After Donald Trump’s shocking presidential victory, he hit the ground running (albeit with a stunned look on his face) and began to knock out a plan for the next four years. Mike Pence will be the big policy/behind-the-scenes guy, but Trump will be the official name on the administration, and the duo was committed to working it out despite Trump’s lack of governing experience. One would think that’d be enough for Republicans to heartily clamor for a spot in the administration, right?
Perhaps not. Already, a few of those who were expected to sign up for a cabinet gig aren’t doing so. A Ben Carson rep has conveyed his disinterest, and Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway was expected to claim a large role, but the New York Times reveals that she’s thinking of staying away from the White House. And on Tuesday, a few previously filled gaps opened up. The first departure is a top national security advisor, Mike Rogers, who resigned, and the second one is Matthew Freedman, a senior defense official that Trump chose to remove. The loss of these two key players could signal a dive into abject chaos:
President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition operation plunged into disarray on Tuesday with the abrupt departure of Mike Rogers, who had handled national security matters, the second shake-up in less than a week on a team that has not yet begun to execute the daunting task of taking over the government.
In a statement on Tuesday, Mr. Rogers, a former congressman from Michigan who led the House Intelligence Committee, said he was “proud of the team that we assembled at Trump for America to produce meaningful policy, personnel and agency action guidance on the complex national security challenges facing our great country.” And he said he was “pleased to hand off our work” to a new transition team led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
In another sign of disarray, a transition official said on Tuesday that Mr. Trump had removed a second senior defense and foreign policy official from his transition team, Matthew Freedman, who runs a Washington consulting firm that advises foreign governments and companies seeking to do business with the United States government.
This next claim seems rather telling, if true. Rogers reportedly upset some Trump advisors with Benghazi findings regarding the Obama administration:
One member of the transition team said that at least one reason Mr. Rogers had fallen out of favor among Mr. Trump’s advisers was that, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he had overseen a report about the 2012 attacks on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, which concluded that the Obama administration had not intentionally misled the public about the events there. That report echoed the findings of numerous other government investigations into the episode.
So far, Trump has officially secured Reince Preibus as his chief of staff and Steve Bannon as chief strategist, but many important cabinet roles remain. Further down the chain, thousands of jobs need to be filled. Rebekah Mercer has been working to fill lesser posts but “has had little success in her mission to solicit names and resumes” during her outreach efforts. Mercer has apparently let fly that the transition is already “more than a month behind schedule and on a tight timeline.”
Meanwhile, CNN (sort of) takes a more diplomatic view and describes Trump’s cabinet-building process as an “unconventional” one before tossing niceties out the door. The cable news network quotes a source who describes the process as a “knife fight” and full of “buffoonery.” The report lists multiple candidates like Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, and Gen. Michael Flynn who are still game for big roles, but overall, the transition team is said to be bickering and descending into disagreements over concrete decisions.
The Wall Street Journal adds that Mike Pence has purged all lobbyists from the transition team. No word on if or when they will be replaced.
In related news, President Obama was reported to have arranged extra time to help Trump acclimate with extended briefings and all that jazz. However, the Times reveals that the process has not yet begun because the Trump team hit a road block by booting the scandalous Chris Christie and having Pence take over the transition. So, the requisite “mutual nondisclosure agreement for both sides” hasn’t been executed, despite Obama’s public desire for a smooth transition.