Other Group

Transition Integrity Project

The Transition Integrity Project is a nominally bipartisan but functionally left-progressive and Democratic-leaning group of political and media figures that convened in the summer of 2020 to conduct simulations of the 2020 presidential election, including potential reactions by Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden. 1

The Project was created in late 2019 “out of concern that the Trump administration may seek to manipulate” the 2020 election. While the group of over 100 former campaign staffers and government officials included representatives from both the Republican and Democratic parties, the Project’s main participants, including Republicans, were united by opposition to President Trump and concerns that he would not leave office if he lost the presidential election. 2

The Project’s official analysis declared that “the Electoral College is profoundly anti-democratic,” aligning it with long-standing left-progressive electoral administration policy. 3

Leading Figures

Nils Gilman

Co-founder Nils Gilman is Vice President of Programs at the Berggruen Institute, a former University of California Associate Chancellor, the author of several books, and a former business consultant. 4

In September 2020, Gilman faced criticism for a Tweet he posted about former Trump administration figure and Claremont Institute fellow Michael Anton. Gilman wrote, “Michael Anton is the Robert Brasillach of our times and deserves the same fate,”5 comparing Anton to an anti-Semitic French journalist executed after World War II for publishing propaganda supporting collaboration with the Nazi occupation. 6 The Claremont Institute sent a letter to the Berggruen Institute protesting Gilman’s post as an “incitement to political violence.” 7

Rosa Brooks

Co-founder Rosa Brooks is a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and a former Obama administration Pentagon official. 8 She serves on the advisory board of George Soros’s Open Society Foundations (OSF) in the United States, and was previously special counsel to the president at the Open Society Institute in New York. 9

Brooks has suggested the possibility of removing President Trump from office through extra-judicial means. Ten days after Trump’s inauguration, Brooks wrote an article for Foreign Policy titled “3 Ways to Get Rid of President Trump Before 2020.” In addition to a provision of the 25th Amendment allowing the Cabinet to suspend an incapacitated President’s powers, impeachment and removal from office, and an appeal to Trump’s cabinet to “oust their boss,” the article included a “fourth possibility” of “a military coup.” In Brooks’ imagined scenario, President Trump would issue an order to which senior military officials respond “we’re not going to do that” and receive “thunderous applause from the New York Times editorial board.” 10 When right-wing website Breitbart published a piece criticizing her proposals to remove the president, Brooks responded by labeling her critics a “lynch mob” and claiming she had no idea “that anyone could construe” her words “as a call for a military coup.” 11

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Brooks cited unspecified “obvious reasons” for not inviting anyone from either the Trump or Biden campaigns to offer their input on the Transition Integrity Project. Instead, Brooks says the organizers “recruited participants with similar backgrounds.” The Republican team consisted of commentator Bill Kristol, former Republican National Committee chairman and longtime MSNBC commentator Michael Steele, and former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R). 12 Brooks did not explain what any of the participants have in common with Trump, but all three have extensive records of opposing the President, the Republican Party, or both.

Bill Kristol

Bill Kristol, who founded the Weekly Standard, is a vocal opponent of the Trump administration. He is the founding director of Republican Voters Against Trump, which describes itself as “a coalition of Republicans, former Republicans, conservatives, and former Trump voters” who “are united in wanting the country to move on from this deeply un-American presidency.” 13 In March 2020, he endorsed Democratic nominee-presumptive Joe Biden, calling him the “simple choice” for “a normal American” who prefers “sane, moderate governance.” 14 In May 2020, he called Trump an “infection” and said that “you need to deal with Trump before you can solve other things.” 15

Michael Steele

Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele has explicitly stated that he supports Joe Biden. He works with the Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans who oppose Trump and other Republican candidates for public office. 16

Trey Grayson

Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson became co-chair of former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords’ (D-AZ) gun-control-advocacy political action committee in 2012. 17 In 2014, he became president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. 18

