Trump dis­patches his ‘se­cret weapon’

Pence sent to Capitol to calm nerves; Flynn is of­fered key post

Baltimore Sun - - TRUMP TRANSITION - By Lisa Mas­caro

WASH­ING­TON — Vice Pres­i­dent-elect Mike Pence stood be­fore a room­ful of House Repub­li­cans on Thurs­day and asked how many had his cell­phone num­ber.

Chuck­les of laugh­ter rip­pled through the pri­vate meet­ing in the Capitol base­ment.

“A lot of you do,” Pence said, ac­cord­ing to those in at­ten­dance.

The for­mer con­gress­man is prov­ing an ef­fec­tive en­voy for Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, and his Capitol Hill visit of­fered a pre­view of the cru­cial role many be­lieve the out­go­ing In­di­ana gover­nor will play as li­ai­son be­tween law­mak­ers and the Trump White House.

“He is the se­cret weapon,” said Rep. David Sch­weik­ert, R-Ariz., who was among those fis­cal con­ser­va­tives ini­tially re­luc­tant to sup­port the party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee. “There’s go­ing to be tough mo­ments, and he’s some­one you can pick up the phone and call.”

Dis­patch­ing Pence to the Hill was part of the Trump team’s on­go­ing ef­fort to re­verse the nar­ra­tive of a rocky pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion.

Late Thurs­day, a se­nior Trump of­fi­cial said Trump of­fered re­tired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn the job of na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported.

Flynn, who served as the di­rec­tor of the De­fense In­tel­li­gence Agency, has ad­vised Trump on na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues for months.

The of­fi­cial wouldn’t say whether Flynn had ac­cepted the job. The of­fi­cial was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the of­fer pub­licly and in­sisted on anonymity.

High- pro­file vis­i­tors, many eye­ing top Cab­i­net posts, have streamed in and out of Trump Tower in New York. They in­cluded Alabama Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, Wall Street ex­ec­u­tive Steven Mnuchin, for­mer New York Mayor Rudy Gi­u­liani and sev­eral of Trump’s chil­dren. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Ha­ley was thought to have vis­ited but was not ob­served by re­porters en­ter­ing the build­ing.

Also re­port­edly ready to meet with the pres­i­den­t­elect was for­mer GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Mitt Rom­ney, who had called Trump a “phony” and a “fraud” dur­ing the cam­paign. Ac­cord­ing to nu­mer­ous me­dia re­ports, the pair planned to speak over the week­end.

On Thurs­day in New York, Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe had a face-to­face meet­ing with Trump that raised some eye­brows be­cause it went be­yond the short con­grat­u­la­tory phone call that usu­ally oc­curs be­tween a pres­i­dent-elect and a world leader. Abe de­scribed the meet­ing as “re­ally cor­dial” and said he was con­vinced that he was able to es­tab­lish a re­la­tion­ship of trust, The AP re­ported.

Trump advisers down­played the ses­sion as a pri­vate, in­for­mal meet­ing.

Dur­ing a newly launched daily con­fer­ence call to up­date the news me­dia on the tran­si­tion, Trump spokesman Ja­son Miller said that by next week the team will have an­nounced a ros­ter of aides whow­ill be­gin con­tact- Vice pres­i­dent-elect Mike Pence, left, meets Thurs­day with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. ing var­i­ous fed­eral agen­cies to dis­cuss tran­si­tion mat­ters. De­lays in mak­ing those con­tacts have caused alarm among some.

“I’m hear­ing from all these agen­cies that they’re be­gin­ning to panic — that they’ve heard from no one on the tran­si­tion team,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. “So I think it’s a prob­lem.”

Miller said the first “land­ing team” will fo­cus on na­tional se­cu­rity, reach­ing out to of­fi­cials from the Pen­tagon, the State Depart­ment and other se­cu­rity agen­cies. Of­fi­cials said the Pen­tagon team could ar­rive as early as Fri­day.

An eco­nomic team is promised by Tues­day and a do­mes­tic team by Wed­nes­day, Miller said.

The tran­si­tion team has been bat­tling the per­cep­tion of dis­or­ga­ni­za­tion and in­fight­ing, par­tic­u­larly af­ter the de­par­ture ear­lier this week of key advisers.

The shake-up led to spec­u­la­tion about the out­size in­flu­ence of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner, whom some blamed for push­ing out for­mer tran­si­tion chair­man Chris Christie and his al­lies.

Send­ing Pence to Capitol Hill served as a re­minder of one the rea­sons Trump chose the even-tem­pered con­ser­va­tive for his team.

Even doubters of the pres­i­dent-elect came away feel­ing more at ease with Pence’s pres­ence.

“He made it clear that he and the pres­i­dent-elect want to work with all of us, no mat­ter what po­si­tion we took dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign,” said Rep. Car­los Curbelo, R-Fla., an outspoken op­po­nent of Trump. “I’m very en­cour­aged. He’s go­ing to be very en­gaged — per­haps in re­cent his­tory the vice pres­i­dent that will most be en­gaged in the Congress.”

JIM WAT­SON/GETTY-AFP

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