“The peaceful transfer of power from one President to the next is an enduring and gripping drama of American democracy.” So wrote William A. Galston and Elaine Ciulla Kamarck, as quoted in the new Congressional Research Service Report, Presidential Transitions: Issues Involving Outgoing and Incoming Administrations .
[A] variety of events, decisions, and activities contribute to what some may characterize as the unfolding drama of a presidential transition. Interparty transitions in particular might be contentious. Using the various powers available, a sitting President might use the transition period to attempt to secure his legacy or effect policy changes. Some observers have suggested that, if the incumbent has lost the election, he might try to enact policies in the waning months of his presidency that would “tie his successor’s hands.” On the other hand, a President-elect, eager to establish his policy agenda and populate his Administration with his appointees, will be involved in a host of decisions and activities, some of which might modify or overturn the previous Administration’s actions or decisions.
The 35 page report examines such issues as lame-duck political appointments, agency rule-making, executive orders, and other powers that may be exercised by the outgoing President.
An earlier CRS report, from April of this year, specifically examines national security issues: 2008-2009 Presidential Transition: National Security Considerations and Options.
Read more about presidential transitions at the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Governmental Affairs site, and in these books, available at Harvard libraries.