Trump’s transition team roiled by tensions, departures

President-elect meets to consider roles amid ‘purge’ of Chris Christie associates

Donald Trump’s ascent to power is involving having to navigate internal tensions as the US president-elect met to consider top cabinet appointees amid departures from his transition team and warnings about his foreign policy.

The next president met US vice president-elect Mike Pence at his Manhattan skyscraper headquarters on Tuesday to consider senior officials to run his new administration – chief among them former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a favourite to be named his secretary of state, despite his lack of foreign policy experience.

Mr Trump’s long-time tempestuous relationship with Washington’s Republican foreign policy establishment bubbled up as a highly regarded former US congressman with national security experience left the transition team and a long-time neoconservative foreign policy hawk advised others to “stay away” from the president-elect’s team.

Mike Rogers, a former chairman of the House of Representatives' intelligence committee, said that he was "pleased to hand off our work" to a new transition team led by Mr Pence.

‘Stalinesque purge’

His departure came as part of the removal of the closest associates of New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who was replaced as the head of Mr Trump's transition planning by Mr Pence on Friday.

The clear-out of Christie and his allies was described as a “Stalinesque purge” by a source quoted by NBC News.

The work of the team, already behind schedule in setting up Mr Trump’s new administration, has been slowed by the post-election reshuffle.

Mr Christie has became more deeply exposed by a 2013 scandal concerning his officials conspiring to inflict retribution on a Democratic mayor in New Jersey over his refusal to support his re-election.

Mr Trump is reported to have been unhappy, too, at the pace of the work by the transition team – which has 66 days until the inauguration to establish an administration and appoint 4,000 people to run it.

Beyond the infighting, criticism and departures of senior figures, efforts to proceed with the planning of the president-elect’s administration was hampered because Mr Pence had yet to sign the obligatory paperwork that would allow his team to start collaborating with the Obama administration’s officials.

Hours before Mr Rogers’s departure, a long-time neoconservative and former state department official Eliot Cohen – an avowed “Never Trumper” – publicly urged other foreign policy thinkers to “stay away” from Mr Trump’s transition team.

“They’re angry, arrogant, screaming ‘you LOST!’ Will be ugly,” he tweeted.

Tensions

Mr Christie's involvement in the businessman's presidential campaign had stirred Trump camp tensions over his role in prosecuting the father of Jared Kushner, Mr Trump's son-in-law and one of the influential advisers in his campaign, in a case dating back to 2004 when the Republican governor was US attorney for New Jersey.

In an unusual move, the transition team has explored whether to secure top security clearance for Mr Trump’s adult children – Donald Jr, Eric and Ivanka – along with Mr Kushner, who is married to Mr Trump’s daughter, to be able to view classified government information.

No official request had been made on behalf of his children.

While Republican congressional leaders heralded "the dawn of a new, unified Republican government" with the unanimous re-election of Paul Ryan as the House speaker, the party presented far from a united front.

Veteran Republican senator John McCain, of Arizona, warned Mr Trump not to put much faith in statements by Vladimir Putin a day after the Russian leader promised better relations between the United States and Russia.

Speculation

Among the contenders for positions in Mr Trump’s cabinet are Dr Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate who is being considered for the role of health secretary or education secretary.

Alabama senator Jeff Sessions has been linked with the job of attorney general.

One individual linked in media speculation, among others, to the role of energy secretary is former George W Bush administration environmental adviser James Connaughton – the chief executive of a technology company whose parents emigrated from Ireland and whose Longford grandfather fought in the GPO in the 1916 Easter Rising.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent

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