Trump and the World: Reaching Out to His Campaign Nemesis

President-elect Donald J. Trump has made his picks for his top behind-the-scenes advisers. Those may turn out to be the easy ones.

 

President-elect Donald J. Trump has chosen Reince Preibus, right, the chairman of the Republican National Committee and a loyal campaign adviser, as the White House chief of staff.

President-elect Donald J. Trump has chosen Reince Preibus, right, the chairman of the Republican National Committee and a loyal campaign adviser, as the White House chief of staff.

 

File under: Oh, to be a fly on the wall, Trump and Xi.

Mr. Trump has spoken with President Xi Jinping of China, the presidential transition team announced on Monday morning, and the world likely thought, “Interesting.”

According to the announcement, in a call that took place on Monday Beijing time, Mr. Xi congratulated Mr. Trump for “winning a historic election,” and the president-elect thanked the Chinese leader for his well-wishes.

“During the call, the leaders established a clear sense of mutual respect for one another, and President-elect Trump stated that he believes the two leaders will have one of the strongest relationships for both countries moving forward,” the statement said.

No mention of whether Mr. Trump’s repeated campaign threats against Chinese trade practices came up, nor his statement that climate change was a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese, nor his get-tough promises on economic relations moving forward.

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Stephen K. Bannon at a Donald J. Trump rally in New Hampshire last month. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Priebus defends Bannon pick

Reince Priebus, who was chosen on Sunday to become Mr. Trump’s White House chief of staff, defended the selection of Stephen K. Bannon to serve as chief strategist on Monday and pushed back against suggestions that Mr. Bannon is racist and anti-Semitic.

“That’s not the Steve Bannon that I know,” Mr. Priebus said on MSNBC, calling him a force for good on the campaign. “I’ve only seen a generous, hospitable, wise person to work with.”

Civil rights groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the selection of Mr. Bannon, pointing to the divisive views promoted by Breitbart News, the nationalist website that he runs.

Mr. Priebus said that he agreed that Mr. Trump still had more to do to bring the country together and that it would be healthy for him to deliver a unifying speech to ratchet down some of the things he said in the heat of the campaign battle.

“He wants to make you proud of your country and serve you,” Mr. Priebus said.

Trump thinks popular vote should prevail?

In one of the odder moments on the “60 Minutes” interview broadcast on Sunday night, Mr. Trump seemed to suggest that the president should be chosen by the popular vote, not the Electoral College. That would mean his rival, Hillary Clinton, would be inaugurated in January.

Lesley Stahl was pressing him on whether he still thought the election was rigged, an accusation he made repeatedly in the weeks running up to Election Day. He finally replied:

“I hated — well, you know, I’m not going to change my mind just because I won. But I would rather see it where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes and somebody else gets 90 million votes and you win. There’s a reason for doing this because it brings all the states into play — Electoral College, and there’s something very good about that. But this is a different system. But I respect it. I do respect the system.”

Pick a fight? Wouldn’t be the first time.

Mr. Trump’s next task is to choose people who will serve as the principal public faces of his administration — the ones who articulate his vision to the public and defend it against critics at home and abroad.

Those jobs include secretary of state, Mr. Trump’s emissary to the world; attorney general, who will personalize Mr. Trump’s definition of justice; and defense secretary, who will wage war for the new president. He will also have to choose a White House press secretary, who will spar with the news media.

Mr. Trump did not have to ask for Senate permission to pick Mr. Priebus as chief of staff and Mr. Bannon as chief strategist. (And he can name whomever he wants as his spokesman.) But the top three cabinet jobs are all subject to a confirmation vote, and that can lead to trouble.

The president-elect will have to decide whether to send up consensus nominees who are likely to pass bipartisan muster, or to challenge the Washington establishment with novel or controversial picks.

The decision on which way to go may spark the first internal fight between Mr. Priebus and Mr. Bannon, who see the political world in very different ways.

The House returns. Don’t get your hopes up.

The House returns on Monday for the postelection session, and lawmakers have a lot of work ahead of them to finish this year’s business and prepare for what is shaping up to be a tumultuous 2017 under a Trump administration.

The No. 1 priority for the lame-duck session will be to find a way to fund the government into next year. Also on the agenda are the annual Pentagon policy bill and perhaps a major funding measure for health care research.

But the chances for other big accomplishments all but evaporated with the election of Mr. Trump. Republicans, who control the House and the Senate, feel little pressure to act and would prefer to wait until their party occupies the White House in January. Much of the time will be spent strategizing for 2017.

Where the real intrigue lies: a vote on Pelosi.

The prospect of a party challenge to Speaker Paul D. Ryan has faded in the wake of Mr. Trump’s election, as Republicans try to provide a united front.

The more interesting party to watch in leadership elections this week may be the Democrats in the House. They badly underperformed on Election Day, and allies of Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, have been busy trying to limit unrest over her continuing tenure.

She is expected to remain leader but needs to address rank-and-file frustration with life in the minority and no end in sight.

Democrat vs. Democrat on what to say about Trump.

Members of the Senate will be trickling back into Washington on Monday before the first vote in that chamber on Tuesday.

Will Democrats back Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, in the diatribe he unleashed against Mr. Trump last week, or will they join Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia in condemning Mr. Reid’s remarks?

CHRIS SALAMONE

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About Chris Salamone

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