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Timeline of 2016 and 2020 election transitions between Trump and Obama


  • President Trump’s refusal to concede the election has complicated President-elect Joe Biden’s transition to power.
  • The situation is a marked contrast to 2016, when Hillary Clinton conceded and the Obama administration made a point on engaging with Trump and his officials. 
  • Here is a comparison of what happened each day in 2016 with what is happening now.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump’s continued refusal to concede his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden is complicating the traditional handover of the presidency.

The process of Biden readying himself for power — despite opposition from Trump and his allies  — is a stark contrast to how the Obama administration gave way to Trump when he won four years ago.

Business Insider has assembled a day-by-day comparison, dated from when the election was called by the majority of the US news media (Insider called the 2020 election some 24 hours earlier than most):

Day 1: Hillary Clinton concedes / Trump golfs, insists that he won

clinton concession and trump plays golf

(L) Hillary Clinton concedes in 2016 (R) Trump golfing after election announcement

Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images / Samuel Corum/Getty Images

In 2016, Clinton called Trump at around 2.30 a.m. the night of the election to concede his win, The Guardian reported.

The following day, the General Services Administration (GSA) authorized the release of funds for the presidential transition, according to CBS News

By lunchtime on November 9, Clinton had made her concession speech. That day, Defense Secretary Ash Carter gave the formal order for a peaceful transition of power, according to The Week

In 2020, Trump was at the golf course as major networks called the race for Joe Biden.

At the same time, his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, held a press conference in the front yard of Four Seasons Total Landscaping, announcing the president’s intention to litigate over alleged voter fraud.

That evening, Trump tweeted: “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!”

Day 2: Obama handshake / Trump fraud hotline

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Obama meets with President-elect Trump at the White House in Washington, November 10, 2016.


On November 10, 2016, Vice President Joe Biden met Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, and Melania Trump met First Lady Michelle Obama.

Trump and Obama took an hour and a half together in the Oval Office, The New York Times reported, and Obama shook Trump’s hand in front of the cameras.

On November 8 2020, the non-partisan Center for Presidential Transition released a statement urging Trump to let the transition proceed. 

Instead, Republicans were soliciting calls to a fraud hotline set up by Trump, which was then flooded with prank calls

That day Melania made her first public statement in support of Trump’s fraud allegations, tweeting: “Every legal — not illegal — vote should be counted.”

Day 3: Obama preps farewell tour / Trump hypes legal challenges 

biden coronavirus transition team

President-elect Joe Biden takes meets with members of the coronavirus “Transition Advisory Board” in Delaware, November 9, 2020

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

On November 11, 2016, details of Obama’s global farewell tour were announced, in which the president said he would be helping prepare allies to work with Trump, the Associated Press (AP) reported

Three days after victory in 2020, without a concession from Trump, Biden met with and announced his coronavirus advisory board, designed to mark a break with Trump’s chaotic handling of the pandemic.

On Twitter, Trump continued to hype his claims of election fraud. He sent a total of 25 tweets with links to right-wing media supporting him, or rumors about the count in some states  — many of which were flagged by the platform as disputed.

Day 4: Trump plots to undo Obama legacy / Pompeo predicts ‘second Trump admin’

biden office of the president-elect speech

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks about health care and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) at the theater serving as his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. November 10, 2020

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

On November 12, 2016, Trump named Chris Collins as the head of his transition team, Reuters reported.

His transition team also signaled to The New York Post that he planned to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Accords, reversing an Obama policy.

(Biden has stated that he will cancel the US departure from the accords, foiling Trump’s plan.)

In 2020, four days after the result, Trump’s administration was still holding up Biden’s progress.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joked in a press conference about preparing for a “second Trump administration,” for which he was later praised by the president.

But privately, Trump advisors told The Washington Post that they were privately losing hope over the president’s plans to fight the result. 

Biden addressed the lack of cooperation at a press conference, telling reporters in Delaware that he was moving ahead anyway: “We don’t see anything that’s slowing us down, quite frankly,” he said.

He called Trump’s refusal to concede “an embarrassment” but added: “it’s not of much consequence.”

Day 5: New president tries to set an agenda / Old president claims polls are a conspiracy

Trump 60 minutes 2016

President-elect Donald Trump on ’60 Minutes’ in November 2016

CBS News/YouTube

On November 13 2016, Trump named Reince Priebus as his chief of staff and Steve Bannon as his chief strategist, The Guardian reported.

Trump’s interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired, in which he shifted from his former hardline position on Obamacare, moderating some of his campaign positions ahead of taking power.

At the same point in 2020, Trump continued to lob accusations. This time he attacked ABC News and The Washington Post, arguing that a joint Wisconsin poll they published purposefully understated his chances to discourage his supporters from voting.

There is no evidence for this. Trump added “we are now preparing to win the state.” In fact, Biden won the state, which Business Insider called on November 4.

