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The Role of an Outgoing President

By Cody Sung

Volume 1 Issue 2

November 24, 2020

The Role of an Outgoing President

Image provided by Jeremy Enecio

Election Day is for most politicians, especially for the executive branch.  On November 3rd, people cast their ballots. On November 7th, 2020, 4 days after Election Day, major news networks announced that Former Vice President Joe Biden was going to be the next President of the United States.  The time period from the election to the next inauguration is called the transition period, if there is a new president.  So, what is this transition all about, and what’s the role of the outgoing president in it?

First, we need to explain what happens during the transition.  The General Services Administration (GSA) is the government organization behind the transition.  It does everything from providing office space for the candidates to providing vital information to the Congressional Inaugural Committees (and other related organizations). It’s the central organization that authorizes the beginning of the presidential transition.  If it doesn’t, then the government does not go into transition mode.  During this time, the President-Elect's transition team has a meeting with the important staff of the outgoing administration and the president-elect is given access to the resources the president has, including security to keep him/her safe.  The security includes restricted airspace above the president-elect's house.  The “lame-duck” president (outgoing president) has a role too, though.

The outgoing President can let the President-Elect read the President’s Daily Briefing so the new president can be prepared on January 20th to tackle the latest threats to the nation.  In fact, President Truman let both candidates in 1952 read the President’s Daily Briefing due to him being upset that he didn’t learn about the US making an atomic bomb until over a week into his presidency.  The outgoing president also invites the president-elect to the White House to have a conversation, which is what President Obama did for President Trump.  Most importantly, the outgoing president must allow resources to be directed to the president-elect, including the President’s Daily Brief.

In short, the outgoing President must provide the President-Elect with the intelligence and resources necessary to have a smooth change of power on January 20th, so the new president can govern on minute one.  And yet there is one more thing traditionally done by the leaving president: writing a little note for the new Commander-in-Chief.  President Obama wrote a friendly note to President Trump and placed it in the top drawer of the Resolute Desk, and President George W. Bush wrote a note to President Obama as well.

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