Chris Liddell, a former deputy chief of staff to former President Trump, said the vast majority of federal agencies cooperated with President Biden‘s team during the post-election transition period but that he was essentially powerless to prod the few holdouts.
“90%-plus of the agencies and components went about the job really well,” Mr. Liddell, one of the Trump administration’s point men on the transition, said this week. “So I don’t want it lost on people that there were a lot of good actors out there who really tried hard and did the right thing.”
He said he managed to smooth things over with some of the more reluctant people.
“There were some agencies I think were uncooperative,” he said. “And I tried my best…but I don’t really have the teeth to do it. I was doing it based on personalities.”
Mr. Liddell was speaking on the “Transition Lab” podcast from the Partnership for Public Service.
Mr. Liddell said it’s an unusual situation to have the outgoing administration in charge of the transition to the incoming one.
“That relies to some extent on goodwill,” he said. “And if that goodwill is absent, it’s hard to actually make it happen.”
He complimented Yohannes Abraham and Jeff Zients, two top officials on the Biden transition team, for their professionalism.
Mr. Biden‘s team likewise complimented some of the career civil servants for their help, but said holdouts in the Defense Department, Office of Management and Budget, and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative hampered their team during the transition period.
The General Services Administration also did not acknowledge Mr. Biden as the apparent winner of the election until Nov. 23, which denied his team access to additional resources and staffing opportunities.
“That was one of the probably most frustrating periods that I’ve ever seen,” Mr. Liddell said. “Really just for that period of time, we were literally sitting on our hands, ready to go, having done all the work but unable to do anything.”
Multiple news outlets had declared Mr. Biden the winner on Nov. 7, several days after the election.
Mr. Trump‘s contesting the election results culminated in his rally near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when he said he won in a landslide and that he would never concede.
His supporters then stormed and occupied the Capitol building. The House impeached Mr. Trump a week later for inciting the attack.
Mr. Liddell said he chose to stay on after Jan. 6 to see the transition efforts through to the end.
“My duty was to be here,” he said. “The event… was a disaster for the country — from the transition point of view, it made everything then exponentially more difficult as well.”