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 attempted to destabilize that tradition. American Oversight is investigating potential political interference in the lawful transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden.

Despite Joe Biden’s substantial lead in the vote count and his victory having been recognized by major media outlets and world leaders, President Donald Trump continues to lean on baseless claims of voter fraud to falsely insist he won the 2020 presidential election.

At the same time, the White House is reportedly purging officials who do not support Trump’s attempts to remain in power and attempting to burrow loyalists into career positions. In the weeks following the election, 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 President-elect Joe Biden, 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.