Amid signs of trou­ble, Trump, Pence hud­dle

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OBITUARIES - By Ken Thomas and Julie Pace

Hid­den from the pub­lic in his Man­hat­tan high-rise, Don­ald Trump hud­dled Tues­day with Vice Pres­i­dent-elect Mike Pence as he tried to fill out key posts in his Cab­i­net. But the tran­si­tion team ap­peared to be strain­ing un­der the enor­mous chal­lenge of set­ting up a new ad­min­is­tra­tion.

For­mer Rep. Mike Rogers, a re­spected Repub­li­can voice on na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues, an­nounced he was quit­ting the tran­si­tion ef­fort. And an ap­par­ent cler­i­cal over­sight ef­fec­tively halted the Trump team’s abil­ity to co­or­di­nate with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s White House.

With Trump out of sight for sev­eral days, his al­lies en­gaged in an un­usual round of pub­lic spec­u­la­tion about his po­ten­tial ap­point­ments — in­clud­ing their own fu­tures — as the pres­i­dent-elect and his aides weighed the na­tion’s top na­tional se­cu­rity posts.

For­mer New York Mayor Rudy Gi­u­liani seemed to be an­gling for sec­re­tary of state. But Trump’s tran­si­tion team was re­view­ing Gi­u­liani’s paid con­sult­ing work for for­eign gov­ern­ments, which could de­lay a nom­i­na­tion or bump Gi­u­liani to a dif­fer­ent po­si­tion, ac­cord­ing to a per­son briefed on the mat­ter but not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly about it.

Gi­u­liani founded his own firm, Gi­u­liani Part­ners, in 2001, and helped busi­nesses on be­half of for­eign gov­ern­ments, in­clud­ing Qatar, Saudi Ara­bia and Venezuela. He also ad­vised Tran­sCanada, which sought to build the con­tro­ver­sial Key­stone XL pipe­line, and helped the maker of the painkiller drug Oxy-Con­tin set­tle a dis­pute with the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

A Trump of­fi­cial said John Bolton, a for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, re­mained in con­tention for sec­re­tary of state. Bolton has years of for­eign pol­icy ex­pe­ri­ence, but he has raised eye­brows with some of his hawk­ish stances, in­clud­ing a 2015 New York Times op-ed in which he ad­vo­cated bomb­ing Iran to halt the coun­try’s nu­clear pro­gram.

Busi­ness­man Carl Ic­ahn dis­closed on Twit­ter, based on con­ver­sa­tions with the pres­i­dent-elect, that Trump was con­sid­er­ing Steve Mnuchin, a for­mer Gold­man Sachs banker, and Wil­bur Ross, a bil­lion­aire in­vestor, to lead the Trea­sury and Com­merce de­part­ments.

Pence, now run­ning the tran­si­tion team, ig­nored ques­tions from re­porters both as he en­tered Trump Tower, a thick binder tucked un­der his arm, and as he left six hours later. He took over from New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie, who spent months run­ning tran­si­tion op­er­a­tions be­fore his de­mo­tion last week.

The switch has slowed Trump’s abil­ity to co­or­di­nate with the White House. Pence has yet to sign a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing fa­cil­i­tat­ing in­ter­ac­tions be­tween his team and Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials. Christie had signed the doc­u­ment, but Pence’s pro­mo­tion makes it in­valid.

A per­son fa­mil­iar with the tran­si­tion ef­forts said dif­fer­ent fac­tions in Trump’s team “are fight­ing for power.”

In­deed, Trump ef­fec­tively cre­ated two power cen­ters in his White House even be­fore tak­ing of­fice. He named Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Reince Priebus as his chief of staff and flame-throwing me­dia mogul Steve Ban­non as his chief strate­gist, but called them “equal part­ners.” Trump’s sonin-law Jared Kush­ner is also deeply in­volved in the tran­si­tion, cre­at­ing an­other layer of un­cer­tainty about who is mak­ing de­ci­sions.

“That or­ga­ni­za­tion right now is not de­signed to work,” ac­cord­ing to the per­son close to the ef­forts, who like oth­ers in­volved in the tran­si­tion, in­sisted on anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to pub­licly dis­cuss the in­ter­nal process.

For­mer GOP na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cial Eliot Cohen blasted Trump’s team on Twit­ter, call­ing them “an­gry, ar­ro­gant.” Cohen op­posed Trump dur­ing the cam­paign, but in re­cent days, he said those who feel duty-bound to work in a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion should do so. But he said Tues­day that after an ex­change with Trump’s team, he had “changed my rec­om­men­da­tion.”

CAROLYN KASTER — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vice Pres­i­dent-elect Mike Pence waves as he ar­rives at Trump Tower on Tues­day in New York.

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