Transition off to a slow start
Key Trump adviser out as team remains mum ahead of handoff
WASHINGTON — The shoot-from-the hip style that helped Donald Trump win the presidency is now playing out in his transition to governing.
An insular group of loyalists and family members are at the helm giving the public little information. A top establishment figure abruptly departed the transition team. And officials from across the federal government say they have heard nothing from the people who are supposed to take their place two months from now.
By Tuesday, a week after his election, Trump’s team had yet to discuss even basic elements of the government handoff with key players at the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies, in large part because of a delay in signing the paperwork dictating the nuts and bolts of the process.
“We are standing by ready to assist,” said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.
“We stand ready,” said State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau.
The Trump campaign kept mum throughout the day as confidants and family members streamed in and out of Trump Tower in New York City.
Leaks about internal squabbles and personnel moves, many involving campaign allies competing for top posts, were left to fill the information void.
“No. No,” Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, a Trump adviser, said when asked about rumors of infighting on the team. “It’s all been good.”
But one of Trump’s most respected links to the Republican foreign policy community, Mike Rogers, announced he was leaving the transition team. Rogers, a former chairman of the House intelligence committee, had been a bridge between Trump and skeptics in his party.
Rogers had been a holdover from the transition team assembled by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was replaced last week by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the vice president-elect.
A person close to Rogers called his departure part of an effort to distance the team from Christie.
“Anyone close to Chris Christie got dumped,” said the Rogers ally. “All the level-headed people are stepping aside.”
Another potential bridge was also cut off when Eliot Cohen, a conservative critic of Trump, portrayed himself as walking away from an attempt at reconciliation. Cohen, a supporter of the war in Iraq who served in former President George W. Bush’s State Department, had organized a letter signed by dozens of former officials denouncing Trump during the campaign.
“After exchange (with) Trump transition team, changed my recommendation,” Cohen tweeted. “Stay away. They’re angry, arrogant, screaming ‘you LOST!’ Will be ugly.” Vice President-elect Mike Pence signed an agreement late Tuesday with the White House to get meetings going.
Trump had insisted during the campaign, contrary to evidence, that he had always opposed the Iraq War.
Another potential player in the administration, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, also took himself out of the running for an administration job, according to Terry Giles, a former finance chairman during Carson’s presidential campaign.
Christie’s departure was also responsible for the delay in setting up meetings between Trump’s team and the leaders of federal government agencies. Christie had signed an agreement with the Obama administration prior to Election Day that set parameters for interactions between White House officials and designated representatives of the president-elect’s team.
That agreement, which is required by federal law and sets the conditions for access to documents, staff and facilities of federal agencies, no longer applied once Christie was removed from his position. The White House said it received a new Mike Rogers, top, a holdover from the transition team assembled by Gov. Chris Christie, left the team Tuesday.