His term in office is bookended by botched transitions between administrations.
Donald Trump’s presidency is ending the way it began: with a handoff between administrations that could have been smooth but is instead confused, mired in controversy, and less useful for good governance than it could have been.
Think back to the transition that followed the 2016 election. If an incoming administration doesn’t believe in government and is run like a sole proprietorship, the transition is simply a nuisance, and it is not surprising that the incoming transition team that year experienced considerable turbulence. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had headed the team, but was replaced almost immediately after election day. The binders full of personnel picks that his team had prepared “were apparently thrown out the day I was terminated,” Christie said, leaving the new administration scrambling to fill thousands of positions in the federal government.
Fast-forward four years, to the other end of the Trump administration. Once again we see a disregard for norms of orderly government in the administration’s unwillingness to facilitate basic preparation by the incoming administration. The Biden transition team is not seeking to jump the gun the way Flynn did. It simply wants to be ready when power is handed over.
By starving the Biden administration-to-be of resources and information, the Trump administration is doing its best to hobble the successor team’s ability to hit the ground running. And it is doing so, again, in the context of crude norm-busting—in this case a president who has not only refused to concede but has, with his surrogates, repeatedly distorted the facts of the election.