White House quietly working ‘by the book’ for Biden transition — but ‘it could go sideways’ if Trump finds out
President Donald Trump signs S. 3021- America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The White House is quietly working "by the book" to plan a possible transition to Joe Biden if he wins November's election, and officials are hoping President Donald Trump doesn't find out.

The president has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power and suggested that he won't accept a loss, but his assistant Chris Liddell has met two congressionally mandated deadlines to file transition reports in May and August and working closely with a career government official who's serving as the federal transition coordinator, reported Politico.

“They are very, very focused on implementing the law and doing it by the book, and they are doing a good job,” said David Marchick, director of the nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition at the Partnership for Public Service.

The Justice Department has also agreed to start processing security clearance for Biden officials in case he wins, according to sources familiar with the plans, but the orderly transition could be upended if the president notices.

“I suspect the president is totally unaware,” said one former Obama transition official. “It could go sideways as soon as he knows this is going on.”

A White House official told Politico the president knows about Liddell's work, and deputy press secretary Judd Deere said the administration has met and will continue to meet all lawful requirements for transition planning.

“[Liddell] knows how to run the machinery,” said Tim Adams, a former Romney transition official who also served in the Treasury Department. “Hopefully, they are leaving him alone and letting him do this job.”

That seems to be the case for now, but that could change if Trump loses, but that would not prevent Biden's team from mounting their own transition efforts.

“The truth is if they decide to not cooperate, there is a way around it,” said Chris Lu, President Barack Obama's former deputy Labor secretary and executive director of the Obama-Biden transition team in 2008. “Democrats have only been out of power for three-and-half years, and there are ways to adjust to it.”