to a newly elected government is a centuries-long hallmark of American democracy. But the unprecedented actions of Trump, the White House, and political appointees in his administration have destabilized that tradition. American Oversight is investigating political interference in the lawful transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden.

Despite Joe Biden’s clear victory in the November 2020 presidential election, President Donald Trump has continued to lean on baseless claims of voter fraud to falsely insist he won — claims that have had catastrophic results.

In the months after the election, the White House reportedly moved to purge officials who did not support Trump’s attempts to remain in power and attempted to burrow loyalists into career positions. Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Chris Krebs — the latter after he and his agency forcefully denied election fraud claims.

American Oversight is investigating potential political interference in the lawful transition of power to the Biden administration, including at the General Services Administration, where Trump-appointed Administrator Emily Murphy did not authorize Biden’s team to use government resources during the transition until Nov. 23, a delay that was practically unprecedented, per media reports. Murphy was responsible for issuing the letter of “ascertainment” that sets the transition process in motion, allowing officials to meet with their incoming counterparts and to begin background check processes, for example.

On Nov. 9, 2020, American Oversight submitted two Freedom of Information Act requests for records that may shed light on whether the White House played a role in the GSA’s intransigence, seeking communications between the White House and Murphy as well as other senior GSA staff, and any GSA emails containing key terms relevant to the transition.

Through our document preservation initiative, American Oversight is also working to ensure that documents necessary for a smooth transition are properly preserved in accordance with the law. We will continue to use the tools of public oversight to provide transparency through the transition process and hold officials accountable for the erosion of democratic norms.

Related Documents

December 21, 2020

Letter to Multiple Agencies Concerning Federal Workers’ Whistleblower Rights

Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs, DOD - National Security Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Trade Commission, General Services Administration, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of Personnel Management, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, U.S. Agency for Global Media, White House - Office of Management and Budget
December 15, 2020

FOIA to DOD Seeking Communications and Calendars of Top Officials Following Esper’s Departure

Department of Defense
FOIA Request
December 15, 2020

FOIA to DOD Seeking Decision Memos of Top Officials Following Esper’s Departure

Department of Defense
FOIA Request
December 15, 2020

FOIA to DOD Seeking Dissent Memos Following Esper’s Departure

Department of Defense
FOIA Request
December 15, 2020

FOIA to DOD Seeking Requests to Records and Declassification Division

Department of Defense
FOIA Request
December 15, 2020

FOIA to DOD Seeking Dissent Memos Regarding Conduct of Top Officials Following Esper’s Departure

Department of Defense
FOIA Request
November 23, 2020

FOIA to NASA Seeking Communications of Designated Agency Transition Official

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
FOIA Request
November 23, 2020

FOIA to SBA Seeking Communications of Designated Agency Transition Official

Small Business Administration
FOIA Request
November 23, 2020

FOIA to USAID Seeking Communications of Designated Agency Transition Official

U.S. Agency for International Development
FOIA Request
November 23, 2020

FOIA to VA Seeking Communications of Designated Agency Transition Official

Department of Veterans Affairs
FOIA Request
November 23, 2020

FOIA to USDA Seeking Communications of Designated Agency Transition Official

Department of Agriculture
FOIA Request
November 23, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Communications of Designated Agency Transition Official

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
November 9, 2020

FOIA to GSA Seeking Communications With White House Concerning Resources for President-Elect Biden’s Transition Team

General Services Administration
Agency Record