Trump dispatches his ‘secret weapon’
Pence sent to Capitol to calm nerves; Flynn is offered key post
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.”