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The Telegraph

Biden’s transition team may find moving into the White House tougher than the election

Joe Biden was tonight planning for one of the most turbulent and uncertain transitions into the White House in modern US presidential history as he mapped his path to inauguration day on January 20. With the Democratic presidential nominee expressing certainty he had won the election even as the result was not called, staff members on a transition team set up months ago were preparing next steps. The road ahead, if he does indeed win, is daunting. For one, Mr Biden is facing a sitting US president who has vowed to fight through the courts to remain in the Oval Office and given no indication he could concede. Second, clarity on which party holds the Senate will have to wait until January as the two races in Georgia whose outcomes will decide are being rerun. If the Republicans retain a majority they can block Mr Biden’s cabinet nominees and legislation. And third, there is a deadly virus spreading uncontrollably across America, with new daily Covid-19 cases up 35 per cent in the last fortnight, and a US economy recovering from the biggest unemployment jump since the 1930s. Mr Biden, who during the campaign pledged swift action to tackle the coronavirus pandemic which has claimed more than 240,000 lives, will announce details of his 12-strong Covid task force on Sunday. It will be headed by former surgeon general Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler and Yale University’s Dr Marcella Nunez-Smith. Unlike in Britain, the victor of a US presidential election does not sweep into office once the outcome is known. Instead, any incoming candidate must wait more than two months until an official hand-over in mid-January. In the recent past that has almost always happened without rancour. Presidents have met their successors in the White House even if they are from the other party – as Barack Obama did with Donald Trump in 2016 – and offered support. Teams from the incoming president are sent to US government departments in what are dubbed “landing parties”, sent in to survey the scene. They are briefed about the status quo, ready to get going on day one. The president-elect’s transition team also swiftly takes up rooms in an official government building and is provided support as they plan for inauguration day. The process has been formalised and has some legal protections. This time, uncertainty abounds. Mr Trump could order his government employees – by tweet, perhaps – to refuse to engage with Mr Biden’s advisers given his public stance that he won the election and it is being “stolen” from him. Even if Mr Biden’s win margins in key battleground states are sizeable and the likelihood of a court decision affecting that is slim, the Trump campaign’s legal challenges could take weeks to progress through the system, giving the president cover. Perhaps foreseeing the difficult weeks which would follow any victory, Mr Biden

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