Trump drama rolls on: Dis­putes, false­hoods hit tran­si­tion

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Julie Pace and Catherine Lucey

NEW YORK >> The drama, dis­putes and false­hoods that per­me­ated Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign are now roil­ing his tran­si­tion to the White House, forc­ing aides to defend his base­less as­ser­tions of il­le­gal vot­ing and send­ing in­ter­nal fights spilling into pub­lic.

On Mon­day, a re­count ef­fort, led by Green Party can­di­date Jill Stein and joined by Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign also marched on in three states, based partly on the Stein cam­paign’s un­sub­stan­ti­ated as­ser­tion that cy­ber­hack­ing could have in­ter­fered with elec­tronic vot­ing ma­chines. Wis­con­sin of­fi­cials ap­proved plans to be­gin a re­count as early as Thurs­day. Stein also asked for a re­count in Penn­syl­va­nia and was ex­pected to do the same in Michi­gan, where of­fi­cials cer­ti­fied Trump’s vic­tory Mon­day.

Trump has an­grily de­nounced the re­counts and now claims with­out ev­i­dence that he, not Clin­ton, would have won the pop­u­lar vote if it hadn’t been for “mil­lions of peo­ple who voted il­le­gally.” On Twit­ter, he sin­gled out Vir­ginia, Cal­i­for­nia and New Hamp­shire.

There has been no in­di­ca­tion of wide­spread elec­tion tam­per­ing or voter fraud in those states or any oth­ers, and Trump aides strug­gled Mon­day to back up their boss’ claim.

Spokesman Ja­son Miller said il­le­gal vot­ing was “an is­sue of con­cern.” But the only ev­i­dence he raised was a 2014 news report and a study on vot­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties con­ducted be­fore the 2016 elec­tion.

Trump met Mon­day with candidates for top Cab­i­net posts, in­clud­ing retired Gen. David Pe­traeus, a new con­tender for sec­re­tary of state. Trump is to meet Tues­day with Ten­nessee Sen. Bob Corker, who is also being con­sid­ered more se­ri­ously for the diplo­matic post, and Mitt Rom­ney, who has be­come a sym­bol of the in­ter­nal di­vi­sions ag­i­tat­ing the tran­si­tion team.

Pe­traeus said he spent about an hour with Trump, and he praised the pres­i­dent-elect for show­ing a “great grasp of a va­ri­ety of the chal­lenges that are out there.”

“Very good con­ver­sa­tion and we’ll see where it goes from here,” he said. A for­mer CIA chief, Pe­traeus pleaded guilty last year to a mis­de­meanor charge of mis­han­dling clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ing to doc­u­ments he had pro­vided to his bi­og­ra­pher, with whom he was hav­ing an af­fair.

Vice Pres­i­dent-elect Mike Pence, who is head­ing the tran­si­tion ef­fort, teased “a num­ber of very im­por­tant an­nounce­ments to­mor­row” as he ex­ited Trump Tower Mon­day night.

Pence is said to be among those back­ing Rom­ney for State. Rom­ney was fiercely crit­i­cal of Trump through­out the cam­paign but is in­ter­ested in the Cab­i­net po­si­tion, and they dis­cussed it dur­ing a lengthy meet­ing ear­lier this month.

Other top Trump al­lies, notably cam­paign man­ager Kellyanne Con­way, have launched a highly un­usual pub­lic cam­paign to warn the pres­i­dent-elect that nom­i­nat­ing Rom­ney would be seen as a be­trayal by his sup­port­ers. Con­way’s com­ments stirred spec­u­la­tion that she is seek­ing to ei­ther force Trump’s hand or give him cover for ul­ti­mately pass­ing over Rom­ney.

Three peo­ple close to the tran­si­tion team said Trump had been aware that Con­way planned to voice her opin­ion, both on Twit­ter and in tele­vi­sion in­ter­views. They dis­puted re­ports that Trump was fu­ri­ous at her and sug­gested his de­ci­sion to con­sider ad­di­tional candidates in­stead high­lighted her in­flu­ence.

Con­way served as Trump’s third cam­paign man­ager and largely suc­ceeded in nav­i­gat­ing the mine­field of ri­val­ries that en­snared other of­fi­cials. Trump is said to have of­fered her a choice of White House jobs — ei­ther press sec­re­tary or com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor. But peo­ple with knowl­edge of Con­way’s plans say she is more in­ter­ested in serv­ing as an out­side po­lit­i­cal ad­viser, akin to the role Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s cam­paign man­ager David Plouffe played fol­low­ing the 2008 elec­tion.

The wran­gling over the State De­part­ment post ap­pears to have slowed the an­nounce­ments of other top jobs. Retired Gen. James Mat­tis, who im­pressed Trump dur­ing a preThanks­giv­ing meet­ing, was at the top of the list for De­fense sec­re­tary, but a fi­nal de­ci­sion had not been made.

Trump was also con­sid­er­ing for­mer New York City Mayor Rudy Gi­u­liani for Home­land Se­cu­rity sec­re­tary, ac­cord­ing to those close to the tran­si­tion process. Gi­u­liani was ini­tially the front-run­ner for State and is still in the mix. But ques­tions about his over­seas busi­ness deal­ings, as well as the mayor’s pub­lic campaigning for the job, have given Trump pause.

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