Presidential Transition Update

November 21, 2016

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The Trump transition team moved forward this week by making some key appointments to the president-elect’s new cabinet.  Separately, Vice President-elect Mike Pence made the rounds on Capitol Hill, visiting his old colleagues.  Finally, members of Congress and other interested officials discussed the outlines of key policy initiatives of the new administration. 


Trump MOU Kicks in the Transfer of Power

On Nov. 17, the Trump transition team filed the remaining paperwork needed to begin receiving briefings and moving their landing teams into federal agencies. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) formally initiates the transfer of power from one administration to the next and allows a future Trump administration to essentially begin to devise the details of its plan for the federal government. Both Vice President-elect Mike Pence and current Obama White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough signed the document. A critical part of this agreement is maintaining the confidentiality of government secrets and processes.

President-Elect Trump and VP-Elect Pence Hold Meetings Galore With Capitol Hill, Potential Cabinet Appointees, Foreign Policy Experts and Heads of State

Last week, President-elect Donald Trump attempted to quell the nerves of leaders around the globe by conversing with assorted foreign policy gurus and heads of state. On Thursday, he sat down with Japan Prime Minister Shinzō Abe in Trump Tower and spoke via phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Nov. 14. He and Vice President-elect Pence released a long list of world leaders who have verbally passed along their congratulatory remarks after their historic Election Day victory.

Laying the groundwork for a foreign policy blueprint, on Thursday at Trump Tower, President-elect Trump met with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to discuss issues including China, Russia, Iran and the European Union, and sat down separately with Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC), a potential contender to lead the State Department and other agencies. In addition, President-elect Trump and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney met over the weekend to discuss a potential nomination for secretary of the Department of State. The meeting was seen as a gesture of reconciliation with establishment Republicans.

Meanwhile, in Washington, Vice President-elect Mike Pence addressed the House Republican Conference Thursday morning, imploring them to act on a heavy legislative schedule focused on long-held conservative goals, including repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), reforming the tax code and repealing Obama-era regulations. He then held individual meetings with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

On Friday, Vice President-elect Pence met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and newly elected Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), seeking to convey respect as Democrats prepare for Republicans to have majorities in both chambers and the White House for the first time since the Bush administration. Many on both sides of the aisle see their former Hill colleague, Mike Pence, as a crucial bridge to the Trump White House.

Trump Issues Far-Reaching Lobbying Ban for His Administration and Those Working on Transition Team

Making good on his promise to “drain the swamp,” President-elect Trump issued a sweeping lobbying ban on Nov. 16 that will compel incoming officials and those on his transition team to terminate their existing lobbying registrations and agree to forgo lobbying for five years after they exit the administration. The lengthy post-employment restrictions could make it challenging for President-elect Trump to attract experienced professionals in policy circles where lobbying is a customary revenue stream. The lengthy post-employment lobbying ban could also put some transition team staff in flux, as many members have been registered lobbyists and count on the lucrative revolving door of lobbying as a post-administration employment failsafe.

Worth noting, Trump’s lobbying ban is in some ways more stringent than President Barack Obama’s trailblazing lobbyist ban, even though Obama’s policy restricted the employment of individuals who lobbied for one year prior. Trump’s new policy, however, is seemingly more lenient on the front end, as it allows new hires to have lobbied on the issues on which they’re advising the transition right up until they come aboard, provided they show documentation attesting to the terminations of their lobbying registrations. It is unclear at this time how the five-year post-employment ban will be enforced.

First Four Agency Landing Teams Announced

On Friday morning, the Trump transition website posted a list of its first wave of agency landing teams, or the names of the Trump team members who will be meeting with current Obama administration leaders, agency by agency. The first four landing teams deal with the Pentagon, State Department, Justice Department and the National Security Council.

This morning, the Trump transition team released the second wave of landing teams, including the Treasury Department, Commerce Department, U.S. Trade Representative, Small Business Administration, Federal Communications Commission and Social Security Administration.

The final landing team will focus on domestic agencies and is expected to meet with the departments of Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Labor, Transportation, Education, Interior and Agriculture in two weeks’ time. The teams will be funded by what is described as mix of volunteerism, private funding and “transition entity” money, and all those already named appear to comply with the new Trump administration lobbying ban, despite some members having recently been registered as lobbyists.


President-Elect Trump Announces Cabinet Appointments for CIA Director, National Security Advisor and Attorney General,

President-elect Trump announced Friday three important national security posts. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) has been selected for CIA director. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has been offered the job of national security advisor, and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has been picked for attorney general. All three men have accepted their offers and were early, outspoken supporters of President-elect Trump. The choice of Flynn could potentially signal Trump’s intention to pursue an aggressive war on terrorism, with less of the diplomatic and cultural sensitivities that have been token staples in President Barack Obama’s approach.

An evolving list of rumored Trump appointees can be found here.

Worth mentioning, Dr. Ben Carson, former Republican presidential candidate and early Trump endorser, has declined an offer to become the next secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, a spokesman said in a statement Tuesday. Dr. Carson thinks he can “best serve the president outside the administration.”


Senate Dems Construct an Agenda to Align Their Shared Goals With Future Trump Administration

On infrastructure spending, child tax credits, paid maternity leave and dismantling free trade agreements, Democrats are already looking for opportunities to collaborate with President-elect Trump on policy proposals that could put pressure on Republican leadership to choose between their new commander in chief and their traditional small-government, free-market principles.

In the coming weeks, Democrats are rumored to be announcing populist economic and ethics initiatives that they think President-elect Trump may be inclined to support. Some Trump-favored issues that Democrats have championed in opposition to Republicans include: increased spending on roads, bridges, and rail; ending tax breaks for private equity and hedge fund executives; penalizing American companies that ship jobs overseas; and establishing federally mandated paid maternity leave. President-elect Trump and newly elected Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who have spoken several times since election night, are already well-acquainted, having worked side by side on a number of projects in New York City over the years.

The New York Times reports more on the Democrats’ new strategy here