Day 6 – Trump seeks security clearance for his kids / State department blocks messages to Biden

ivanka don jr eric trump december 2016

Donald Trump Jr, Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, listen during a meeting with technology industry leaders at Trump Tower in New York, NY on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

On November 14 2016, Trump asked White House officials to look into getting top secret security clearance for his children Ivanka, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric, NBC News reported

The move was rejected, but in 2018 he overruled his chief of staff to give the clearance to Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

On Day 6 in 2020, Biden had still not been given access to messages of congratulation from world leaders by the State Department, CNN reported.

The State Department traditionally handles such messages for the President-elect, but has refused to hand them over while Trump has not conceded his loss, the network reported.

Day 7 – Trump gets first security briefing / China affirms Biden win

biden xi jinping china

Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with Joe Biden, as Vice President, in 2013.

Lintao Zhang/Pool/Reuters

On Day 7 after Donald Trump’s election result was confirmed — November 15, 2016 — the president-elect had his first top-secret intelligence briefing, CNN reported. 

While presidential candidates receive intelligence briefings during their campaigns, this was the first time Trump accessed the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) — the highest level of security information. 

It’s a key part of the ascent to power. The PDB put the president-elect on the same information footing as the sitting president, telling him about international adversaries and security threats.

Seven days after Biden’s win was confirmed in 2020, he still did not have access to the briefings.

Despite the Trump administration’s refusal to acknowledge Biden’s victory, China officially did so. This left Russia as the only major world power not to accept the results.

Day 8 – Pence receives first briefing/ Biden holds on to Georgia

president trump

President Donald Trump walks up to speak about Operation Warp Speed in the Rose Garden at the White House on November 13, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

On Day 8 after the 2016 election result was confirmed — November 16, 2016 — Trump’s transition team announced that it will require incoming officials to terminate their lobbying registrations, and vow not to lobby again for five years after leaving the administration.

Vice President Mike Pence, who had been elevated to transition chair, introduced these news measures.

The president also met with Alabama senator Jeff Sessions and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio.

On Day 8 in 2020, Biden’s legal team in Georgia announced they do not expect a hand recount of votes to change the November 3 election results, solidifying his victory even more.

Biden is the first Democrat to win the state since 1992.

Meanwhile, Trump gave his first public remarks since his electoral defeat, appearing in the White House Rose Garden to tout the effectiveness of Operation Warp Speed, his administration’s coronavirus vaccine program.

While speaking to reporters, Trump came very close to admitting that he lost the election, suggesting “time will tell” which administration will be in power next.

Day 9 – First world leader meeting / Trump says Biden ‘won,’ then retracts

President Trump Shinzo Abe UN general assembly

President Donald  Trump meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2019.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

On November 17, 2016 — the ninth day since the election was called — Trump met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

It was his first face-to-face meeting with a world leader as president-elect, according to The New York Times.

Reuters reported that Trump’s team prepped Abe by telling him not to take his incendiary campaign rhetoric too literally.

On Day 9 in 2020, under mounting pressure, Trump appeared to accidentally concede the election by tweeting of Biden “He won because the Election was Rigged.”

He quickly recanted that, tweeting: “He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA. I concede NOTHING!”

Day 10 – Trump names AG pick / Biden says botched transition is costing lives

donald trump jeff sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Oval Office with President-elect Trump after taking the oath of office in 2017.

Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The 10th day after Trump was confirmed to have won the 2016 election — November 18 — he named Jeff Sessions as his pick for Attorney General, CBS reported.

Their relationship later soured. Sessions was ousted by Trump in November 2018 after he recused himself from Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Trump actively campaigned against Sessions when he ran unsuccessfully against Tommy Tuberville for his former US Senate seat in Alabama in July 2020.

On Biden’s 10th day as President-elect, he changed tone to pressure Trump to enable the transition. Where he once said that Trump’s stonewalling was not a problem, he now warned that “more people may die” without a smooth handover, because of the destruction being wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

He announced plans for his scientific advisors to meet coronavirus vaccine manufacturers to discuss distribution anyway. 

Day 11 – Obama reassures China on Trump / Biden’s bootleg natsec briefing

obama xi jinping beijing 2016

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting in 2017.

Xinhua/Li Xueren via Getty Images

Obama’s farewell tour continued with statements prior to a planned meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping. 

Xi called this a “hinge moment” for US-China relations and said he hoped the two countries could manage their differences, the AP reported. The following year, the US-China trade war began.

Meanwhile, Trump was driving a Twitter feud with the cast of the Broadway show “Hamilton,” who had rebuked Pence as he sat in the audience the night before. 

On Biden’s 11th day as President-elect, he and Harris were scheduled a national security briefing in Delaware. However, the blocked transition process meant that the meeting would be with former, not current, officials, as Forbes reporter Andrew Solender confirmed.


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