Trump Transition Reportedly Stalled by Paperwork Lapse

Newly appointed transition chairman Vice President-elect Mike Pence needs to sign a document for the power transfer to proceed. Newly appointed transition chairman Vice President-elect Mike Pence needs to sign a document for the power transfer to proceed. Michael Conroy / AP

President-elect Trump’s Washington transition team appeared “frozen” on Tuesday, according to news reports, in part because a key document has not been signed by newly appointed chairman, Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

As first reported by The New York Times, the standard document is meant to safeguard against disclosure of sensitive information during collaboration between officials from incoming presidential transition teams and outgoing administrations.

Martha Joynt Kumar, political scientist at Towson University who specializes in the transition, said the document in question is likely similar to the 2008 memorandum of understanding reproduced here. Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough would likely sign as well. The presidential transition law signed by Obama in March called for the document to have been completed by Nov. 1.

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Brandi Hoffine, a White House spokeswoman, told the New York Times that Obama’s team was working with Pence to sign the document so that both teams can continue pursuing what all have called a “smooth transition.”

But the lapse was also reported simultaneously with the announced resignation of former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who had been tapped to run the Trump transition’s national security efforts. 

The transition team was recently described as engaged in a "knife fight," National Journal reported, after Trump last week demoted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his aides who had been planning the transition for months. Politico said the demotions “sent shockwaves through the team’s ranks."

Rogers, after just a few days on the team, according to Politico, said its work "will provide a strong foundation for the new transition team leadership as they move into the post-election phase, which naturally is incorporating the campaign team in New York who drove President-elect Trump to an incredible victory last Tuesday." 

The effort to coordinate between incoming Trump associates, the Obama White House and agency officials is now being run by Pence, and Sen. Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff, Rick Dearborn. Rogers added in a statement, "I look forward to continuing to provide advice and counsel as needed to the incoming Trump administration as they work to make America great again."

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