‘Knife fight’ as Trump builds dysfunctional national security team

CNN reports: Donald Trump’s transition is being marked by sharp internal disagreements over key cabinet appointments and direction, both for internal West Wing positions and key national security posts, sources involved in the transition team tell CNN.

One source with knowledge of the transition described it as a “knife fight.”

The split has put traditional Republican operatives such as Reince Priebus — named Trump’s chief of staff Sunday — against more non-traditional influences such as Steve Bannon — the alt-right leader of Breitbart News — who will be Trump’s chief strategist. A particular challenge is lack of clarity about the division of power among Priebus, Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who also has a key role in transition decisions. Another source tied to the transition described the resulting confusion as “buffoonery.”

Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the new leader of the transition operation, will be at Trump Tower in New York Tuesday to meet with Trump and discuss possible nominees. [Continue reading…]

The Wall Street Journal reports: Friday’s reorganization of the transition team increased the influence of Mr. Pence and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), who now has several allies holding top staff positions. The role for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who had been in charge of the transition, has been diluted.

The slower decision-making process is also amplified by Mr. Trump’s lack of public appearances since the election, even as protests erupt around the country following his election.

While Mr. Obama and his predecessor, Republican George W. Bush in 2000, used constant news conferences after their victories to speak to Americans, Mr. Trump has held none, only doing a Wall Street Journal interview and the “60 Minutes” appearance.

During their private White House meeting on Thursday, Mr. Obama walked his successor through the duties of running the country, and Mr. Trump seemed surprised by the scope, said people familiar with the meeting. Trump aides were described by those people as unaware that the entire presidential staff working in the West Wing had to be replaced at the end of Mr. Obama’s term. [Continue reading…]

The Wall Street Journal reports: Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is the leading candidate to be President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, people familiar with the matter said, a move that would elevate a well-known national figure to become the U.S.’s chief diplomat.

Mr. Trump’s aides have also considered former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton as a possible candidate, but the close relationship between Messrs. Giuliani and Trump was a major consideration, the people said.

Asked at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council meeting in Washington on Monday evening if his title would soon be “Secretary,” Mr. Giuliani responded, “One never knows.”

Mr. Giuliani also said that Mr. Bolton would be a good choice for secretary of state. He was then asked if there was a better choice than Mr. Bolton and he replied, “Maybe me, I don’t know.”

For Mr. Trump, it is a choice between a longtime friend and ally in New York, Mr. Giuliani, and a hawkish conservative diplomat, Mr. Bolton, who called last year for the U.S. to bomb Iran. A final decision could be several weeks away, these people said, and other candidates could still emerge. [Continue reading…]

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