Trump transition in disarray after firings

New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump’s transition was in disarray on Tuesday, marked by firings, infighting and revelations that U.S. allies were blindly dialing in to Trump Tower to try to reach the soon-to-be-leader of the free world.

One week after Trump scored an upset victory that took him by surprise, his team was improvising the most basic traditions of assuming power. That included working without official State Department briefing materials in his first conversations with foreign leaders.

Two officials who had been handling national security for the transition, former Rep. Mike Rogers and Matthew Freedman, a lobbyist who consults with corporations and foreign governments, were fired. Both were part of what officials described as a purge orchestrated by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser.

The dismissals followed the abrupt firing on Friday of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who was replaced as chief of the transition by Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Kushner, a transition official said, was systematically dismissing people such as Rogers and Freedman who had ties with Christie. As a federal prosecutor, Christie had sent Kushner’s father to jail.

FILE-- Donald Trump speaks as his running-mate, Mike Pence, looks on at his election night party early Wednesday morning in New York, Nov. 9, 2016.  TrumpÕs transition operation plunged into disarray on Nov. 15 with the abrupt resignation of Mike Rogers, who had handled national security matters, the second shake-up in a week on a team that has not yet begun to execute the daunting task of taking over the government. (Damon Winter/The New York Times)

Prominent U.S. allies were in the meantime scrambling to figure out how and when to contact Trump. At times they have been patched through to him in his luxury office tower with little advance warning, according to a Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity to detail private conversations.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt was the first to reach Trump for such a call last Wednesday, followed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israeli not long afterward. That was about 24 hours before Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain got through.

Kellyanne Conway, who managed President-elect Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, talks to reporters at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York, Nov. 14, 2016. (Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)

Despite the haphazard nature of Trump’s early calls with world leaders, Trump’s advisers said the transition team was not suffering unusual setbacks. They argued that they were hard at work behind the scenes dealing with the same troubles that incoming presidents have faced for decades.

“Completely normal,” said Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, who emerged Tuesday as the leading contender to be Trump’s secretary of state. “It happened in the Reagan transition. Clinton had delays in hiring people.”