David Frum

David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush best known for allegedly coining the phrase “axis of evil” to refer to three hostile foreign nations in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq,19 participated in two of the Project’s scenarios. In his write-up of the experience for The Atlantic, he claimed that the exercise was only “designed to test extreme scenarios” and was “not a prediction of how things will play out.” Nevertheless, he concluded by suggesting that “as lurid as our imaginations were over the four days of disaster planning,” the team “probably underestimated the dangerous possibilities” of what President Trump supposedly might do. 20

Frum has a history of making questionable claims about President Trump. In his 2020 book Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy, Frum accused the Trump administration of institutionalizing “white ethnic chauvinism.” 21 The previous year, Frum published an article in The Atlantic with the inflammatory title “What If They’re Not Coming for the Jews This Time?” in which he claimed that “the Trump presidency seethes with hostility” towards minority groups. 22


The Project modeled several scenarios for the 2020 presidential election: a decisive popular vote and Electoral College win for Biden, an Electoral College win with popular vote loss for President Trump, and an extended period of uncertainty due to delays in mail-in ballot counting. There was no consideration for the possibility of a Trump popular vote win. The group predicted “street-level violence and political crisis” in every scenario except a decisive Biden victory. It speculated that the Trump campaign would engage in deceptive tactics, such as “allegations of fraudulent mail-in ballots” that “led National Guard troop [sic] to destroy thousands of ballots.” It also assumed that Trump would issue “barely disguised calls for violence and intimidation.” 23


Conservative publications have criticized the Project’s conclusions and speculations. In an article for Legal Insurrection, Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson pointed out that Kristol and Steele are “devoted NeverTrumpers” and said the Project was “the Democrat/NeverTrump version of what might happen,” not a balanced analysis. He called the claims that President Trump would incite violence “psychiatric-level projection,” noting that left-wing radicals had rioted during President Trump’s inauguration in 2017. 24

David Harsanyi of National Review also questioned the Project’s choice of Kristol and Steele to represent Republicans, and called the scenarios “awash in the conspiratorial paranoia that’s infected the modern Democratic Party.” He also cited a USA Today poll which found that 28 percent of Biden supporters would not accept a Trump victory, compared to only 19 percent of Trump supporters who would not accept a Biden victory. 25

Byron York of the Washington Examiner challenged the Project organizers’ consensus that Trump would be the major threat after Election Day. He pointed to the report itself, which predicted that Biden would not concede even if Trump won in the Electoral College. In the scenario, the Biden campaign starts demand concessions before it is willing to recognize a Trump re-election including statehood for Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, and the division of California to create more Democratic Senate seats. The scenario ended with California, Oregon, and Washington threatening to secede if these radical demands are not met. 26

The editorial board of The American Mind, an online journal published by the right-leaning Claremont Institute, published a piece opposing left-wing preparations to delegitimize the election in the event President Trump won. The piece pointed out that the large-scale street violence predicted in the Project’s report is already happening, but with support from left-wing interests. 27


