Reporters Crowd Trump Tower As Transition Meetings Continue

Nov 17, 2016
Originally published on November 18, 2016 9:18 am
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

President-elect Donald Trump's team has had a rocky start to its transition into the White House, but they're now making several moves to show that things are on track.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Today Trump met with several possible Cabinet picks, continued outreach to foreign leaders and began staffing up to ensure a smooth handoff with the Obama administration. NPR has also confirmed that he will meet with Mitt Romney this weekend.

SIEGEL: NPR's Don Gonyea is at Trump Tower in Manhattan following all of this, and he's on the line now. Hello, Don.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Hi, Robert.

SIEGEL: And for the last week, there have been plenty of rumors of chaos and infighting on the Trump transition team. What do we know now about the state of the transition?

GONYEA: We are starting to see some things today that feel like normal, even boring transition stuff. Here's an example. They have to start having a dialogue with the sitting Obama administration, and it's not just the president-elect meeting the president. It's people who work at agencies and departments kind of figuring out how they can do a smooth handoff. So they have established three teams - one for national security, one for economics and one for domestic policy. And those sorts of conversations are going to start very soon.

The other thing they can do - it may seem like a small thing. They have started communicating with us reporters a little more. They've instituted a daily conference call which at least gives us some guidance as to what is happening on any given day.

SIEGEL: What is unique about this transition, Don, is that Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey who was the original head of the transition, was removed from that job after the election. How does this compare with past transitions that you've covered?

GONYEA: That is kind of the astounding thing. And some of it has been driven by the sense that Christie was there. But that was a place to put him while he was having political troubles of his own with that Bridgegate trial that was going on and the like and that as soon as Donald Trump became the president-elect, they realized, oh, this transition is for real; we need to get somebody in there.

Now, I can tell you that I went through one very crazy transition before, and that was in the year 2000. And Kellyanne Conway, who was the campaign manager for Donald Trump, his pollster, one of his top advisers - she came down, spoke with us briefly today. And that was the point she wanted to raise. Give a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

KELLYANNE CONWAY: We looked at where past administrations have been also. We feel like we're right on target, right on time for all of that. In 2000, the country went to Thanksgiving without knowing who the president was. So we didn't know who the president was until about December 12 in 2000. So we feel way ahead of schedule and never in a rush to do the wrong thing.

SIEGEL: That's a pretty low bar for (laughter) being organized.

GONYEA: (Laughter) And I will tell you; covering that in 2000, the George W. Bush team was acting like they were the president-elect from day one and doing all of the things the president-elect or an incoming administration does.

SIEGEL: What do we know about how the president-elect is spending his time?

GONYEA: A lot of meetings, we are told. And again, we're not able to see those meetings or be there after. But he has a meeting today, his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader - Prime Minister Abe of Japan. He met with Henry Kissinger today. He met with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

There have been a lot of people coming and going, some of them business contacts, some of them potential treasury secretaries. So all of those meetings are happening up way above where we can see on the 26th floor at Trump Tower.

SIEGEL: All of this is taking place in about as un-isolated location as you can imagine. I mean true, true, they're way up there upstairs, but they're in the middle of - I mean you're in Fifth Avenue. I mean what's the scene like there?

GONYEA: And the lobby of Trump Tower is open to the public. So the press is in kind of a velvet-roped area not too far from the elevators where we can see people coming and going. But tourists are coming through, and some of them are wearing their trump garb. And they're posing for pictures, and they're taking pictures of us. And it really is kind a crazy scene given the serious nature of what's happening upstairs.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Don Gonyea at Trump Tower in Manhattan. Don, thank you.

GONYEA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.