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Are presidents required by the Constitution to concede?


One week after Election Day and days after Joe Biden was projected as the winner of the 2020 presidential election, President Trump has not conceded, challenging the results via recounts and legal action alleging foul play.

Legally, however, there is no requirement for a president to make such a concession. The post-election transition process begins once the General Services Administration (GSA) ascertains the winner of the election, and transition preparations already began well before the election.

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The Presidential Transition Act of 2000, the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010 and the Presidential Transition Enhancement Act of 2019 provide for much of the process, which essentially begins months before the election.

The current administration establishes a White House Transition Coordinating Council and an Agency Transition Directors Council and selects a Federal Transition Coordinator through the GSA. This was all done earlier this year, according to a May 2020 GSA report on transition activities.

As part of this process, federal agencies must submit succession plans to prepare for a change in administrations.

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Additionally, the report said the GSA was securing and furnishing office space for the Biden transition team to occupy in September.

In August, the GSA sent subsequent transition reports to the House Oversight and Homeland Securities committees.

Meanwhile, the Biden-Harris transition team submitted a transition team ethics plan, which they were required to do by Oct. 1.

According to the Center for Presidential Transition, before elections take place it is customary for the White House chief of staff to sign a memorandum of understanding with the transition team that will lay out how the outgoing administration will work with the transition team to help carry out a seamless transfer of power.

To make the transition process possible, the GSA had already secured $9.62 million in appropriations for preelection services earlier this year and had requested an additional $9.9 million for 2021, more than $6 million of which would go toward a new administration.

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What remains, however, is for GSA to recognize Biden and Vice president-elect Kamala Harris as the winners of the election, which it has yet to do. This typically happens once it is clear who the winners are. The GSA has been waiting as ballots continue to be counted in several swing states and litigation continues in courts across the country.

Until the GSA officially ascertains the winner of the election, its post-election support for Biden’s team will not begin. 

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