WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump shook up his transition team Friday as he plunged into the work of setting up his administration, elevating Vice President-elect Mike Pence to head the operations. The move, one of the first key decisions as Trump pivots from campaigning to governing, amounted to a demotion for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who had been running the Republican’s transition planning for months.
On the heels of Trump’s upset victory this week, his team has begun to embark upon building a government, an enormous undertaking that likely requires Trump to alter his hands-on management style and consider going outside his small, insular group of loyalists. He has been scrambling to identify people for top White House jobs and Cabinet posts, a herculean task that must be well in hand by the time Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20.
For Trump, who ran on a pledge to “drain the swamp” of Washington insiders, the team is strikingly heavy on those with long political resumes.
And another apparent contradiction emerged Friday as Trump, who repeatedly vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act “on day one,” said he would be open to maintaining portions of President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement.
In a statement Friday, Trump said Pence would “build on the initial work” done by Christie.
“Together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding this nation — specifically jobs, security and opportunity,” Trump said.
Christie was a loyal adviser to Trump for much of the campaign, offered a key early endorsement and came close to being the businessman’s pick for running mate. But Trump ultimately went with Indiana Gov. Pence, a former congressman with Washington experience and deep ties to conservatives.
In a statement, Christie said he was “proud to have run the pre-election phase” of the transition team and thanked Trump for the “opportunity to continue to help lead.”
Christie will still be involved in the transition, joining a cluster of other steadfast Trump supporters serving as vice chairs: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.
In addition, three of Trump’s adult children — Don. Jr., Eric and Ivanka — are on the transition executive committee, along with Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s husband. Kushner played a significant role in Trump’s campaign and was spotted at the White House Thursday meeting with President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.
The children’s inclusion raises questions about the role the Trump family will play in the White House — as well as Trump’s ability to sever ties between the administration and sprawling family business — after the celebrity businessman repeatedly said during the campaign that his grown children would not follow him to Washington and instead run the Trump Organization.
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