In yet another sign that the president is still refusing to initiate a smooth, orderly transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden, Donald Trump’s White House continues to vet possible political appointees for a second term—despite the fact that there isn’t going to be one.
According to two sources familiar with the situation, as well as written communications reviewed by The Daily Beast, the White House Presidential Personnel Office (PPO) is still in the process of vetting candidates for job openings in various parts of the federal government, positions that the White House intended to fill by early next year. The office, which is tasked with staffing the federal agencies, is headed by Trump uber-loyalist and purge-overseer John McEntee. And it is still contacting listed references and conducting background checks, even though major networks called the 2020 presidential election for Biden on Saturday.
The planning around second-term staffing has come as no surprise to administration officials and senior campaign aides who are, at the moment, being forced to operate under the false hope that Trump will serve an additional four years. On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that “the White House budget office has instructed federal agencies to continue preparing the administration’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year.” Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said to reporters, when asked about a Trump-Biden presidential transition process, that “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”
A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Despite the apparent clear-cut nature of his defeat, President Trump, his campaign staff, and his team of lawyers have launched a public-relations blitz smearing the legitimacy of the 2020 election. They have also launched multiple legal challenges that have either been dismissed by the courts or which experts in the field widely believe are doomed and groundless.
This is all being conducted against the backdrop of Trump administration officials’ attempts to make the transition, and the start of the Biden era, as inconvenient as they can for the incoming president. Trump officials, some of whom had long expected Biden to win, have been trying to find concrete ways to further complicate policy initiatives that the former vice president had said would be at the fore of his first-year agenda, including reentering the Iran nuclear deal. On Monday, the president began fulfilling what he’d previously envisioned as second-term staffing priorities, including the firing of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, largely for insufficient fealty. Furthermore, an obscure Trump administration appointee has declined to sign a piece of paper that would allow the Biden team to officially start much of the painstaking, post-election tasks that come with a peaceful transition of presidential power.
President Trump, of course, had famously declined to commit to the democratic tradition of a peaceful, orderly transition, when pressed on the topic during this election cycle. And he doesn’t look close to abating from his post-election tantrums any time soon.
Among the president’s inner circle, most of the major players are backing Trump's mission to overturn, or at least cast reckless doubt on, the election, even as many quietly acknowledge to each other that it’s over. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior White House aide, “has been more hardcore in fighting back on this than anybody,” said Jason Miller, a top Trump campaign aide.
Among other efforts, the Trump campaign (or what’s left of it) has launched a hotline for supporters and tipsters to call or message in with leads on alleged voter fraud that Republicans should investigate. However, the tip line has largely been a massive bust. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the hotline has been flooded with apparent crank callers impersonating figures such as Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, and popular podcaster and comedian Joe Rogan, as well as hideous, loud vulgarities, farting noises, and threats of physical violence—all delivered to junior and mid-level staff on the Trump team who are assigned to man the hotline.
It’s yet another instance in which staff have been put in the position of holding jobs and carrying out assignments for Trump that they recognize as a road to nowhere. This applies to administration staffers, too. On Monday, CNN’s Jake Tapper reported that McEntee had also been “spreading the word throughout the administration that if he hears of anyone looking for another job they will be fired.”