Trump Transition

Trump Gives Special Perks to Club Members

A leaked audiotape from a cocktail and dinner reception last fall at Donald Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey golf club shows he invited club members to join him on staff interviews, Politico reports.

Said Trump: “We’re doing a lot of interviews tomorrow — generals, dictators, we have everything. You may wanna come around. It’ll be fun. We’re really working tomorrow. We have meetings every 15, 20 minutes with different people that will form our government.”

New York Times: A look at Mar-a-Lago members and who has a front row seat to history.

Trump Let Rival CEO Listen In On Call

“Days before taking office, President-elect Donald Trump made two surprise calls to the Air Force general managing the Pentagon’s largest weapons program, the Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 jet. Listening in on one of those calls was Dennis Muilenburg — the CEO of Lockheed’s chief rival, Boeing,” Bloomberg reports.

“Trump, who has repeatedly criticized the $379 billion F-35 program as ‘out of control,’ made the highly unusual calls to Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan on Jan. 9 and Jan. 17… Muilenburg, whose company makes a fighter jet Trump has suggested might be an alternative to the F-35, was in the president-elect’s New York office for a meeting during the second call. He appeared caught off-guard but was able to listen in on the call, according to the people, who asked to remain anonymous discussing sensitive information. One of the people said the call was on speakerphone.”

Christie Hits Flynn for Conversations with Russia

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) criticized President Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn, “saying he needs to clear up questions about whether he discussed sanctions in his pre-inauguration conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States,” CNN reports.

Said Christie: “That’s a conversation he is going to need to have with the President and the vice president to clear that up, so that the White House can make sure that they are completely accurate about what went on.”

Most Agencies Still Missing Deputies

Politico: “The president has named just three deputy secretaries — at the Commerce Department, Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. The delay in filling these deputy and other high-level political appointee positions could have far-reaching consequences, as deputies act as the chief operating officers at federal agencies. Experts say experienced No. 2s are essential to ensuring the smooth implementation of Trump’s policy proposals.”

Ethics Chief Warned Trump About Vetting Cabinet Picks

“The federal government’s ethics watchdog warned President Trump’s transition team last fall about its ‘unprecedented’ and risky approach to staffing the cabinet,” according to new emails obtained by NBC News.

“The emails echo earlier transition communications, which showed Trump aides rebuffing the office’s effort to offer ethics advice on blind trusts and nominees.”

Why Today’s Protests Matter

Jonathan Chait: “It matters that Trump drew a sparse crowd to inaugural festivities that he had billed beforehand as a historic, Jacksonian uprising of The People. And it matters much more that millions of Americans came out on a Saturday to register their protest. It is not only catharsis, though catharsis is better than depression. The message has been heard by the political class, Republican and Democratic alike…”

“The demobilization of the Democratic base is over. The prospect of a Democratic wave may not stop Republicans, and it may not even give them pause. But the governing party had probably assumed the clock would not start for months on the liberal backlash. Now the clock is ticking already.”

Speech Dims GOP Hopes for a Traditional Trump Agenda

New York Times: “While some of his advisers suggested that he would slip back into a more conventional Republican approach, Mr. Trump dropped hints in interviews, Twitter posts and other public comments that he intended to push his party away from its free-market, internationalist dogma on trade, foreign alliances, immigration, infrastructure spending and prescription drug access.”

“The hints are over.”

“An inaugural speech delivered with the same blunt force that propelled Mr. Trump’s insurgent campaign has dashed Republican hopes for a more traditional agenda. With his “new decree,” he declared himself modern America’s first populist president — and all but dared his own party to resist his Republican reformation.”

An Inaugural Celebration That Rings Hollow

David Frum: “For the 58th time, the system has worked, and power has smoothly transferred from one heir of George Washington to another. The truth is not so happy. With full advance notice, and despite the failure to gain a plurality of the nation’s vote, the United States will soon inaugurate someone who owes his office in some large part to a hostile foreign intelligence operation. Who is, above and beyond that, a person whose character that leaves him unqualified to hold the presidency, and threatens the country with an impending sequence of financial and espionage scandals—a constitutional crisis on two legs.”

“The real message of today is that the system has failed. The challenge of the morrow is to know what to do to save the remainder.”

Not the Way the GOP Had Planned

Molly Ball: “But the Republican Party that takes over Washington as Trump assumes the presidency is not one the Priebus of a few years ago might have recognized. Trump won the GOP primary, and then the general election, on a populist-nationalist platform that upended much of the party’s conservative dogma. Many Republican elders abandoned him, offended in principle and sure he could not win. They got their comeuppance on Election Night.”

“In the weeks since, Trump has moved on every level to demonstrate his dominance: over the party organization, over Republicans in Congress, over the press and the public arena. Not for him to compromise, to accommodate, to forgive. He enters the White House as determined as ever to divide and conquer, to punish his enemies, to do things his way and sideline the enforcers of the old order.”

Is Trump Stronger Than He Seems?

Nate Cohn: “One piece of evidence seems consistent with this possibility: the seeming optimism about his presidency.”

“Take the most recent Quinnipiac poll. At first glance, it’s bleak for Mr. Trump. Just 37 percent of registered voters — a narrower group than the adult population — view him favorably or approve of his performance. But just about every other question is better for Mr. Trump: 45 percent think he’ll take the nation in the right direction, and 52 percent of registered voters are optimistic about the next four years with Mr. Trump as president.”

“Just about every new poll tells a similar story.”

Trump Gets a New Phone

New York Times: “This week, Trump traded in his Android phone for a secure, encrypted device approved by the Secret Service with a new number that few people possess. The official rationale was security. But some of Mr. Trump’s new aides, who have often been blindsided when a reporter, outside adviser or officeseeker dialed the president-elect directly, expressed relief.”

Previewing Trump’s Speech

Mike Allen says Donald Trump’s inauguration speech will have three themes:

  • “The speech is an attempt to address the deep structural problems facing American society… We’re talking here about decades-long problems.”
  • The speech is “not ideological”: “It’s a rejection of ideological thinking. Ideological thinking is always looking at the world through a strictly dogmatic prism. It’s having a set of beliefs that are uncompromising.”
  • The speech will convey “that a nation and its people and its affairs are like a family and you need to take care of them.”

Trump Aides Jockey for the Best Offices

Politico: “In the two months since Donald Trump won the most coveted office in the United States, his aides have quietly jostled for the next most valuable workspace—the short corridor just down the hall from the Oval Office. Reince Priebus will occupy the corner suite at the hallway’s end that is traditionally reserved for the chief of staff. In between, Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, will work in one of the handful of coveted corridor offices, as will Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and his most trusted confidante, according to three officials familiar with the office assignments.”

“Around the corner is the space where soon-to-be Vice President Mike Pence, the designated point man for Trump’s legislative agenda, will sit when he’s in the West Wing. Upstairs will be Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s old campaign manager and incoming counselor, in a suite occupied by Karl Rove under President George W. Bush and then Valerie Jarrett under President Barack Obama.”