Trump Transition

Nunes Vanished Just Before He Made Surveillance Claims

“Hours before the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee announced his shocking claims about surveillance of the Trump transition team on Wednesday morning, he practically disappeared.”

“Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) was traveling with a senior committee staffer in an Uber on Tuesday evening when he received a communication on his phone, three committee officials and a former national security official with ties to the committee told the Daily Beast. After the message, Nunes left the car abruptly, leaving his own staffer in the dark about his whereabouts.”

“By the next morning, Nunes hastily announced a press conference. His own aides, up to the most senior level, did not know what their boss planned to say next. Nunes’ choice to keep senior staff out of the loop was highly unusual.”

Nunes Claims Trump Transition Was Under Surveillance

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) said that members of the Trump transition team, possibly including Trump himself, “were under surveillance during the Obama administration following November’s election,” Politico reports.

“Nunes said the surveillance appears to have been legal, incidental collection and that it does not appear to have been related to concerns over collusion with Russia.”

Trump Appointees Finding It Hard to Divest Assets

“Members of Donald Trump’s cabinet are obliged to sell more than $1 billion worth of assets to prevent conflicts of interest, a process that is proving difficult and time-consuming. A Wall Street Journal review of those needed sales shows almost three-quarters of the total is held in illiquid assets such as real estate, closely held companies and stakes in private-equity funds, likely extending the time necessary to unwind the positions.”

“The process is leaving some Trump administration officials facing potential restrictions on the work they can do until the sales are completed, under rules requiring them to recuse themselves from issues that might benefit them financially. Some of the assets being sold involve investments in industries that cabinet members are now charged with overseeing.”

The Slowest Transition In Decades

New York Times: “From the moment he was sworn in, President Trump faced a personnel crisis, starting virtually from scratch in lining up senior leaders for his administration. Seven weeks into the job, he is still hobbled by the slow start, months behind where experts in both parties, even some inside his administration, say he should be.”

“The lag has left critical power centers in his government devoid of leadership as he struggles to advance policy priorities on issues like health care, taxes, trade and environmental regulation. Many federal agencies and offices are in states of suspended animation, their career civil servants answering to temporary bosses whose influence and staying power are unclear, and who are sometimes awaiting policy direction from appointees whose arrival may be weeks or months away.”

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.”