Obama gives up prom­ise of smooth trans­fer to Trump

First lady, of­fi­cial spokesman sow seeds of bit­ter­ness

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVE BOYER

Pres­i­dent Obama is dish­ing out a much rock­ier trans­fer of power to Don­ald Trump than he re­ceived from his pre­de­ces­sor eight years ago, from ac­cus­ing the pres­i­dent-elect of be­ing aided by Rus­sian hack­ers to first lady Michelle Obama’s com­plaint that the na­tion has lost hope.

De­spite pledg­ing a “smooth and ef­fi­cient” tran­si­tion on the day af­ter Mr. Trump’s vic­tory, Mr. Obama has presided over an in­creas­ingly ac­ri­mo­nious war of words be­tween the White House and the pres­i­dent-elect’s team.

The awk­ward trans­fer of power stands in stark con­trast to the co­op­er­a­tive at­mos­phere fos­tered by Repub­li­can Ge­orge W. Bush’s White House in 2008, when Mr. Obama was pre­par­ing to take of­fice. Obama ad­vis­ers still talk about the ex­am­ple of unity.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s bit­ter­ness and dis­ap­point­ment over Hil­lary Clin­ton’s loss erupted into the open last week as the pres­i­dent’s spokesman, Josh Earnest, ac­cused Mr. Trump for four con­sec­u­tive days of en­cour­ag­ing Rus­sia’s sus­pected med­dling in the elec­tion and ig­nor­ing the ram­i­fi­ca­tions.

“Earnest seems to want to dele­git­imize the elec­tion,” said Repub­li­can strate­gist John Fee­hery. “It’s very dan­ger­ous and seem­ingly counter to the wishes of the pres­i­dent.”

For­mer Obama ad­viser David Ax­el­rod went fur­ther, say­ing it was “highly un­likely” that the White House press sec­re­tary would take a week’s worth of ver­bal shots at Mr. Trump with­out the pres­i­dent’s ap­proval.

Mr. Fee­hery said the tran­si­tion is “more like the Clin­ton-Bush” trans­fer in 2001, when some Clin­ton of­fi­cials, an­gry at the elec­tion out­come and the U.S. Supreme Court de­ci­sion end­ing a re­count in Florida, were ac­cused of mis­chief, in­clud­ing re­mov­ing the “W” keys from com­puter key­boards in the White House.

Jim McGrath, a close as­so­ciate of the Bush fam­ily, tweeted that Mr. Bush’s last White House press sec­re­tary didn’t dish out such harsh treat­ment of Pres­i­den­t­elect Obama.

“Re­mem­ber when @DanaPerino trashed Barack Obama from WH podium af­ter Ge­orge W. Bush pledged full co­op­er­a­tion w the tran­si­tion? Me nei­ther,” he tweeted.

At his year-end press con­fer­ence on Fri­day, Mr. Obama said Mr. Trump should ac­cept the find­ings of the CIA and FBI that Rus­sia had aided the Repub­li­can’s cam­paign by hack­ing and pub­li­ciz­ing Demo­cratic of­fi­cials’ emails.

“My hope is that the pres­i­dent-elect is go­ing to sim­i­larly be con­cerned with mak­ing sure we don’t have po­ten­tial for­eign in­flu­ence in our elec­tion process,” Mr. Obama said.

Com­pound­ing the ris­ing ten­sions, Mrs. Obama said of Mr. Trump’s vic­tory, “We’re feel­ing what not hav­ing hope feels like.”

In an in­ter­view with Oprah Win­frey that aired Fri­day, Mrs. Obama said of her hus­band’s de­par­ture that Amer­i­cans “will come to ap­pre­ci­ate hav­ing a grown-up in the White House.”

“What do you give your kids if you can’t give them hope?” she said. “What do we do if we don’t have hope, Oprah?”

Her com­ments prompted con­ser­va­tive Los An­ge­les ra­dio host Larry El­der to re­spond on Twit­ter, “Imag­ine the outcry had [first lady] Laura Bush said, as Michelle Obama did, about the new pres­i­dent, ‘Now we’re feel­ing what not hav­ing hope feels like.’”

‘It feels good to have him here’

The first lady’s re­marks may have touched a nerve with Mr. Trump, who men­tioned it to thou­sands of sup­port­ers Satur­day at a “thank you” rally in Mo­bile, Alabama.

“Michelle Obama said yes­ter­day that there’s no hope,” Mr. Trump said as the crowd booed loudly. “But I as­sume she was talk­ing about the past, not the fu­ture, be­cause I’m telling you, we have tremen­dous hope. We are go­ing to be so suc­cess­ful as a coun­try again.”

Then the pres­i­dent-elect of­fered an olive branch of sorts.

