Donald Trump’s transition into the White House
WASHINGTON– In the wake of Donald Trump’s stunning victory, the president-elect faces a new challenge: Melding his campaign team with a Trump transition effort that’s been operating independently from the campaign.
Neither Trump nor his family members played a hands-on role in the nitty-gritty details of transition planning in the run up to Election Day, multiple sources told CNN.
Trump wanted to focus on the task at hand — winning the election — and didn’t want to jinx himself.
But sources on the transition team say they are fully prepared to hit the ground running. Last week, 22 department heads submitted their transition plans to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for approval.
Each of these departments has a “landing team” set to parachute into government agencies, get the lay of the land, begin the transition process and get Trump’s 100-day plan rolling.
That transition plan was delivered to Trump Tower Tuesday. In particular, aides have focused on what Trump can do unilaterally, such as rolling back regulations.
One of Trump’s key challenges in the coming weeks will be building his cabinet. On the transition team, department heads submitted lists of three names for cabinet positions, taking into account Trump’s public statements about who he would like to see in his administration.
Department heads submitted a list of three names for top cabinet positions. Given Trump’s limited role in transition planning, sources caution that these potential picks are not set in stone. Trump could veto some or choose to add others to the list.
The transition team also expects they will see a surge in interest from people who want to serve in a Trump administration now that he is the president-elect.
Sources familiar with the Trump campaigns plans for the Defense Department and national security posts said that they are loyal to supporters that “took a lot of crap” when they were seen to be part of his team and still they stayed.
National security sources also said that former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and Sessions, the first senator to endorse Trump at a time when few would even talk about him, will have a lot of say in how they serve in his new administration.
Sources also said that House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, could be in line to serve as Homeland Security Secretary and that former Rep. Mike Rogers, a CNN contributor, could serve a top intelligence role in the Trump White House.
President Barack Obama’s Defense Secretary, Ash Carter, meanwhile sent a memo to Defense workers Wednesday, saying, “I am committed to overseeing the orderly transition to the next commander in chief. I know I can count on you to execute all your duties with the excellence our citizens know they can expect.”
As for the lists of potential appointees — each of those people has been vetted by the transition team, a process that has been overseen by William Hagerty (who also worked on Mitt Romney’s transition).
As part of that vetting, appointees were judged based on a loyalty test, a source told CNN. That included scouring potential appointees’ social media accounts. Some people were weeded out for having been publicly critical of Trump in the past.
Roughly 80 people have been working full-time, five days a week on the Trump transition — a much smaller staff than Romney had dedicated to this effort in 2012. But they’ve also been consulting about 200 content experts — people who have served in previous administrations, who are working in states or are specific subject-matter experts.
This isn’t a transition team that’s been solely consulting full-fledged Trump loyalists. They’ve tapped former George W. Bush officials and former Romney people. Sessions has helped bring in advisers from the Hill, while Christie has brought in other governors to offer their expertise.
Trump advisers will gather for a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan mid-Wednesday morning and start hashing out what comes next, Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer said, though he said the meeting was not in regard to the transition.