Trump team strikes back

He tweets tran­si­tion ‘is go­ing so smoothly’

Baltimore Sun - - TRUMP TRANSITION - By Noah Bier­man and Lisa Mas­caro The Wash­ing­ton Bureau’s W. J. Hen­ni­gan and The Wash­ing­ton Post contributed.

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.

CLIFF OWEN/AP

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