Trump shakes up tran­si­tion team, el­e­vates Pence’s role

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Julie Pace and Jonathan Lemire

WASHINGTON >> Pres­i­den­t­elect Donald Trump shook up his tran­si­tion team Fri­day as he plunged into the work of set­ting up his ad­min­is­tra­tion, el­e­vat­ing Vice Pres­i­dent-elect Mike Pence to head the op­er­a­tions. The move, one of the first key de­ci­sions as Trump piv­ots from cam­paign­ing to gov­ern­ing, amounted to a de­mo­tion for New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie, who had been run­ning the Repub­li­can’s tran­si­tion plan­ning for months.

On the heels of Trump’s up­set vic­tory this week, his team has be­gun to em­bark upon build­ing a gov­ern­ment, an enor­mous un­der­tak­ing that likely re­quires Trump to al­ter his hand­son man­age­ment style and con­sider go­ing out­side his small, in­su­lar group of loy­al­ists. He has been scram­bling to iden­tify peo­ple for top White House jobs and Cabi­net posts, a her­culean task that must be well in hand by the time Trump is in­au­gu­rated on Jan. 20.

For Trump, who ran on a pledge to “drain the swamp” of Washington in­sid­ers, the team is strik­ingly heavy on those with long po­lit­i­cal re­sumes.

And an­other ap­par­ent con­tra­dic­tion emerged Fri­day as Trump, who re­peat­edly vowed to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act “on day one,” said he would be open to main­tain­ing por­tions of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture leg­isla­tive achieve­ment.

In a state­ment Fri­day, Trump said Pence would “build on the ini­tial work” done by Christie.

“To­gether, we will be­gin the ur­gent task of re­build­ing this na­tion — specif­i­cally jobs, se­cu­rity and op­por­tu­nity,” Trump said.

Christie was a loyal ad­viser to Trump for much of the cam­paign, of­fered a key early en­dorse­ment and came close to be­ing the busi­ness­man’s pick for run­ning mate. But Trump ul­ti­mately went with In­di­ana Gov. Pence, a for­mer con­gress­man with Washington ex­pe­ri­ence and deep ties to con­ser­va­tives.

In a state­ment, Christie said he was “proud to have run the pre-elec­tion phase” of the tran­si­tion team and thanked Trump for the “op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue to help lead.”

Christie will still be in­volved in the tran­si­tion, join­ing a clus­ter of other stead­fast Trump sup­port­ers serv­ing as vice chairs: for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich, re­tired neu­ro­sur­geon Ben Car­son, re­tired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, for­mer New York City Mayor Rudy Gi­u­liani and Alabama Sen. Jeff Ses­sions.

In ad­di­tion, three of Trump’s adult chil­dren — Don. Jr., Eric and Ivanka — are on the tran­si­tion ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, along with Jared Kush­ner, Ivanka’s hus­band. Kush­ner played a sig­nif­i­cant role in Trump’s cam­paign and was spotted at the White House Thurs­day meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s chief of staff.

The chil­dren’s in­clu­sion raises ques­tions about the role the Trump fam­ily will play in the White House — as well as Trump’s abil­ity to sever ties be­tween the ad­min­is­tra­tion and sprawl­ing fam­ily busi­ness — af­ter the celebrity busi­ness­man re­peat­edly said dur­ing the cam­paign that his grown chil­dren would not fol­low him to Washington and in­stead run the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Trump’s re­marks about the Af­ford­able Care Act also raised some eye­brows Fri­day. He told The Wall Street Jour­nal in an in­ter­view that, af­ter speak­ing with Obama at the White House the day before, he was con­sid­er­ing keep­ing the clause that al­lows chil­dren to stay on their par­ents’ in­sur­ance poli­cies. In a sep­a­rate in­ter­view with CBS’ “60 Min­utes,” he said, “it hap­pens to be one of the strong­est as­sets.”

He has pre­vi­ously said he may keep the pro­hi­bi­tion against in­sur­ers deny­ing cov­er­age be­cause of pa­tients’ ex­ist­ing con­di­tions.

He also said that he wants “a coun­try that loves each other” but said he did not re­gret his in­cen­di­ary rhetoric dur­ing the cam­paign.

“No. I won,” Trump told the news­pa­per.

By ap­point­ing Pence, Trump be­came the first in­com­ing pres­i­dent since at least Jimmy Carter to use his vice pres­i­dent-elect to run his tran­si­tion team.

Trump and Christie grew apart through the last stretch of the cam­paign. The gover­nor be­came in­creas­ingly frus­trated that Trump wouldn’t lis­ten to his ad­vice, par­tic­u­larly over the re­sponse to the re­lease of a video in which the busi­ness­man is heard mak­ing preda­tory com­ments about women.

Christie is also fac­ing calls for im­peach­ment in New Jer­sey fol­low­ing the con­vic­tion of two for­mer aides in the Ge­orge Washington Bridge lane-clos­ing trial. Christie has de­nied any knowl­edge of the lane clo­sures un­til weeks or months af­ter they oc­curred in Septem­ber 2013.

The gover­nor was notably ab­sent from the steady stream of ad­vis­ers en­ter­ing Trump’s epony­mous sky­scraper in New York for meet­ings Fri­day. Among the first de­ci­sions fac­ing the pres­i­dent-elect is whom to choose as chief of staff, a key post that will set the tone for Trump’s White House and be a key con­duit to Capi­tol Hill and Cabi­net agen­cies.

Trump is said to be con­sid­er­ing Steve Ban­non, his cam­paign chair­man and a con­ser­va­tive me­dia ex­ec­u­tive, and Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Reince Priebus for the role. Nei­ther has sig­nif­i­cant pol­icy ex­pe­ri­ence, though Priebus is well-liked in Washington and has ties with key law­mak­ers.

Kellyanne Con­way, Trump’s cam­paign man­ager, is also said to be in the mix for a se­nior job. Con­way is a vet­eran Repub­li­can poll­ster who formed a strong rap­port with the can­di­date af­ter tak­ing the helm of his cam­paign in the gen­eral elec­tion.

Gi­u­liani, who emerged as Trump’s fre­quent travel part­ner and close aide dur­ing the cam­paign’s stretch run, is on the short list for sev­eral po­si­tions, in­clud­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral.

“Donald has been my friend for 28 years,” Gi­u­liani said Fri­day af­ter leav­ing a meet­ing at Trump Tower. “I can see al­ready how he is go­ing to be a great pres­i­dent and I am glad I can play a small role.”

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vice Pres­i­dent-elect Mike Pence poses for pho­tos Fri­day af­ter speak­ing at a Vet­er­ans Day cer­e­mony at Camp At­ter­bury in Edinburgh, Ind.

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