Trump Staff Shake-Up Slows Transition to Near Halt

Vice President-elect Mike Pence arrived at Trump Tower in Manhattan on Tuesday. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

Vice President-elect Mike Pence arrived at Trump Tower in Manhattan on Tuesday. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition operation plunged into disarray on Tuesday with the abrupt departure of Mike Rogers, who had handled national security matters, the second shake-up in less than a week on a team that has not yet begun to execute the daunting task of taking over the government.

In a statement on Tuesday, Mr. Rogers, a former congressman from Michigan who led the House Intelligence Committee, said he was “proud of the team that we assembled at Trump for America to produce meaningful policy, personnel and agency action guidance on the complex national security challenges facing our great country.” And he said he was “pleased to hand off our work” to a new transition team led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

In another sign of disarray, a transition official said on Tuesday that Mr. Trump had removed a second senior defense and foreign policy official from his transition team, Matthew Freedman, who runs a Washington consulting firm that advises foreign governments and companies seeking to do business with the United States government.

Mr. Freedman, who had been in charge of coordinating Mr. Trump’s calls to world leaders after his election, is a former business associate of Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager, who once worked on the re-election bid of Ferdinand E. Marcos, the Filipino dictator ousted in the 1980s.

Mr. Pence took the helm of the transition on Friday after Mr. Trump unceremoniously removed Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who had been preparing with Obama administration officials for months to put the complex transition process into motion. That effort is now frozen, senior White House officials say, because Mr. Pence has yet to sign legally required paperwork to allow his team to begin collaborating with President Obama’s aides on the handover.

An aide to Mr. Trump’s transition team who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal matters said that the delay was taking place because the wording of the document was being altered and updated, and that it was likely to be signed later Tuesday.

Still, the slow and uncertain start to what is normally a rapid and meticulously planned transfer of power could have profound implications for Mr. Trump’s nascent administration. It challenges the president-elect’s efforts to gain control of the federal bureaucracy and to begin building a staff fully briefed on what he will face in the Oval Office on Day 1.

Even as the president-elect worked to fill pivotal roles in his administration, the disarray caught the attention of some senior Republicans who criticized Mr. Trump during his campaign but said after he won that they would not necessarily rule out joining his administration or advising him.

Eliot A. Cohen, a former State Department official, said on Twitter that after having spoken to Mr. Trump’s team, he had “changed my recommendation: stay away. They’re angry, arrogant, screaming ‘you LOST!’ Will be ugly.”

Mr. Obama has repeatedly said that his priority is to ensure a smooth and professional transition, a process for which his team and aides to Mr. Trump, as well Hillary Clinton’s staff members, had been quietly preparing for several months. Mr. Christie, who until Friday served as Mr. Trump’s transition chief, signed a memorandum of understanding on Election Day to put the process into motion as soon as the outcome was determined.

But in response to a series of questions about whether the Obama administration had begun to brief Mr. Trump’s team, White House officials said late Monday that the president-elect’s decision to abruptly replace Mr. Christie on Friday with Mr. Pence had, for the time being, halted the process.

Chris Salamone

 

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