This doesn’t sound like a vote of confidence in the case currently at the Supreme Court. Perhaps one can chalk this up to an abundance of caution, but it does appear to be a hat-tip toward the reality of the upcoming transition. According to CNN reporter Vivian Salama, a memo from chief of staff Mark Meadows and the White House Counsel’s office asked staff to “prioritize preparations for a smooth transition,” without naming the transition destination:
and energy you have brought to all of your work in the past.” The email details protocol regarding preservation of records, personal retention of copies of records, protocol for briefing books, & other legal matters. Trump has yet to concede even as transition is underway. (2/2)
— Vivian Salama (@vmsalama) December 11, 2020
What prompted this missive at this point in time? It might have been expected after a loss at the Supreme Court in Texas v PA et al, or more simply after the Electoral College meets on Monday. It might have been outside lawsuits, Bloomberg reported, that forced the counsel office’s hand:
The White House has directed staff to retain certain records to ensure a “smooth transition,” the latest sign the government is preparing for President-elect Joe Biden to take office even as President Donald Trump refuses to concede.
In a Dec. 10 memo issued by the White House counsel and chief of staff and obtained by Bloomberg News, aides are being directed to comply with the Presidential Records Act so they can be transferred to the National Archives “at the end of President Trump’s administration.” …
The White House sent the reminder more than two weeks after the General Services Administration ascertained Biden as the apparent winner of the Nov. 3 election, clearing the way for formal transition activities to begin. Trump, though, has refused to concede, and has continued with a pressure campaign to overturn the election result.
Staff were told in the memo that assembling briefing books on their offices’ activity is a priority “to help facilitate a potential transition to a new administration.”
Those lawsuits got filed last week in an attempt to enforce the PRA. The White House had dragged its heels on compliance, likely because the boss didn’t believe any transition needed to take place at all. An earlier attempt to sue the administration got tossed by Judge Amy Berman Jackson over a lack of enforcement mechanisms in the law. However, it’s apparently worrisome enough that the White House Counsel’s office wants staff to begin its efforts to come into full compliance — “in the event there is a transition to a new administration in January.”
The suspense will be mooted by Monday, with the meeting and casting of votes by the Electoral College. Will it get mooted before then by the Supreme Court? There hasn’t been any puff of white smoke from America’s secular conclave, although submissions in Texas v PA et al keep getting added to the docket. This morning Texas submitted two replies to the rebuttals from their respondents and various amici arguments. If the court wants to dig into these in any substantive way, they might just end up getting mooted by the Electoral College too. And maybe they’ll be okay with that.