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Fact check: Presidential Transition Enhancement Act does not allow for former president to maintain control of the military until March

Posts circulating several weeks into the start of President Joe Biden’s administration claim that under the Presidential Transition Enhancement Act of 2019, former President Donald Trump “retains control of the military until 60 days after the inauguration of a new President” and that according to the U.S. Constitution, “the full transition of power does not occur until March.” This claim is false.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

Examples of posts making this claim can be found here , here and here .

Signed into law by former President Trump on March 3, 2020, the bipartisan “Presidential Transition Enhancement Act,” which the House of Representatives passed unanimously, “makes changes intended to smooth the transfer of executive power during presidential transitions” by amending the Presidential Transition Act of 1963( here  ,  here ).

As explained by the Congressional Budget Office (www.cbo.gov/publication/55008), the law limits “the period during which services and facilities are provided to Presidential transition teams by the General Services Administration (GSA),” sets “a timeline for GSA to enter into memorandums of understanding with Presidential campaigns to prepare for potential transitions,” and authorizes “the executive branch to pay legislative branch employees to work for the President-elect or Vice President-elect during transition periods.”

The posts’ claim that Donald Trump will retain control of the military until March 21, 2021, 60 days after Biden’s inauguration, is likely a misinterpretation of the act’s stipulation to “extend support provided by the General Services Administration (GSA) to the President- and Vice President-elect for up to 60 days after the inauguration”.

The Presidential Transition Enhancement Act says nothing about the former president retaining control of the U.S. military, or control of any other federal departments or agencies, after the new president’s inauguration.

As explained here by the Partnership for Public Service’s nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition, the GSA, which supports the basic functioning of federal agencies (here), provides the president-elect’s team with office space and support services for up to 60 days after the inauguration.

The idea that the transition of presidential power does not officially occur until the month of March may stem partly from claims made by QAnon conspiracy theorists that Trump will be sworn back into office on March 4 (here).

QAnon experts have reported on how, according to its adherents, March 4 constitutes a new deadline for the group (here) that watched inauguration come and go without the events they expected (here). More on the significance of March 4 for QAnon believers can be seen here .

The March 4 claims may relate to the fact that until the 20th Amendment came into effect in 1937, the official day for presidential inaugurations was March 4, unless the fourth fell on a Sunday, in which case the ceremonies were held on March 5 (here).

The 20th Amendment to the Constitution, however, states that the “terms of the President and the Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin” (here).

Further reading on the 20th Amendment is available here

On Jan. 20, 2021, Joe Biden took his oath of office and was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States, officially completing the transition of presidential power from the old to the new administration (here).

Lastly, the posts falsely claim that the alleged March transition of power “explains the rush to impeach” former President Trump. The Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters prompted calls by some lawmakers to remove him from office before Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20 (here).

VERDICT

False. Neither the U.S. Constitution nor the Presidential Transition Enhancement Act stipulate that the presidential transfer of power does not officially happen until March.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts  here .

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