Thursday, November 17, 2016
President-elect Donald Trump and his team on Wednesday vigorously rejected charges of turmoil and infighting roiling efforts to set up his White House, national security and economic teams. A week after his upset victory, Trump said the enormous endeavor was proceeding “so smoothly.”
Trump dished out his rebuttal on Twitter, spending yet another day ensconced in his New York skyscraper, beyond the public eye. Aides and allies vouched for the transition efforts on his behalf, suggesting some commotion was to be expected.
“The beginning of any transition like this has turmoil because it’s just the nature of the process,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said as he left Trump’s transition headquarters in Washington. He said the picture of Trump’s administration would become clearer over the next two or three weeks.
Others close to the transition process described advisers “fighting for power.” Trump has long stoked internal rivalries among his staff – both in his businesses and his campaign – and has created ambiguity in his transition about who has authority to make key decisions.
Eric Trump, one of the president-elect’s sons, raised expectations of imminent progress Wednesday, telling reporters in the morning that appointments were “likely” to come during the day. Then, other Trump aides suggested a slower pace.
“We’re not going to rush to put names forward until we’re absolutely sure,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said hours later. “We’re going to make sure that they’re people we’re confident will pass confirmation and we think can implement the president-elect’s vision.”
Trump’s team noted that President Barack Obama waited until a few weeks after the 2008 election to announce many of his Cabinet appointments.
And former Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who has informally advised members of Trump’s national security team, blamed Trump’s detractors for the reports of drama.
“When you’re doing a transition that is trying to push the kind of change that Mr. Trump wants to be doing, it’s going to be even harder,” said Hoekstra, a former House Intelligence Committee chairman.
The incoming Republican administration also got a boost of support from outgoing Vice President Joe Biden, who met with his successor, Mike Pence, continuing the Obama administration’s show of public support for the transition.
“No administration is ready on Day One,” Biden said following the meeting at the Naval Observatory, which serves as the vice presidential residence. He expressed confidence that by Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration, “everything will be in good hands.”
Trump’s team was essentially starting from scratch, scrapping much of the preliminary transition work New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie conducted during the campaign. After winning the election, Trump demoted Christie and put Pence in charge.
The result has been a series of new additions to the transition team and several departures, mainly among those aligned with Christie. Kevin O’Connor, a former senior Justice Department official, joined that group.
Trump appeared to be weighing an eclectic mix of individuals for top Cabinet posts, including longtime loyalists, former rivals and even a Democrat. Transition officials said Trump met Wednesday with Eva Moskowitz, a former New York councilwoman and charter school founder who is being considered for education secretary.
Others who passed through the marble lobby of Trump Tower included Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., a potential pick for Health and Human Services, and Ray Washburne, a Dallas businessman and top GOP fundraiser in the mix for Commerce secretary. New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft also entered the gilded elevators for meetings and Trump officials said later that the president-elect also met with Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and Wall Street financier and economic adviser Steve Feinberg.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who arrived Wednesday afternoon, has been angling for secretary of state, though his consulting work for foreign governments has emerged as a potential roadblock. Trump is also said to be seriously considering John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, for the top diplomatic job.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who tangled ferociously with Trump during the Republican primary but ultimately endorsed the businessman, could get a top job such as attorney general. An official said, however, Cruz is not viewed as a top contender. The official, like others, wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the transition talks and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Others mentioned for Cabinet posts: Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Kansas Republican, said someone close to the transition contacted him about becoming agriculture secretary. South Carolina Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, a former U.S. attorney and state attorney general, said he was asked if he would be interested in being attorney general. McMaster also said he was told South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was being considered for secretary of state.
Trump aides have released few details about the president-elect’s schedule or phone calls since the election. They tried to play catch-up Wednesday, releasing a list of 29 world leaders who have spoken with Trump or Pence in recent days. Most of the calls had previously only been confirmed by those leaders’ governments.
Trump planned to meet Thursday in New York with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, his first get-together with a world leader as president-elect. The State Department has said it had yet to hear from Trump’s transition team, raising the prospect of the Republican holding the meeting without any input from career diplomats with deep experience dealing with Japan. Other scheduled meetings include Haley, the South Carolina governor, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.