Trump team to move transition along after delays

Its leaders will contact govt agencies to get briefing notes for President-elect; more Cabinet appointees expected

US President-elect Donald Trump's transition team is expected to gain momentum this week after delays triggered by a leadership switch.
US President-elect Donald Trump's transition team is expected to gain momentum this week after delays triggered by a leadership switch.PHOTO: AFP

After delays triggered by a leadership switch, United States President-elect Donald Trump's transition team is expected to gain momentum this week.

Team leaders will contact an array of government agencies to collect or prepare short, usually two-page briefing notes, and in some cases more detailed background notes, on issues the incoming president and his Cabinet need to be informed of. Top of the list are the departments of state, justice and defence.

More Cabinet appointees are expected as well. Yesterday, Mr Trump was set to meet South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who is reportedly in the running for a Cabinet position.

Mr Trump gave an update on Twitter yesterday: "My transition team, which is working long hours and doing a fantastic job, will be seeing many great candidates today."

On Wednesday, his spokesman Jason Miller told reporters: "We're going to get the transition team where we need it to be."

The transition from President Barack Obama's administration to Mr Trump's is particularly complex, as it is from one party's administration to another's - thus involving a huge change of personnel. It is also shadowed by the animosity and divisiveness of this election campaign.

Mr Trump has also been criticised for not keeping to his own promise to sideline the powerful special interests that normally seek to embed themselves in any US administration.

In an open letter on Tuesday, Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren listed 17 lobbyists and three Wall Street insiders on Mr Trump's team. But on the same day, Mr Trump's transition leader and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence announced a new ban on lobbyists.

Team members must sign a code of ethics which states that they or their families will derive no personal financial benefit from their work - and are barred from lobbying on behalf of any corporate industries for five years after leaving office.

Mr Trump's transition, while caught in a swirl of speculation, is not necessarily more inefficient, chaotic or infused with politics and special interests than those of some others in US political history.

But so far, his transition operation is lagging behind Mr Obama's in 2008. Just a day after winning the election in 2008, the Chicago- based Mr Obama announced Mr Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff. Seven days later, he unveiled the names of transition team leaders who would be working with key government departments.

Eight days after his election, Mr Trump's teams are only just due to land in Washington to contact government agencies.

Basic transition teams, usually comprising around 100 people in total, are typically set up months in advance of the election. Mrs Hillary Clinton revealed her transition team leaders in June. Mr Trump's campaign revealed his in September at a select event where guests paid US$5,000 (S$7,100) for a presentation.

The event was led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, head of the transition team until three days after the election when he was abruptly demoted to vice-chairman, with Mr Pence taking over the reins.

This switch entailed new paperwork - since completed on Tuesday evening - which triggered a cascade of delays. A second reshuffle this week led to speculation of chaos and infighting in the team, which Mr Trump denied.

A transition team not only helps the president-elect prepare for office, but must also fill roughly 4,000 politically appointed positions, including more than 1,000 jobs requiring Senate confirmation. Extensive paperwork is required.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2016, with the headline 'Trump team to move transition along after delays'. Subscribe