Trump Transition Starts to Take Shape With Giuliani in Mix
Donald Trump headed to Washington on Thursday as president-elect, a step toward taking the reins of a divided nation.
His most prominent appointment, with President Barack Obama, lasted for an hour and a half in the Oval Office. Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence met later with House Speaker Paul Ryan and with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Already, Trump is lining up potential administration appointments, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani as a leading contender to serve as attorney general and Representative Michael McCaul as Homeland Security secretary, according to people familiar with the matter. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a loyal Trump supporter, is interested in serving as defense secretary, the people said. Trump has told him he has his pick of cabinet positions.
While he’s in town, Trump plans to attend meetings with Republican members of Congress as they begin to map out their legislative agenda for the next session.
Less than two days after Trump toppled a series of blue states and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, the Heritage Foundation and other conservative organizations are eagerly waiting to see how his administration will reshape the Beltway culture.
In an e-mail to supporters, Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint vowed to “offer guidance every step of the way” to Trump, who has turned to the group’s advisers in the past. “Big-government liberalism has been rejected. The establishment has been renounced. It’s time to get to work,” DeMint said.
As Trump switches gears from campaigning to governing, he had his first planning sessions on Wednesday with several close advisers, including Pence, campaign strategists Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, son-in-law Jared Kushner, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.
Trump, a longshot for the White House after numerous dark periods in the campaign, didn’t invest much energy in deciding who would help him govern.
“From the beginning, Mr. Trump has made very clear that he doesn’t want to jinx himself by having a transition and spending an awful lot of money that way,” Conway said. “But we have been feverishly working on different people for high positions in a Trump administration.”
Trump will be working at a breakneck pace to fill the ranks of his administration and cabinet—particularly since his campaign team did not feature many establishment Republicans.
William Hagerty, a Tennessee Republican who also worked for Mitt Romney’s transition team, and Kushner were expected to assemble a list of recommendations for cabinet posts, according to people familiar with the planning.
In the running for secretary of state are Tennessee Senator Bob Corker and former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn may be tapped for director of national intelligence.
Steve Mnuchin, the chairman and chief executive officer of Dune Capital Management, has been mentioned as a possible Treasury secretary after his work as Trump’s national finance chairman. Investor Carl Icahn says he’s not interested in the job, but Wilbur Ross Jr. is also under consideration.
Another potential name for a top administration slot: Lew Eisenberg, the Republican National Committee’s fundraising chief. And Senator Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who has been a persistent critic of his party’s direction, could be among those Trump considers from the opposition party for a cabinet position.
Among those on the transition crew are retired Army Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg and retired Army Brigadier General Mike Meese, who will advise on defense; Ronald Reagan aide Ed Meese and George W. Bush aide Kay Coles James, who are guiding management and budget matters; former Michigan Representative Mike Rogers on national security; David Malpass and Bill Walton on economic matters; former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell on domestic issues; and Beth Kaufman and Jonathan Beck on agency transformation.
Trump outlined his vision for his first 100 days in office most recently during a speech late last month in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, saying he would quickly offer legislative proposals in addition to executive action in a bid to jump-start the economy.
Trump said on his first day in office he would propose a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on members of Congress and legislation instituting a five-year lobbying ban on administration and congressional officials. He’d also implement a federal hiring freeze and new rules requiring the elimination of two federal regulations for every new policy put on the books.
Another focus of Trump’s efforts will be the signature policy issue of his campaign: renegotiating trade deals. Trump said he would announce the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and his intention to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
And Trump plans to dramatically scale back Obama’s environmental regulations. He says he will lift restrictions on energy production, greenlight the Keystone XL pipeline, and cancel payments to the United Nations climate change programs.
Other first-day initiatives include suspending immigration from countries with histories of terrorism, effectively ending U.S. assistance to refugees fleeing conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, and the nomination to the empty seat on the Supreme Court.
Trump has said he plans to label China a currency manipulator, although that move is largely symbolic since China and the U.S. are already in negotiations over the country’s exchange rate. He’ll also direct the federal government to deport those in the country illegally with criminal histories, though those individuals have already been identified as a priority under the Obama administration.
The Republican sweep of both chambers of Congress also increases the odds Trump is able to pursue his agenda legislatively. Ryan said Wednesday that Trump had “earned a mandate” with his victory.
“Donald Trump will lead a unified Republican government,” Ryan said. “We will work hand-in-hand on a positive agenda to tackle this country’s biggest challenges.”
But what Trump can actually accomplish is constrained by both Republican allies who often disavow his policy proposals, and Senate Democrats eager to use the filibuster to check his legislative efforts. Democrats almost assuredly will oppose Trump’s tax proposal, which would dramatically overhaul personal income taxes and lower the corporate tax rate.
Trump’s legislative proposals to fund construction of a southern border wall and repeal the Affordable Care Act are likely to face stark resistance, although Republicans could use legislative maneuvering to gut the latter. Expect Democrats to push to enroll more Americans in Obamacare before Trump enters office, and highlight consumer protections that would disappear if the law is repealed.
In a sign Republicans are aware of the political danger in dismantling the law, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Roger Wicker of Mississippi said lawmakers would be seeking “some consensus with our Democratic colleagues.”
Other Trump plans for legislation include allowing parents to use federal tax dollars at charter and private schools and boosting funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Campaign-trail proposals floated by Trump include defunding Planned Parenthood, stepping up surveillance of mosques in the U.S., slashing the budget for space exploration, and forcing companies such as Apple Inc. to return jobs to the U.S.
In the final presidential debate, Trump also threatened to appoint a special prosecutor to examine Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server, warning she would “be in jail” if he were president. The White House on Wednesday wouldn’t rule out issuing a pardon to protect Clinton from prosecution by the incoming administration. Giuliani said Thursday on Fox News that Obama shouldn’t pardon her.
Trump has also refused to detail his approach to certain issues—including, perhaps most crucially, his approach to fighting Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. Trump has heavily criticized Obama’s approach to targeting the terror organization, but says he does not want to telegraph his approach in order to maintain the element of surprise.