Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s transition teams have been operating in near-total secrecy.
But based on a public schedule and a slew of hacked emails from when John Podesta headed the Obama transition in 2008, it’s likely that both teams have already gone a long way toward establishing detailed policy goals as well as picking the next White House staff and cabinet officials.
Both teams moved into office space provided by the General Services Administration in August. By the end of that month, according to a timeline created by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan organization that helps candidates navigate the transition to power, teams were presumably working with the White House to begin the staff changeover.
In mid-August 2008, for instance, according to one of the hacked emails published by WikiLeaks, Podesta met with George W. Bush’s chief of staff and other officials to discuss security clearances, an expedited confirmation process, and a presidential personnel database.
In September, the Partnership plan calls for the transition teams to determine staffing needs and continue requesting security clearances for agency review team members and other key advisors and staff.
And policy work is presumably ongoing. A mid-September 2008 memo from the transition team to then-Senator Obama noted: “All six of the major policy teams (national security, health care, education, energy, economy, and immigration) are on track to produce draft policy papers by the end of September that will be reviewed by the transition board… We also have a very large team of outside lawyers and consultants that is assisting the agency review team in researching specific federal agencies.”
In October, the plan recommends that teams identify key appointees and begin developing the structure of the White House. The Obama transition team started vetting appointments in early October 2008. Diversity was a key issue: Podesta was copied on an email to Obama from Mike Froman, transition team member and Citigroup managing director, listing possible appointments for the next administration. Froman divided the candidates into groups: Latinos, Native Americans, and disabled people, for example. In a separate document he listed women candidates.
Clinton has said that half of her cabinet will be women. And her campaign’s process for selecting a running mate suggests the same general procedures remain in place as in 2008. In March, Podesta, who is Clinton’s campaign chair, sent high-ranking members of the campaign a list of candidates. They were organized in categories by race, gender, or career affiliation — as Podesta called it, “food groups.”
By Election Day, the Clinton and Trump teams, according to the Partnership timeline, should have solidified policies, structural organizations for after the election, and personnel lists.
Each side surely has a transition website ready to go live on Wednesday as well. The Mitt Romney transition team’s website leaked the day after he lost in 2012.
Max Stier, president of the Partnership, began working with transition teams in 2008. Campaigns previously avoided this planning so as not to seem presumptuous, but Stier helped change that mentality. “Campaign job No. 1 is to win,” Stier told The Intercept. “Transition planning created vulnerability.”
Now, Stier said, the Partnership works with teams, “Helping them understand how to better identify talent.” He said: “any organization is really about the people and leadership.”