Trump's campaign upends the science of presidential transition

A law signed in March requires the White House to start preparing for a new president six months before the November election, and at least three outside groups help to smooth the transition. The effect is a veritable blueprint for running the federal government — but Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has made a point of eschewing the rules for both politics and governance.

“When the election’s over and suddenly you have to put a government together, you’d like to not start with a blank sheet of paper in filling the hundreds and hundreds of appointments you have to make,” former congressman Vin Weber said in an interview. “In Donald Trump’s case, he just hasn’t chosen to do that, which is something that worries me.”

New presidents have to make about 4,000 political appointments and promptly issue a budget for the $4 trillion federal government, on top of figuring out how to enact their campaign promises. The stakes are especially high for national security, where any raw seam in the transition could leave the U.S. vulnerable to terrorists or other attackers. Even the most innocuous proposals can trip up new presidents and their administrations, said Martha Joynt Kumar, director of the nonprofit White House Transition Project.

“The only time they come into play is when you break your pledge,” Joynt Kumar said.