WASHINGTON (AFP) – Donald Trump shook up his White House transition team on Friday (Nov 11), putting running mate Mike Pence in charge and naming a cohort of Washington insiders – and three of his children – to help nail down picks for his future Cabinet.
The reshuffle by the Republican president-elect came after thousands of angry protesters took to the streets for a second straight night, sign of the acute tensions coursing through the nation after the most divisive campaign in memory.
In Portland, a march by some 4,000 protesters turned violent, with cars vandalised and projectiles thrown at police, who used rubber bullets and pepper spray to disperse the crowd. Twenty-five people were arrested.
On Friday, the real estate tycoon-turned-world-leader was ensconced in his luxury Manhattan apartment at Trump Tower. As the aides who guided him to victory marched in to help Trump map out the way forward, he announced he was elevating Vice President-elect Mike Pence to lead the transition.
He also included three of his children and his son-in-law Jared Kushner on the team – a move likely to raise eyebrows, since the tycoon earlier announced that should he win he would place his vast business interests into a blind trust operated by Donald Trump Jr, Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump.
And in a clear shift with the tone of his abrasive campaign, he named a string of insider figures from the very establishment that he railed so strongly, including Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus.
“Drain the swamp” became a popular Trump refrain in the closing weeks of the race as he vowed to end the ways of the US capital.
Trump tweeted on Friday that he had a “busy day” ahead. “Will soon be making some very important decisions on the people who will be running our government!”
Predictions swiftly turned to who would serve as his chief of staff, with the names of Priebus and Steve Bannon, the combative political operative who came from conservative news organisation Breitbart to chair Trump’s campaign, thrown about.
The 70-year-old incoming president has a mammoth task of fleshing out his cabinet.
The names of several Trump surrogates have been mentioned for top-level posts, including Giuliani, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, Senator Jeff Sessions and retired lieutenant-general Michael Flynn.
Trump’s finance chairman, Goldman Sachs veteran Steven Mnuchin, is reportedly a strong consideration for Treasury secretary, along with JP Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker is among the possible picks for secretary of state.
Trump met Thursday with Barack Obama at the White House to discuss the transition ahead of the Jan 20 inauguration – a conversation the outgoing president called “excellent.”
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump said the President asked him to consider preserving parts of his signature health-care law – which the billionaire has vowed to repeal – and that he was open to the idea.
“Either Obamacare will be amended, or repealed and replaced,” Trump told the newspaper. “I told him I will look at his suggestions, and out of respect, I will do that.” White House officials said Obama and Trump discussed a range of issues including global hotspots and the president’s meetings next week with leaders from Germany, Greece and across the Asia-Pacific.
On that trip, Obama is likely to be inundated with panicked questions about America’s role in world affairs.
Trump has already spoken with a string of world leaders including British Prime Minister Theresa May and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom he reaffirmed Washington’s strong relations.
On Friday, he spoke with French President Francois Hollande, and the two expressed their “desire to work together,” Hollande’s office said.
The apparently harmonious meeting between Trump and Obama was designed to heal divisions and quell fears about the health of the world’s leading democracy.
The White House hopes that by rolling out the red carpet for Trump, they can bind him to some of the conventions of the office.
Overnight, however, anger over Trump’s win again spilled out into the streets.
Accusing him of racism, sexism and xenophobia, protesters from New York to Los Angeles blocked traffic and chanted slogans like “Not my president” and “We reject the president-elect.” In his first comments on the unrest, Trump tweeted that the media unfairly “incited” the protesters.
He changed tack a few hours later, writing: “Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!” But Trump faced mounting calls to take steps to appease the tensions exacerbated by his caustic campaign.
An atmosphere of intimidation was being reported in parts of the country, including in South Philadelphia where a shop front was defaced with a swastika and references to Trump.
In a searing statement, top Senate Democrat Harry Reid warned that Americans were “living in fear of their own government” and that Trump had the obligation to restore a sense of security.
“If this is going to be a time of healing, we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump, a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate,” Reid said.