Trump transition: Shake-ups and slow downs

President-elect Donald Trump met with Vice President-elect Mike Pence in Trump Tower a week after their victory to hash out key cabinet appointments as Trump’s transition team grappled with a series of setbacks.

Former Rep. Mike Rogers, who led the transition team’s national security efforts, abruptly stepped down from his post, and transition officials told The New York Times that Matthew Freedman, a foreign policy adviser, also had been removed from the team.

Pence, who replaced New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as head of the transition team, had yet to sign a required nondisclosure agreement with the White House that gives officials in both camps the authority to work together and exchange information, according to The Associated Press.

Former GOP national security official Eliot A. Cohen, who last week urged military and intelligence officials to “do their job” and apply for more than 4,000 open posts in the Trump administration, rescinded his recommendation, calling the transition team “angry” and “arrogant” in a Twitter post.

Cohen warned an op-ed  that conservatives who sign on "would probably have to make excuses for things that are inexcusable and defend people who are indefensible."

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Location, location, location

State Department officials told NBC News the transition team has yet to set up offices in the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters and, as of Monday night, Trump has not received a new intelligence briefing.

Trump sought to dispel any notion of turmoil in his transition, tweeting: “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!”

The president-elect emerged from Trump Tower late Tuesday for dinner at Keene’s Steakhouse in midtown Manhattan, according to media reports.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was also spotted leaving Trump Tower, telling reporters: “I look forward to working hard to help lead the fight to actually accomplish the conservative agenda.”

Cabinet watch

Ben Carson said despite the months he spent serving as a Trump campaign surrogate, he’s not interested in a cabinet position.

Carson, a former GOP presidential candidate, was said to be in the running for Health and Human Services secretary, but he told The Washington Post, “The way I’m leaning is to work from the outside and not from the inside. I want to have the freedom to work on many issues and not be pigeonholed into one particular area.”

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Rudy Giuliani is reportedly lead contender for the secretary of state post, but the transition team is vetting his business ties to foreign interests, concerned that his dealings with an Iranian exile group, among other lobbying work, may complicate his confirmation prospects.

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), chairman of the House Budget Committee and an orthopedic surgeon, is in the running to lead the Health and Human Services Department, according to Politico.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an immigration hard-liner who advised Trump’s campaign, has been floated as a possible attorney general pick — joining a list that includes Rep. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been rumored to be on the short list for Interior secretary.

The Takeaway: Trump’s foreign intent

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The possibility of either Rudy Giuliani or John Bolton becoming secretary of state could dampen any hopes from the libertarian right that Trump would prove less interventionist than his predecessor, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Trump: Electoral College a ‘genius thing’

Trump took to Twitter to defend the Electoral College, which he dismissed as a “disaster for democracy” during the 2012 election.

“If the election were based on total popular vote I would have campaigned in N.Y. Florida and California and won even bigger and more easily,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning as the latest popular vote count showed Hillary Clinton collected 1 million more votes than the president-elect.

Trump added: “The Electoral College is actually genius in that it brings all states, including the smaller ones, into play. Campaigning is much different!”

Dems demand Bannon’s removal

House and Senate Democrats called on Trump to rescind his appointment of Stephen Bannon as White House chief strategist.

Bannon’s appointment also has spurred criticism from anti-discrimination groups and GOP officials alike after the “alt-right” leader who ran Trump’s campaign in the final three months was named as an administration staffer on Sunday.

In a letter signed by more than 120 House Democrats, lawmakers said Bannon’s “appointment sends the wrong message to people” who have been the target of hate crimes and harassment following Trump’s election.

“Millions of Americans have expressed fear and concern about how they will be treated by the Trump administration and your appointment of Mr. Bannon only exacerbates and validates their concerns,” according to the letter obtained by Politico.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s office issued a statement saying Bannon’s appointment “signals that white supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump’s White House.”

What else is happening

  • Trump allies object to former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski playing a role in the White House.
  • NYPD officials met earlier this week to discuss security concerns at Trump Tower, reports Newsday’s Anthony M. DeStefano.
  • Sen. John McCain took aim at Trump’s recent phone call with Vladimir Putin, cautioning against a “Russian reset.” 
  • Syrian leader Bashar Assad said he and Trump can be “natural allies.” McCain said: "At the very least, the price of another ‘reset’ would be complicity in Putin and Assad’s butchery of the Syrian people."
  • Bill de Blasio and Rahm Emanuel of Chicago are among the Democratic mayors pledging to fight Trump’s immigration plans.
  • Activists using the hashtag #grabyourwallet are urging Trump detractors to boycott the family brand.