President-elect Donald Trump denied Wednesday that his transition is in disarray, assailing media reports about firings and infighting and insisting in an early-morning Twitter burst that everything is going “so smoothly.”
But legal and procedural delays by Trump’s transition team continued on Wednesday, all but freezing the traditional handoff of critical information from the current administration more than a week after Trump won the presidential election.
The president-elect criticized a report in The New York Times about his early telephone contacts with foreign leaders. In a post on Twitter at 7:17 a.m., he said he had made and received “calls from many foreign leaders despite what the failing @nytimes said. Russia, U.K., China, Saudi Arabia, Japan.”
In fact, The Times reported that Trump had taken calls from the leaders of Egypt, Israel, Russia and Britain, but said they had been conducted haphazardly and without State Department briefings that traditionally guide conversations with foreign leaders.
Of the transition effort, Trump wrote: “It is going so smoothly.”
White House aides said Obama administration officials at agencies across the government remained legally barred from delivering the normal guidance and briefings to Trump’s transition team because essential documents had still not been completed.
A wholesale shake-up of Trump’s team — replacing Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and the transition staff he had assembled — has forced Christie’s replacement, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, to sign a new memorandum of understanding, a legally required document. White House officials said Pence delivered that document late on Tuesday.
But by Wednesday, Trump’s team still had not delivered a series of required, supporting documents, including certifications that each transition member would abide by a code of conduct and would not divulge sensitive information about the inner workings of the government.
“The next step is for the president-elect’s transition team to provide us with the names of the individuals they have authorized to represent their transition effort across the government,” said Brandi Hoffine, a spokeswoman for the White House. “Once we have received those names and related materials, those individuals will be able to receive the briefing materials we have prepared and begin to communicate with their Obama administration agency counterparts.”
Trump has announced his chief of staff and chief strategist, but the transition process has been marred by a purge of transition team members who had connections to Christie and his original staff.
Trump, who has been ensconced in his office at Trump Tower for days as he deliberates, ditched the press corps waiting in the lobby Tuesday night and made his way to the 21 Club on West 52nd Street, where he and his family had dinner for about two hours.
People familiar with Trump’s deliberations about top positions in his administration said that the president-elect was focused on rewarding his most loyal campaign allies. Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, is the leading candidate to become secretary of state. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama is in line to be secretary of defense or attorney general.
Eric Trump, one of the president-elect’s sons, told reporters as he arrived at Trump Tower on Wednesday that it was “likely” that some people would be named to positions by the end of the day.
But even as his father settles on names for key positions at the top of the government, the clock is ticking. Teams of Obama administration officials have prepared detailed briefing packets to help inform their soon-to-be successors as they prepare to take control of the agencies on Jan. 20.
Those teams have been told to remain on standby until Trump’s transition operation has completed the legally required documents.
In the flag-bedecked lobby of the State Department, next to the main reception desk, there is a sign that says “Transition.” It has been very quiet. The State Department confirms that, like the Pentagon and the Justice Department, it has not heard from anyone on Trump’s team, a week after the election.
“We have not been contacted,” said John Kirby, the press secretary.
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