50 officials from Obama's team retained for transition

US President Barack Obama shake hands with President-elect Donald Trump during the 58th presidential inauguration in Washington, DC, on Jan 20, 2017.
US President Barack Obama shake hands with President-elect Donald Trump during the 58th presidential inauguration in Washington, DC, on Jan 20, 2017. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON • Fifty essential State Department and national security officials currently working in the Obama administration have been retained to ensure "continuity of government", according to President Donald Trump's spokesman Sean Spicer.

The furious final staff preparations included designating Mr Thomas Shannon, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, as the acting secretary of state, pending the expected confirmation of Mr Rex Tillerson.

Another asked to stay in his position was Mr Brett McGurk, tasked with helping coordinate the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terror group.

Others included Mr Robert Work, the deputy secretary of defence; Mr Chuck Rosenberg, the Drug Enforcement Agency administrator; Mr Nick Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Centre; and Mr Adam Szubin, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence in the Department of the Treasury.

As of Thursday, only two of Mr Trump's 15 Cabinet nominees - Mr John Kelly, to head the Department of Homeland Security, and his nominee for defence secretary, retired Marine General James Mattis - had been approved by congressional committees and were close to assuming their posts.

In all, Mr Trump has named only 29 of his 660 executive department appointments, according to the Partnership for Public Service, which has been tracking the process. That is a pace far slower than recent predecessors, falling far short of the schedule originally outlined by Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who was Mr Trump's transition director before he was removed 10 weeks ago.

The tardy progress did not bother Mr Trump, who declared on Thursday that his Cabinet nominees had "by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet assembled".

NEW YORK TIMES, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2017, with the headline '50 officials from Obama's team retained for transition'. Print Edition | Subscribe