Firings and discord put President-elect's transition team in a state of disarray
Both were part of what officials described as a purge orchestrated by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser.
One week after Trump scored an upset victory that took him by surprise, his team was improvising the most basic traditions of assuming power. That included working without official State Department briefing materials in his first conversations with foreign leaders.
Two officials who had been handling national security for the transition, former Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Matthew Freedman, a lobbyist who consults with corporations and foreign governments, were fired.
The dismissals followed the abrupt firing Friday of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who was replaced as chief of the transition by Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Kushner, a transition official said, was systematically dismissing people like Rogers who had ties with Christie. As a federal prosecutor, Christie had sent Kushner’s father to jail.
Prominent U.S. allies were in the meantime scrambling to figure out how and when to contact Trump. At times they have been patched through to him in his luxury office tower with little warning, according to a Western diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt was the first to reach Trump for such a call last Wednesday, followed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel not long afterward. But that was about 24 hours before Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain got through — a striking break from diplomatic practice given the close alliance between the United States and Britain.
Despite the haphazard nature of Trump’s early calls with world leaders, his advisers said the transition team was not suffering unusual setbacks. They argued that they were hard at work behind the scenes dealing with the same troubles that incoming presidents have faced for decades.
And Trump himself fired back at critics with a Twitter message he sent about 10 p.m.
“Very organized process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions,” he wrote. “I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!”
The process is “completely normal,” said Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, who emerged Tuesday as the leading contender to be Trump’s secretary of state. “It happened in the Reagan transition. Clinton had delays in hiring people.”
Giuliani, who made his comments in a telephone interview, added: “This is a hard thing to do. Transitions always have glitches. This is an enormously complex process.”
There were some reports within the transition of score-settling.
One member of the transition team said that at least one reason Rogers had fallen out of favor among Trump’s advisers was that as chairman of the House intelligence committee, he had overseen a report about the 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, which concluded that the Obama administration had not intentionally misled the public about the events there. That report echoed the findings of numerous other government investigations into the episode.
The report’s conclusions were at odds with the campaign position of Trump, who repeatedly blamed Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent and the secretary of state during the attacks, for the resulting deaths of four Americans.
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