Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Trump Says Transition’s Going ‘Smoothly,’ Disputing Disarray Reports

President-elect Donald J. Trump, shown here the night of the election, dismissed reports of infighting among his transition team on Wednesday. CreditDamon Winter/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump denied Wednesday that his transition was in disarray, assailing news media reports about firings and infighting and insisting in an early-morning Twitter burst that everything was going “so smoothly.”
But legal and procedural delays by Mr. Trump’s transition team continued on Wednesday, all but freezing the traditional handoff of critical information from the current administration more than a week after Mr. Trump won the presidential election.
The president-elect criticized a report in The New York Times about his early telephone contacts with foreign leaders. In a post on Twitter, he said he had made and received “calls from many foreign leaders despite what the failing @nytimes said. Russia, U.K., China, Saudi Arabia, Japan.”
The Times reported that Mr. Trump had taken calls from the leaders of Egypt, Israel, Russia and Britain, but said they had been conducted haphazardly and without State Department briefings that traditionally guide conversations with foreign leaders.
Of the transition effort, Mr. Trump wrote: “It is going so smoothly.”
Jason Miller, a spokesman for Mr. Trump, told reporters Wednesday afternoon that the effort to fill staff positions in the new administration was “very calm, it’s very structured.” He said that reports of chaos were being spread by disgruntled former members of the transition or people bitter about the election results.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who was put in charge of the transition last Friday, has counseled Mr. Trump not to feel pressured to make announcements rashly, according to people familiar with the deliberations inside Trump Tower in Manhattan. Mr. Miller said Mr. Trump was taking a “a very structured, methodical approach” to staffing.
Mr. Miller also rejected as “completely inaccurate” reports that Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, had been purging the transition team of people allied with Governor Chris Christie, of New Jersey, who was removed last week as head of the transition effort. “Couldn’t be further from the truth,” Mr. Miller said.

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But Mr. Miller confirmed that Mr. Pence had directed that the transition should not include lobbyists, confirming reports that some existing members of the team had been asked to leave.
Mr. Miller said that officials were “making good on President-elect Trump’s promise that we’re not going to have any lobbyists involved with the transition efforts. When we talk about draining the swamp, this is one of the first steps. And so, the bottom line is, we’re going to get the transition team where we need it to be.”
White House aides said Obama administration officials at agencies across the government remained legally barred from delivering the normal guidance and briefings to Mr. Trump’s transition team because essential documents had still not been completed.
A wholesale shake-up of Mr. Trump’s team — replacing Gov. Christie and the transition staff he had assembled — has forced Mr. Pence to sign a new memorandum of understanding, a legally required document. White House officials said Mr. Pence delivered that document to them on Tuesday.
But by Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump’s team still had not delivered a series of required, supporting documents, including certifications that each transition member would abide by a code of conduct and would not divulge sensitive information about the inner workings of the government.
“The next step is for the president-elect’s transition team to provide us with the names of the individuals they have authorized to represent their transition effort across the government,” said Brandi Hoffine, a spokeswoman for the White House. “Once we have received those names and related materials, those individuals will be able to receive the briefing materials we have prepared and begin to communicate with their Obama administration agency counterparts.”
Mr. Trump has announced his chief of staff and his chief strategist, but the transition process has been marred by a purge of members of the transition team with connections to Mr. Christie and his original staff.

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Mr. Trump, who has been ensconced at Trump Tower, at Fifth Avenue and 56th Street, for days as he deliberates, ditched the news media waiting in the building’s lobby Tuesday night and made his way to the 21 Club on West 52nd Street, where he and his family had dinner for about two hours.
People familiar with Mr. Trump’s deliberations about top positions in his administration said that the president-elect was focused on rewarding his most loyal campaign allies. Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, is the leading candidate to become secretary of state. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama is in line to be secretary of defense or attorney general.
Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to Mr. Trump, separately told reporters on Wednesday that it appeared unlikely that the president-elect would be making any personnel announcements on Wednesday.
“I’m not sure it’ll be today. But it will be soon,” she said. “It’s a lot to digest in putting together a federal government.”
But as Mr. Trump settles on names for key positions at the top of the government, the clock is ticking. Teams of Obama administration officials have prepared detailed briefing packets to help inform their soon-to-be successors as they prepare to take control of the agencies on Jan. 20, 2017.
Those teams have been told to remain on standby until Mr. Trump’s transition operation has completed the legally required documents.
In the flag-bedecked lobby of the State Department, next to the main reception desk, there is a sign that says “Transition.” It has been quiet. The State Department confirms that, like the Pentagon and the Justice Department, it has not heard from anyone on President-elect Trump’s team, a week after the election.
“We have not been contacted,” said John Kirby, the State Department press secretary.

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