He hires people, he fires people, he sets them against one another, he says things and takes them back, with the chaos often unfolding in real time on cable TV. It happened in the campaign and there’s no reason to think his presidency won’t be the same.
Trump has only been President-elect for a week. But he’s already dismembered the team that under Chris Christie spent months preparing the transition and put his future vice president Mike Pence in charge. He’s set up future competing power centers in his White House, including son-in-law and close adviser Jared Kushner, who is at the center of the effort against Christie, sources say. And though he’s been restrained on social media, Trump has still fired off contradictory tweets on protests against him and the Electoral College.
It’s clear the President-elect is just getting started.
Trump is the only person elected to the top job without political, diplomatic or military executive experience. And he ran a campaign rooted in breaking the mold of the gridlocked capital city. So no surprise that Trump is already approaching his presidency in an unorthodox manner.
Who could be in Trump’s cabinet?
“He comes from from a different school of thought than we are used to here in Washington. People here, they want everything choreographed. They are by nature risk averse. He is going to be very different from that perspective,” said Howard Schweitzer, managing partner of Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies, who had high level posts in the Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations.
“He is not going to be afraid, nor should he be, to throw some spaghetti against the wall and see if it sticks. He is not afraid to have people with differing views on his team and play around with some things and throw people overboard if merited,” Schweitzer added.
While Trump’s transition appears chaotic from the outside, the President-elect Tuesday night tweeted that things are “organized” and proceeding apace.
“Very organized process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions. I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!”
But Peter Emerson, a Democratic communications consultant who took part in the Jimmy Carter and Obama White House transitions, said if Trump Tower wanted to make things run more smoothly, it could.
“If the Trump people wanted it to be the no drama Obama transition then Trump would make it happen — but they don’t,” he said.
Meetings, more meetings and leaks
Wannabe White House advisers and would-be cabinet members are streaming in and out of Trump Tower in New York.
Tuesday’s day of meetings was for going over cabinet names and plans for various departments, a source tells CNN.
“This was a ‘dig in with a CEO who knows how to get things done day,'” said the source, who called it “very productive.”
Pence, meanwhile, is scheduled to visit the Trump transition offices in Washington Wednesday morning.
But leaks regarding potential administration appointments proliferate by the hour, about Trump loyalists who are angling for jobs and others apparently trying to elbow their way into his administration.
Top figures are ruling themselves in and ruling themselves out of jobs. Rudy Giuliani, seen as a possible attorney general, says he won’t do the job, and sources say he wants the State Department. Ben Carson, who had been seen as a possible Cabinet pick, says he doesn’t want to be considered. Another Trump presidential rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, visited him Tuesday as well.
Rumors are flying about already bitter internecine warfare already raging between various parts of Trump world, the role of the billionaire’s children and sources inside the operation are using phrases like “knife-fight” and “buffoonery” to describe the spectacle.
One establishment figure, former Rep. Mike Rogers, seen as a rare safe of hands in Trump’s orbit and a possible CIA chief has quit — apparently a casualty of too close ties to now out-of-favor Christie.
There are also signs of disarray in the Trump foreign policy shop, such as it is.
“After exchange w Trump transition team, changed my recommendation: stay away. They’re angry, arrogant, screaming “you LOST!” Will be ugly,” said Eliot Cohen, a former George W. Bush foreign policy official in a tweet Tuesday.
Trump has only made two appointments so far: Reince Priebus will serve as White House Chief of Staff and far more controversially, Stephen Bannon, who has close ties to the white nationalist alt-right movement, will be a counselor and senior adviser to Trump.