  1. “Preventing a Disrupted Presidential Election and Transition,” Transition Integrity Project, August 3, 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/7013152-Preventing-a-Disrupted-Presidential-Election-and.html#document/p1
  2. “Preventing a Disrupted Presidential Election and Transition,” Transition Integrity Project, August 3, 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/7013152-Preventing-a-Disrupted-Presidential-Election-and.html#document/p1
  3. “Preventing a Disrupted Presidential Election and Transition,” Transition Integrity Project, August 3, 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/7013152-Preventing-a-Disrupted-Presidential-Election-and.html#document/p1
  4. Nils Gilman profile page, Berggruen Institute, Accessed September 18, 2020. https://www.berggruen.org/people/nils-gilman
  5. Gilman, Nils. Twitter Post. September 21, 2020, 2:17 P.M. Accessed September 23, 2020 https://twitter.com/nils_gilman/status/1308108059428839425
  6. Smith, Blake. “In Praise of Hate.” Tablet Magazine, August 19, 2019. https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/arts-letters/articles/in-praise-of-hate.
  7. Williams, Ryan  P. “Dear Berggruen Institute: Renounce Death Threats Now.” The American Mind. Claremont Institute, September 22, 2020. https://americanmind.org/post/dear-berggruen-renounce-death-threats-now/.
  8. Jamie Stiehm, “The Pentagon: Up close and personal,” U.S. News & World Report, August 15, 2016. Accessed September 18, 2020. https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2016-08-15/rosa-brooks-latest-book-exposes-inner-workings-of-pentagon-under-obama?context=amp
  9. “Rosa Brooks,” Georgetown Law. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.law.georgetown.edu/faculty/rosa-brooks/
  10. Rosa Brooks, “3 Ways to Get Rid of President Trump Before 2020,” Foreign Policy, January 30, 2017. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/01/30/3-ways-to-get-rid-of-president-trump-before-2020-impeach-25th-amendment-coup/
  11. Rosa Brooks, “And Then the Breitbart Lynch Mob Came for Me,” Foreign Policy, February 6, 2017. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/02/06/and-then-the-breitbart-lynch-mob-came-for-me-bannon-trolls-trump/
  12. Rosa Brooks, “What’s the worst that could happen?” The Washington Post, September 3, 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/09/03/trump-stay-in-office/
  13. “About Us,” Republican Voters Against Trump. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://rvat.org/about-us/­­
  14. William Kristol, “The Simple Answer,” The Bulwark, March 2, 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://thebulwark.com/the-simple-answer/
  15. Anthony Leonardi, “Bill Kristol: Trump a political ‘infection,’” Washington Examiner, May 16, 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/bill-kristol-trump-a-political-infection
  16. Emma Green, “Michael Steele Isn’t Having It,” The Atlantic, August 28, 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/08/michael-steele-trump-race-convention/615829/
  17. Niels Lesniewski, “Gabrielle Giffords PAC Has Support of Mitch McConnell Ally Trey Grayson,” Roll Call, September 4, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.rollcall.com/2012/09/04/gabrielle-giffords-pac-has-support-of-mitch-mcconnell-ally-trey-grayson/
  18. Amanda Van Benschoten, “Trey Grayson named NKY Chamber President,” The Enquirer, May 21, 2014. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2014/05/21/trey-grayson-northern-kentucky-chamber-commerce-harvard-university-institute-politics/9386189/
  19. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Axis of Evil.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., June 5, 2016. https://www.britannica.com/topic/axis-of-evil.
  20. David Frum, “Where the System May Break,” The Atlantic, July 31, 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/how-2020-election-could-go-wrong/614842/
  21. Lloyd Green, “Trumpocalypse review: David Frum bushwhacks a new axis of evil,” The Guardian, May 24, 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/24/trumpocalypse-review-donald-trump-david-frum-bush-axis-evil
  22. David Frum, “What If They’re Not Coming for the Jews This Time?,” The Atlantic, July 24, 2019. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/07/has-trump-abandoned-anti-semitism/594619/
  23. Rosa Brooks, “What’s the worst that could happen?,” The Washington Post, September 3, 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/09/03/trump-stay-in-office/
  24. William Jacobson, “Democrats are telling us they will not accept a Donald Trump win. Are you listening?,” Legal Insurrection, September 3, 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://legalinsurrection.com/2020/09/democrats-are-telling-us-they-will-not-accept-a-donald-trump-win-are-you-listening/
  25. David Harsanyi, “The Democrats’ Dangerous Delegitimization of the Election,” September 3, 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/09/democrats-dangerous-delegitimization-election/
  26. Byron York, “Will Democrats accept election loss? New report says no,” Washington Examiner, August 4, 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/will-democrats-accept-election-loss-new-report-says-no
  27. “Stop the Coup,” The American Mind, September 12, 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://americanmind.org/post/stop-the-coup/
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