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Why it’s ‘critical’ for presidential transition to move forward

This transition of power is shaping up to be unlike any we have seen in the past. What's involved in the shift from one presidential administration to another? David Marchick of the Center for Presidential Transition, a nonpartisan group that helps presidents and candidates prepare for the handoff of power, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss public health, national security and economic implications.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported, this is a transition of power unlike any we have ever seen.

    To help us understand what is happening, I'm joined by David Marchick. He's the director of the Center for Presidential Transition. It is a nonpartisan group that helps presidents and candidates prepare for the next administration.

    Dave Marchick, thank you very much for joining us.

    Again, how unusual is what is going on right now in terms of — compared with other transitions?

  • Dave Marchick:

    Thanks for having me, Judy.

    There have been peaceful transitions of power for 223 years. This is a very unusual transition. This is not like the year 2000, when one state, 200 — 537 votes determine the outcome of 270 electoral votes.

    Here, there's a very, very wide margin. The outcome is clear, as President George W. Bush said, and the transition should be moved forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, that is exactly what I wanted to ask you. And I had posed this question to Ben Ginsberg, because you hear Republicans saying, we gave Al Gore 37 days back in 2000. Why can't we do the same thing this time?

    You're saying it's — they're just different situations?

  • Dave Marchick:

    The factual circumstance is entirely different.

    The law that governs what the GSA administrator does requires her to make a decision when the outcome is clear. This year, there are four states that Vice President Biden, president-elect Biden, has won where he's above the margin of victory by very, very significant amounts.

    The likelihood of a recount actually changing the outcome is almost zero. He would need to lose both Pennsylvania and Georgia. He would need to win both Pennsylvania and Georgia. He's up by almost 50,000 votes in Pennsylvania.

    Judy, in the last 20 years, there have been 31 statewide recounts. Only three have changed the outcome. And the largest delta which led to a change was some 200 votes.

    So, the outcome is clear. And the country needs this transition to go forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, explain to us why it makes a difference, because some people say, well, he doesn't really take office until January 20, the new president. What's the rush?

    Why does it matter?

  • Dave Marchick:

    Well, it matters for our national security, for our economic security, and, most importantly, to combat the COVID.

    Let's go back to the year 2000. President Bush, then Governor Bush, had a shortened transition. He only got about half the number of people in their seats by day 100 as President Obama did eight years later.

    When the 9/11 Commission looked back and did an autopsy of what happened on 9/11, they concluded that the shortened transition, that the difficulty of getting national security officials in their seats hurt our national security.

    Today, we have multiple crises going, COVID, an economic crisis, a racial justice crisis, a climate change crisis. And the outgoing and the incoming need to work together to solve these problems and collaborate, just as George Bush did and Obama did in the year 2008.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Dave Marchick, what exactly is triggered?

    Once Emily Murphy, the woman at the General Services Administration, who so far has not certified that Joe Biden is the winner, has not certified that, but once she does, or if it happens, what changes? I mean, what benefits accrue or access is then available to the Biden team?

  • Dave Marchick:

    So, there are really three things, money, more space, and access to the agencies.

    Money is not that big a deal. They would like the money, but they have plenty of money. They don't need that much space, because we're in a COVID environment, and it's a virtual transition.

    But the critical thing is having the outgoing administration, the career officials in the agencies, and the Biden transition team start to work together on national security issues, on economic issues, on making sure that the vaccine, where we had such an important breakthrough today, can be developed and distributed quickly to 300 million Americans.

    That work is critical. And it can't start until the transition starts and the outgoing and the incoming work together.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you have a sense of whether this administration, below the highest level, below the White House level, understands that Joe Biden has won, and is prepared to cooperate and take — have the transition move forward?

  • Dave Marchick:

    You know, I have been working on this for over a year. And my organization has been working on it for four years.

    What I have seen up until now has been very diligent work from the Trump White House, from the agencies and from the Biden team. I have been very impressed up until about this point.

    So, yes, I think people do know. I think people are prepared. People that I talk to want to get going, but the politics are very, very difficult.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meaning the president?

  • Dave Marchick:

    Meaning…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You're referring to the president?

  • Dave Marchick:

    … I think that, ultimately, they're looking for the signal from the president of the United States.

    But the Presidential Transition Act does not require a signal from the president of the United States. The law vests that authority with GSA, and GSA alone. And the determination is whether the outcome of the election is clear.

    Yesterday, President George W. Bush, certainly not a fan of the Democrats, said the outcome of the election is clear. And so that's the trigger for the transition formally started.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David Marchick with the Center for Presidential Transitions, we thank you.

  • Dave Marchick:

    Thanks for having me.

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