“I ac­tu­ally think she made that state­ment not mean­ing it the way it came out,” he said of Mrs. Obama. “I re­ally do. Be­cause I met with Pres­i­dent Obama and Michelle Obama in the White House, my wife was there. She could not have been nicer. I hon­estly be­lieve she meant that state­ment in a dif­fer­ent way than it came out be­cause I be­lieve there is tremen­dous hope, and be­yond hope we have such po­ten­tial.”

Mr. Trump’s team has con­trib­uted to ris­ing ten­sions with some of its ac­tions since the elec­tion, in­clud­ing ea­ger vows to un­ravel a broad range of Obama poli­cies, in­clud­ing Oba­macare, a global cli­mate change agree­ment and the Iran nu­clear ac­cord.

While all elec­tions have con­se­quences, the promised re­ver­sal of much of Mr. Obama’s agenda is caus­ing deep dis­ap­point­ment and frus­tra­tion among loy­al­ists in the de­part­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Mr. Obama en­coun­tered huge chal­lenges as he took over for Mr. Bush in 2009, in­clud­ing a cra­ter­ing econ­omy and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But those hur­dles in­volved ques­tions of pol­icy, not what some view now as a de­lib­er­ate ef­fort to un­der­mine the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Mr. Obama pro­fessed Fri­day that the tran­si­tion to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is pro­ceed­ing nicely while ac­knowl­edg­ing “there’s still feel­ings that are raw out there.”

“I think they would be the first to ac­knowl­edge that we have done ev­ery­thing we can to make sure that they are suc­cess­ful as I promised,” the pres­i­dent said of the Trump team. “It’s just been a few days since I last talked to the pres­i­dent-elect about a whole range of tran­si­tion is­sues. That co­op­er­a­tion is go­ing to con­tinue.”

He in­sisted that “there hasn’t been a lot of squab­bling” over Rus­sia’s sus­pected hack­ing.

“What we’ve sim­ply said is the facts, which are that, based on uni­form in­tel­li­gence as­sess­ments, the Rus­sians were re­spon­si­ble for hack­ing the DNC, and that, as a con­se­quence, it is im­por­tant for us to re­view all el­e­ments of that and make sure that we are pre­vent­ing that kind of interference through cy­ber­at­tacks in the fu­ture,” Mr. Obama said. “That should be a bi­par­ti­san is­sue; that shouldn’t be a par­ti­san is­sue.”

But Mr. Obama seems to be tak­ing a will­fully rosy view of the tran­si­tion, judg­ing from some of the frus­tra­tion ex­pressed by Trump ad­vis­ers such as for­mer cam­paign man­ager Kellyanne Con­way. She said Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clin­ton should call a truce with the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion if they “ac­tu­ally love the coun­try enough.”

“If you want to shut this down and you ac­tu­ally love the coun­try enough to have the peace­ful tran­si­tion in our great democ­racy be­tween the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, there are a cou­ple peo­ple in pretty prom­i­nent po­si­tions. One is named Obama, one is named Hil­lary Clin­ton, since his peo­ple are try­ing to fight over her elec­tion still, they could shut this down,” Ms. Con­way told Fox News.

As if rec­og­niz­ing that the rocky tran­si­tion needed a hap­pier face, Mr. Obama’s chief of staff hosted Mr. Trump’s in­com­ing chief of staff, Reince Priebus, at the White House on Fri­day in a pub­lic show of co­op­er­a­tion.

Mr. Priebus smiled for cam­eras and told Obama Chief of Staff De­nis McDonough, “Thanks for hav­ing me. It’s great.”

When jour­nal­ists asked Mr. Priebus how it felt to be in the White House, Mr. McDonough cut in and replied, “It feels good to have him here.”

A White House of­fi­cial speak­ing on back­ground said the lunch meet­ing was “part of the pres­i­dent’s di­rec­tive for a smooth tran­si­tion to the next ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Also at­tend­ing the meet­ing were Andy Card, for­mer chief of staff to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush; Rahm Emanuel, Bill Da­ley and Pete Rouse, who served as Mr. Obama’s top ad­vis­ers; Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Jack Lew; for­mer Clin­ton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, whose emails were al­legedly hacked by the Rus­sians; and top aides to for­mer Pres­i­dents Ge­orge H.W. Bush, Ron­ald Rea­gan and Jimmy Carter.

The tran­si­tion ten­sions could di­min­ish for the next cou­ple of weeks. Mr. Obama and his fam­ily de­parted Wash­ing­ton late Fri­day for their an­nual Christ­mas va­ca­tion in Hawaii and won’t re­turn to the White House un­til af­ter New Year’s Day.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Obama in­vited Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump to the Oval Of­fice af­ter promis­ing a “smooth and ef­fi­cient” trans­fer of power, but the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s bit­ter­ness and dis­ap­point­ment over Hil­lary Clin­ton’s elec­tion loss erupted into the open last week.

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