A look at Donald Trump's presidential transition to-do list

Since winning the Nov. 8 U.S. election, Donald Trump has spent much of his time hunkered down with advisers in his Trump Tower in Manhattan as he prepares to become the country's 45th president on Jan. 20. Here's a brief overview of what he's crossed off his transition to-do list and what's left.

There’s still lots of work to do before Trump takes the oath of office

President Barack Obama, right, and president-elect Donald Trump shake hands following their meeting in the Oval Office on Nov. 10. Trump has promised to undo key policies of the Obama administration once he takes office in January. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

Since winning the Nov. 8 U.S. election, Donald Trump has spent much of his time hunkered down with advisers in his Trump Tower in Manhattan as he prepares to become the country's 45th president on Jan. 20. When he takes the oath of office, the transfer of power from President Barack Obama to Trump will be complete.

The weeks leading up to that moment are a crucial period of time during which the outgoing and incoming administrations have long to-do lists to work through. Here's a brief overview of what's been crossed off and what's left. 

What was done before election day?

  • The White House Transition Co-ordinating Council was established in May and there are two other groups of staff that co-ordinate the White House's side of the transition. Their tasks included gathering briefing materials and designating senior staff at each federal agency to prepare their departments for the transfer of power.
  • Hillary Clinton and Trump assembled transition teams after their party conventions in July. Preparing for victory involved lining up people to work on the post-election transition team and drawing up a list of candidates for cabinet appointments and other high-power positions.

Trump won, then what happened?

  • There was a merging of Trump's campaign team and transition team. His pre-election transition team was headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was demoted after the election and replaced by vice-president-elect Mike Pence. Trump also named a long list of team members, including his children and son-in-law, and some pre-election members were pushed out.
  • ​Trump's team started working with the White House teams and Trump visited the White House shortly after the election to meet with Obama, as per tradition. Obama gave his successor an overview of what he will soon face in the job. The two have also spoken by phone since that meeting.
Donald Trump and vice-president-elect Mike Pence were at Trump's golf club in Bedminster, N.J., on Nov. 20 to meet with candidates for their administration. Pence is in charge of the transition team. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)
  • A memorandum of understanding was signed between the president's chief of staff and Pence, as chair of the transition team. It lays down some basic rules. A typical MOU outlines who on the transition team will have access to federal agencies (they must have security clearance).​ 
  • ​The General Services Administration (the federal agency that supports the functioning of other government departments) provided office space and resources in Washington for Trump to use.
  • ​The "landing teams" for each federal agency got to work. They are the people who are physically deployed by Trump's team to each department to review briefing materials and get up to speed.
Trump lives in Trump Tower in New York City and has been working out of offices there during the transition period. There is also office space available to him in Washington, D.C., provided by the federal government. (Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

Who has Trump hired so far?

There are 4,100 appointments to make and they include heads of agencies, secretaries for the 15 executive departments that make up the cabinet, White House aides and senior civil servants. 

As of Friday, these are Trump's key hires:

  • Stephen Bannon, chief strategist and senior counsellor.
  • Reince Priebus, White House chief of staff.
  • Senator Jeff Sessions, attorney general.
  • Representative Mike Pompeo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
  • Retired lieutenant-general Michael Flynn, national security adviser.
  • South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, United Nations representative.
  • Betsy DeVos, education secretary.
  • Kathleen Troia, deputy national security adviser.
  • Donald F. McGahn, White House counsel.
  • Tom Price, health and human services secretary.
  • Elaine Chao, transportation secretary.
  • Steven Mnuchin, treasury secretary.
  • Wilbur Ross, commerce secretary.
  • Retired general James Mattis, defence secretary.

What's the timeline for the hiring spree?

There are no hard and fast deadlines but the most senior positions are filled as quickly as possible. A general goal is to have that work done by Christmas. Once a decision is made, background checks and security clearances must be done. The FBI and other agencies involved are prepared for a surge of requests.

Steve Bannon was Trump's campaign CEO and among Trump's first hires after winning the election. Trump named Bannon a senior White House adviser and strategist. It's a controversial pick because Bannon is accused of supporting racist, white nationalists. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

About 1,000 political appointee positions require Senate confirmation hearings. The cabinet jobs will be the priority. Those hearings should begin early in the new year, before inauguration day. The less senior appointees will be dealt with in the months after Jan. 20.

What about Trump's policy agenda?

In addition to all the hiring they have to do, the president-elect and his team must prepare to implement campaign promises. The policy team comes up with specific plans for the first 100 to 200 days in office. This requires co-operation between the campaign team and the transition team and between the transition team and those landing teams embedded with the government.

Trump has already made good on one promise he made during the campaign: to stop jobs at a Carrier Corp. factory in Indiana from moving to Mexico. Trump and Pence (who is governor of Indiana) visited the plant Thursday to celebrate the deal they helped broker between the state and United Technologies, which owns the heating and air conditioning company.

Trump said in a recent video that he's instructed his team to look at what executive actions he can take on Day 1 to implement some of his campaign promises. He said within his first 100 days he intends to do the following:

  • Cancel restrictions on coal production.
  • Create a new rule that says for every new regulation implemented, two must be eliminated.
  • Ask the Defence Department for a plan to combat cyberattacks.
  • Create a law that makes former White House officials wait five years before they can lobby government.

What else is on Obama's transition to-do list? 

  • White House staff work with the National Archives and Records Administration to determine the artifacts, gifts and records — electronic or otherwise — that need to be removed from the White House.
  • The White House prepares memos on domestic, economic and national security issues that the new administration could face in its first few weeks in office.
  • The White House might co-ordinate a meeting between former chiefs of staff and the incoming one to share best practices.
  • There will be a "tabletop exercise" for outgoing and incoming cabinet members. They will go through a potential crisis management scenario so the new staff can see how it's done.
Obama waves as he departs from Berlin on Nov.18. Obama said it was likely his last foreign trip as president. (Rainer Jensen/Associated Press)


Meagan Fitzpatrick is a multi-platform reporter with CBC in Toronto. She previously worked in CBC's Washington bureau and covered the 2016 election. Prior to heading south of the border Meagan worked in CBC's Parliament Hill bureau. She has also reported for CBC from Hong Kong. Follow her on Twitter @fitz_meagan


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