This was not exactly how the 2016 presidential transition was supposed to go.
For years, legislators, civil servants, good-government advocates, and veterans of the last several administrations had been preparing for this very moment. Congress had passed two new laws allowing the two major-party nominees to begin planning earlier than ever, and the Obama administration was committed to handing off the baton of government in full stride. The singular goal was to make this transfer of presidential power the smoothest, most effective transition in U.S. history.
Then came the unexpected victory of Donald Trump to blow it all to bits.
The Trump transition has looked, from the outside, like a mess. Days after winning the presidency, the new president-elect abruptly replaced the man who for months had been running his transition efforts, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, with the soon-to-be vice president, Mike Pence. Other departures quickly followed in what was described as “a purge” of people close to Christie. The leadership swap caused an important paperwork snafu, delaying by several days the point when Trump’s “landing teams” of potential appointees could begin on-the-job training at federal departments and agencies. A former national-security official in Republican administrations, Eliot Cohen, emerged from a single conversation with the transition team only to warn others to stay away. One of Trump’s first appointments, chief strategist Steve Bannon, prompted a firestorm of criticism over his website’s links to white nationalism. Leaks flowed out of Trump Tower faster than transition staff could plug them, while the president-elect himself sneaked away from his press corps for an evening out at the 21 Club in Manhattan.