Trump denies transition woes after 2nd reshuffle

Former congressman Mike Rogers (above) and lobbyist Matthew Freedman (left) have been removed from the Trump transition team. The pair had been handling national security for the team.
Former congressman Mike Rogers (above) and lobbyist Matthew Freedman have been removed from the Trump transition team. The pair had been handling national security for the team.PHOTOS: NEW YORK TIMES, AMERICAN AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL
Former congressman Mike Rogers (above) and lobbyist Matthew Freedman (left) have been removed from the Trump transition team. The pair had been handling national security for the team.
Former congressman Mike Rogers and lobbyist Matthew Freedman (above) have been removed from the Trump transition team. The pair had been handling national security for the team.PHOTOS: NEW YORK TIMES, AMERICAN AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL

He rejects reports of disarray in team despite national security experts being forced out

US President-elect Donald Trump has reshuffled his transition team for a second time, removing two national security experts from his inner circle as he closed in on naming two loyal Wall Street backers to key economic positions.

But while reports and anecdotes painted a picture of a team beset by infighting and struggling to find people to fill not only Cabinet positions but also hundreds of other roles in the new administration, Mr Trump rejected this in a late-night tweet on Tuesday, saying: "Very organised process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions. I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!"

In a series of tweets yesterday, he again singled out The New York Times, which had said the transition "was in disarray" and "marked by firings, infighting and revelations that American allies were blindly dialling in to Trump Tower to try to reach the soon-to-be leader of the free world".

Mr Trump tweeted: "The failing @nytimes story is so totally wrong on transition. It is going so smoothly. Also, I have spoken to many foreign leaders."

He also tweeted that he was not trying to get top-level security clearance for his children, saying: "This was a typically false news story."

ALL GOING SMOOTHLY

Very organised process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions. I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!

PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP, in a late-night tweet on Tuesday.

Former congressman Mike Rogers and lobbyist Matthew Freedman, who were handling national security for the transition team, were forced out on Tuesday, just days after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was demoted.

Mr Christie, who was chief of the transition team, was replaced by Vice-President-elect Mike Pence.

Reports said Mr Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, a close confidant, had orchestrated the dismissals. Mr Kushner, the Harvard-educated son of a New Jersey real estate tycoon, married Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka in 2009.

In 2005, Mr Christie, then a federal prosecutor, put Mr Kushner's father in jail for two years on charges of tax evasion, witness tampering and offering illegal campaign donations. It was this grudge that got Mr Christie fired, reports said.

In another indication of the style of the transition team, Professor Eliot Cohen, once a top official in president George W. Bush's administration and now a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University, told The Washington Post that he had received a call for advice from a friend on the team but was told off when he emphasised the importance of choosing well-qualified people.

"It became clear to me that they view jobs as lollipops, things you give out to good boys and girls," Prof Cohen, who was critical of Mr Trump during his candidacy, told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, one potential Cabinet appointee, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, has declined to be considered. "Everything was open to him...(but) Dr Carson feels he has no government experience, he's never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency," online journal The Hill reported his business manager and close friend Armstrong Williams as saying.

New York investors Steve Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross are said to have been shortlisted for the roles of secretary of the treasury and secretary of commerce respectively. Billionaire investor and Trump backer Carl Icahn confirmed this on Twitter and called them "great choices".

Mr Mnuchin, 53, chairman of Dune Capital Management and Dune Entertainment Partners, is a former Goldman Sachs banker who was the Trump campaign's chief fund raiser.

Mr Ross, 78, a private equity investor with global deal-making experience, was a senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign and a key spokesman for his message on trade - that free trade agreements with developing countries leach jobs away from the US.

Mr Trump is pushing for radical changes to the tax structure to encourage onshore investment and job creation.

He is also planning sweeping changes in healthcare, a massive infusion of spending on infrastructure and a strengthening of the military, especially the navy.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2016, with the headline 'Trump denies transition woes after 2nd reshuffle'. Print Edition | Subscribe