‘It Went Off the Rails Almost Immediately’
‘It Went off the Rails Almost Immediately.’ Two days after the November election, leaders of President Trump’s transition team presented his inner circle with more than 100 names of candidates for key Cabinet and other senior positions in the new administration. Missing from the list for the post of national security adviser was retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, according to two knowledgeable officials.
Flynn was a loyalist who had a close relationship with Trump. It was obvious to the transition team that Trump would give him a prominent appointment. But among some of those tasked with bringing forward prospective candidates, there was a belief that Flynn was ill-suited for the critically important job of coordinating national security policy in the new White House.
Trump, however, had his own list of candidates, and Flynn was at the top. Eleven days after winning the election, he announced Flynn as his choice. Twenty-four days after Trump was sworn in as president, Flynn was forced out for having misled Vice President Pence and others about communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn later acknowledged that he had worked on behalf of the Turkish government while serving as a campaign adviser. Last week, through his lawyer, he offered to testify, in exchange for immunity, in the ongoing investigations of Russian interference in the election.
Viewed through the lens of the first months of the new administration, Trump’s transition provided the template for what has unfolded since Inauguration Day on personnel and other matters. No transition goes exactly as planned, but Trump’s proved messier than most and that has carried over into the first months of his presidency.
Throughout the campaign, Trump took a hands-off approach to transition preparations. It was bad karma, he believed, to start planning a presidency before he won the election. Once elected, he decided to run things his own way. “It went off the rails almost immediately after the election,” said one knowledgeable person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment.
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