Trump shuffles transition team, eyes loyalists for Cabinet

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President-elect Donald Trump shuffled his transition team again on Tuesday, jettisoning a national security expert and lobbyists from his inner circle as he closed in on naming two loyal Wall Street backers to key economic positions.

Trump, a Republican outsider who won a surprise election victory last week, also cleared a paperwork snag that had temporarily stalled his transition after he put his Vice President-elect Mike Pence in charge of the process.

“Very organized process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions,” Trump said on Twitter after taking his family to dinner at 21 Club, a Manhattan restaurant, his motorcade slipping away from reporters gathered at his apartment building.

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“I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!” Trump said.

At the top of his list for senior economic positions are campaign finance chair and Wall Street veteran Steve Mnuchin as treasury secretary, and long-time backer and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross for commerce secretary, according to Trump ally and activist investor Carl Icahn.

However, a well-known Republican moderate was pushed out of transition planning. Mike Rogers, a former U.S. representative from Michigan who had been mentioned as a possible pick for CIA director, suddenly left the transition team.

Rogers had worked with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who on Friday was abruptly replaced by Pence as head of the transition team.

That overhaul had put the brakes on transition talks with the White House. Pence needed to sign a memorandum of understanding, which the White House received on Tuesday evening.

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The Trump team still needs to provide more paperwork before detailed agency-by-agency briefings can take place, a White House spokeswoman said. The team will need to provide a code of conduct and certify that its transition team members do not have conflicts of interest.

Additional changes are likely. Pence and Rick Dearborn, the executive director of the transition team, are “removing any lobbyists,” a transition aide said.

“This is to ensure President-elect Trump’s commitment to ban lobbyist involvement is being upheld at all levels of the transition,” the aide said.

Trump, who had pilloried opponents for being beholden to industry interests during his campaign, came under fire from his frequent sparring partner, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, for including lobbyists on his transition team.

“Based on public reports, your transition team and your potential cabinet include over twenty Wall Street elites, industry insiders, and lobbyists making decisions that could have huge implications for their clients or employers,” Warren wrote in a letter.

Trump has fewer than 70 days until his Jan. 20 inauguration to settle on Cabinet members and other senior appointees. He will eventually need to fill roughly 4,000 open positions.

Wall Street is closely watching who Trump picks for treasury chief because Republicans have majorities in both chambers of Congress, giving Trump a clearer shot at tax and financial regulatory reforms.

Mnuchin declined to comment to reporters at Trump Tower about Cabinet picks, but said the team was “making sure we get the biggest tax bill passed, the biggest tax changes since Reagan.”

A parade of advisers had been seen going in and out of Trump’s building on Tuesday, including U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, touted as a possible secretary of defense or attorney general.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who ran against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, also dropped by for a meeting, telling reporters he was “looking forward to fighting hard to actually accomplish and deliver the promises we made” during the election.

Bloomberg later reported that Trump was considering nominating Cruz as attorney general.

Former Rep. Mike Rogers left Donald Trump’s transition team. Lobbyists are being purged from official roles in President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team

 

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