Sunday 25 February 2018

Trump remains calm as pressure mounts over White House transition team

Questions remain over Donald Trump's transition team (AP)
Questions remain over Donald Trump's transition team (AP)
US vice president-elect Mike Pence walks past the media as he leaves Trump Tower with his wife Karen (AP)

As rows mounted over appointments to the new White House team, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted: "I am the only one who knows who the finalists are."

The president-elect had not been seen in public for days when he walked into New York's 21 Club to applause from fellow diners.

The unannounced evening out with family is in stark contrast to the behind-the scenes conflict which suggests a struggling transition as Mr Trump bids to assemble his top team for the White House.

President-elect Trump wrote in a tweet: "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."

Before the dinner in Manhattan with his family, Mr Trump met with the head of his transition team, Vice President-elect Mike Pence - but another day passed without a Cabinet announcement.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani appears to be aiming for the secretary of state job. But Mr Trump's transition team was reviewing his paid consulting work for foreign governments, which could delay a nomination or bump Mr Giuliani to a different position.

Mr Giuliani founded his own firm, Giuliani Partners, in 2001, and helped businesses on behalf of foreign governments, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

He also advised TransCanada, which sought to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and helped the maker of the painkiller drug OxyContin settle a dispute with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

A Trump official said John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, remained in contention for secretary of state.

Mr Bolton has years of foreign policy experience, but he has raised eyebrows with some of his aggressive stances - including a 2015 New York Times article in which he advocated bombing Iran to halt the country's nuclear programme.

Businessman Carl Icahn disclosed on Twitter, based on conversations with the president-elect, that Mr Trump was considering Steve Mnuchin - a former Goldman Sachs banker - and Wilbur Ross - a billionaire investor - to lead the Treasury and Commerce departments.

President-elect Trump has effectively created two power centres in his White House even before taking office.

He named Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as his chief of staff and media mogul Steve Bannon as his chief strategist, but called them "equal partners".

Mr Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner is also deeply involved in the transition, creating another layer of uncertainty about who is making decisions.

Former GOP national security official Eliot Cohen blasted Mr Trump's team on Twitter, calling them "angry, arrogant". Mr Cohen opposed Mr Trump during the campaign, but in recent days, he said those who feel duty-bound to work in a Trump administration should do so.

But he said on Tuesday that after an exchange with Trump's team, he had "changed my recommendation".

With President-elect Trump's team divided, emboldened Republicans on Capitol Hill moved forward with a united front.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, a lukewarm Trump supporter during the campaign, unanimously won his GOP colleagues' votes for another term at the helm of the House.

He told fellow Republicans he had Mr Trump's support, and heralded "the dawn of a new, unified Republican government".


Press Association

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