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Digital Transition Of Power Is Not So Peaceful

President Donald Trump; his wife, Melania, and other family members arrive for the presidential inaugural parade.
Timothy A. Clary
AFP/Getty Images
President Donald Trump; his wife, Melania, and other family members arrive for the presidential inaugural parade.
The White House website Friday listed six issue areas reflecting several of Trump's policy priorities.
/ White House website
White House website
The White House website Friday listed six issue areas reflecting several of Trump's policy priorities.

Along with the oath of office at the Capitol on Friday, a much quieter part of the presidential handover took place, as the federal government's websites changed hands.

Different administrations have used the White House website to highlight their programs and priorities ever since that site was founded in 1994. And much as the Trump team will fill the empty picture frames in the White House with what it wants, it likewise has highlighted its policy priorities on its website. The Trump site, for example, now lists his six policy positions, as opposed to the Obama administration's breakout of broad topic areas.

But the same as many protested Trump's inauguration in person, there was plenty of Internet outcry on Friday about topics like climate change and LGBT rights being "scrubbed" from the site.

But as Snopes pointed out on Friday, "It's inaccurate to say that these terms were specifically scrubbed from the site by Donald Trump," as Trump's policy action items have simply supplanted Obama's.

Indeed, Trump's site does mention the climate, albeit not in the way that advocates for combating climate change would like: "President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan."

However, one of Washington's most-talked-about policy topics right now (perhaps thetop policy topic) — health care — is not currently in Trump's "Issues" list. The president-elect and many Republicans in Congress have repeatedly stressed their desire to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The @POTUS Twitter and White House Facebook accounts were likewise handed over on Friday. However, the digital transition will not be complete for some time. The Trump White House website has maintained the look of the Obama site, maintaining its typefaces and color schemes, with a fuller style change coming later this year, as Politico reported Thursday.

One notable holdover from Obama's site is the "We, the People Petitions" section, which links to a tool with which the public can propose petitions. That tool thus far reflects how polarizing the new president is. As of Friday afternoon, three petitions had been proposed: one calling to "immediately release Donald Trump's full tax returns, with all information needed to verify emoluments clause compliance," another proposing to "divest or put in a blind trust all of the President's business and financial assets," and another to "let American farmers grow hemp once again to create jobs and rebuild the rural economy." The site says that petitions need to hit 100,000 signatures within 30 days to get a White House response. As of press time, they had 28,409, 6,351, and 190 signatures, respectively.

The department websites have likewise shifted to reflect the new administration to varying degrees. The alterations reflect both the changeover in personnel — as with the removal of departing Secretary Ernest Moniz's "exit interview" on the Energy Department website's front page — and the changes in policy.

The Labor Department's website is an example of this. As of Thursday, that site's front page featured the Obama administration's fiduciary rule — which requires financial advisers to act in the best interest of their clients — and overtime rule, which broadened the number of workers who would be required to be paid overtime (a federal court blocked that rule in November). Those rules both drew sharp criticism from conservatives.

Today, the featured posts are the department's occupational outlook handbook — a regular Labor publication — and a retirement savings education campaign. Likewise, some of the pages about Obama administration policies are gone. That fiduciary-rule link — which led to a page about how "conflicts of interest can take a bite out of retirement savings at any age" — now redirects to a page on "saving fitness worksheets."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.