Trump team strikes back
He tweets transition ‘is going so smoothly’
WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump and his top aides pushed back aggressively Wednesday at accounts of a rocky transition, with Trump attacking The New York Times and his staff making efforts to assure the public that accounts of internal turmoil had been greatly exaggerated.
Despite the focus on public relations, there was little indication the team had progressed toward assembling an administration, and questions remained unanswered about the level of influence that Trump’s family would exert.
Rooms set aside for Trump staffers at the Pentagon, for example, remained vacant Wednesday, an indication that Trump’s team had yet to begin the complicated process of getting up to speed on the details of taking over the military and other sectors of government. The State Department had also heard nothing from Trump’s emissaries, even as Trump’s staff released an extensive roster of foreign leaders who had spoken with Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
A stream of visitors, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Silicon Valley financier Peter Vice President Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Mike Pence had lunch at the Naval Observatory, Wednesday. Thiel, Trump’s relatives, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a few members of Congress streamed in and out of Trump Tower in New York, giving little indication of whether they were coming to give advice, apply for administration roles or simply offer congratulations.
Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, whose role in the new administration remains undefined, was one of two top aides to speak with reporters in hopes of changing perceptions.
“You don’t form a federal government overnight, and these are very serious issues, very serious appointments, very serious considerations,” she said.
Conway said reports of firings and disorganization were false.
Yet she offered little clarity about who would be taking roles in the administration, including Trump’s son-in-law, 35-year-old realestate investor Jared Kushner. She said she did not know whether Kushner would be getting security clearance to attend top-secret briefings.
Kushner has drawn attention on many fronts, including multiple reports that he orchestrated the ouster of several transition figures with connections to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who successfully prosecuted Kushner’s father on tax evasion and other charges more than a decade ago.
Jason Miller, Trump’s campaign communications director, tried to answer another set of criticisms, promising that Pence had begun “making good on Presidentelect Trump’s promise that we’re not going to have any lobbyists involved with the transition efforts.”
As Trumpmetwith senior advisers to discuss potential Cabinet candidates, there were further signs that power in his transition effort was consolidating within an ever-smaller group of loyalists generally not aligned with Republican members of the Washington establishment.
Among them is Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a top Trump adviser known for his hardline views on immigration. His former staff director at the Senate Judiciary Committee, Brian Benczkowski, is nowhelping to manage the Justice Department transition for Trump’s team, according to two prominent Republican lawyers with knowledge of the matter.
Despite the lack of apparent progress, Trump received a vote of confidence from an unlikely source: Vice President Joe Biden, who met with Pence at the vice president’s official residence, where they dined with their wives.
“No administration is ready on Day One. We weren’t ready on Day One,” Biden said. “But I’m confident on Day One, everything will be in good hands.”
Trump took out his frustrations over media accounts on The New York Times, angrily tweeting Wednesday morning about the paper’s coverage of his transition.
“The failing @nytimes story is so totally wrong on transition,” he wrote in one of several tweets criticizing the paper this week. “It is going so smoothly. Also, I have spoken to many foreign leaders.”
The paper did not report that Trump had failed to speak with foreign leaders.
Even some Republicans conceded they had concerns about the transition, however. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking leader of the Senate, said he had received no direct information from the transition team, according to the Texas Tribune.
“Obviously, this is my impression that the Trump team was not completely prepared for the transition,” he said.