President-elect Donald Trump’s transition process has been stalled by abrupt firings and infighting on the team tasked with selecting nominees for his administration posts, according to a Wednesday New York Times report.
The overhaul got underway on Friday when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was dismissed as head of the transition team and replaced by Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, then forced out former Michigan representative Mike Rogers and lobbyist Matthew Freedman. One transition team official told the Times that Kushner was systematically firing anyone with ties to Christie, who sent his father Charles to jail during his tenure as a federal prosecutor.
Rebekah Mercer, a major donor to Trump’s presidential campaign and member of his executive transition team, told Republican operatives that she was having difficulty finding people interested in rank-and-file administration posts, the Times reported.
The President-elect sent a tweet insisting that everything was going smoothly late Tuesday night.
“Very organized process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions,” Trump wrote. “I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!”
Very organized process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions. I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2016
Yet the team’s lack of preparation extends to its outreach to foreign leaders and key federal agencies.
The Times reported that Trump took his first conversations with foreign leaders without reviewing official State Department briefing materials, and that he broke from diplomatic practice by delaying conversations with close U.S. allies. Trump’s first call was with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, followed by Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu. British Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t get through to Trump until almost a day later, according to the Times.
Within the Obama administration, teams that have prepared briefing materials for their incoming counterparts are waiting for names to be finalized. As of Tuesday, officials at both the Pentagon and State Department said they have heard nothing from Trump’s transition team.
Many of the names that the team has been floated for some of the most high-level positions in government have raised concerns. Trump’s newly-named chief strategist, Steve Bannon, helped turn Breitbart News into a platform for the white nationalist alt-right. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a possible choice for attorney general, was once turned down for a federal judgeship after several U.S. attorneys testified that he made racist comments in court. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani’s extensive business ties to Qatar and Venezuela complicate reports that he could be chosen as secretary of state.
According to Giuliani, this internal turmoil is a normal part of the process.
“Transitions always have glitches. This is an enormously complex process,” he told the Times.