Posted November 15th,2016
President-elect Donald Trump did more than simply replace the leader of his transition team when he switched out Chris Christie for Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Friday. Trump’s move actually interrupted the transition itself, delaying by several days the moment when his aides could begin receiving briefings from members of the outgoing Obama administration.
By law, the person designated as the chairman of the presidential transition committee must sign a memorandum of understanding before the newly-elected president can send “landing teams” to the various federal agencies to begin receiving on-the-job training. That applies even when the chairman is the vice president-elect. Christie had signed that document. But as of midday Tuesday, Pence had not.
“Following the change in leadership of President-elect Trump’s transition team, we are now in the process of working with the new transition team chair, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, to sign the memorandum of understanding, which governs the process by which transition officials work with current Administration staff,” White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said in a statement. “We look forward to completing that work so that we can provide the necessary access to personnel and resources to get the president-elect’s team up to speed and deliver on President Obama’s directive for a smooth transition.”
The delay is the latest sign that Trump’s transition is behind the pace envisioned by laws passed by Congress in recent years that were aimed at formalizing and improving what had been a largely ad hoc process for transferring the reins of government from one administration to the next. Trump did have a rather large team working under Christie, the New Jersey governor, and his top aides in government-provided space in Washington before the election. That team worked almost entirely independently of the Trump campaign. But in the days after the election, Trump’s loyalists in New York have taken over more of the transition, including pushing aside Christie, who had been tarnished by guilty verdicts against two of his former aides in the Bridgegate scandal.
There was no immediate word from Trump officials on Tuesday as to when Pence would sign the memorandum allowing the transition briefings to proceed.