President-elect Donald Trump's transition team suffered its second upheaval in less than a week amid a power struggle to influence the shape of the incoming administration.
On Tuesday, former congressman Mike Rogers announced his abrupt departure from the transition effort. An ex-Federal Bureau of Investigation officer, he had been tipped as a potential head of a major U.S. security portfolio.
Instead, Mr. Rogers was reportedly pushed out of Mr. Trump's inner circle because of his ties to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who lost his own position as head of the team last week. Mike Pence, the incoming vice-president, took over as head of transition planning for Mr. Christie, but has not yet completed the legal paperwork required to begin co-ordination with the White House, stalling the handover process.
Mr. Trump's appointees are being closely scrutinized for signs of how he intends to govern. Observers worry he is now leaning toward confrontational figures who sit outside of the Republican mainstream.
Mr. Rogers, who had spent months with the Trump campaign, had once been chair of the House Intelligence Committee, which reviews top-secret U.S. intelligence operations. In the past, Mr. Rogers had been hailed for his bi-partisan approach to the job. He released a 2014 report, for example, that cleared former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of any wrongdoing in the deadly 2012 terrorist attack on American officials in Benghazi, Libya.
President-elect Trump has fewer than 70 days until his inauguration on Jan. 20 and he is hurrying to make appointments amid jockeying by friends and allies to secure positions in his cabinet.
The transition team members whose stars are still rising are said to include Rudy Giuliani, the controversial former mayor of New York, who appears to be in the running for Secretary of State. Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant-General Mike Flynn, who recently published a book called The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies, is also said to be in line for a top position.
Some established Republicans in the legislative branch of government are already gearing up for fights with the Trump administration. Senator John McCain issued a pointed statement Tuesday calling upon Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to cease making overtures to each other. "With the U.S. presidential transition under way … we should place as much faith in [Mr. Putin's] statements as any other made by a former KGB agent who has plunged his country into tyranny," Mr. McCain said.
When the presidential campaign was in full swing last summer, 50 former national-security officials – most of them affiliated with George W. Bush's Republican administration – penned an open letter against Mr. Trump. It stated that he "lacks the character, values and experience to be President."
Now that Mr. Trump has won, some of these same figures say they can only hope Congress can constrain him. "Campaign rhetoric and execution are two entirely different things," said Tom Ridge, Mr. Bush's former Homeland Security Secretary, as he visited the Globe and Mail editorial board on Wednesday.
Saying he stood by his signature on the letter, Mr. Ridge pointed out that Republicans in Washington typically favour free trade and strong military alliances. This likely means that the president-elect will have to moderate his positions if he wants to have a successful four years, he said.
Mr. Ridge added that he doesn't think Mr. Trump can live up to his promises to build a wall along the Mexican border or to broadly ban people from Muslim nations from visiting the United States.
And Washington has threatened to seal up its borders in other times of crisis. Mr. Ridge acknowledged as much as he recalled how Canada-U.S. trade slowed from a torrent to a trickle in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
"We ramped up security to such a level right after 9/11. Doggone it, it was trucks backed up – commerce came to a screeching halt," Mr. Ridge said. And this only changed, he said, after Mr. Bush asked him to stay put after a morning meeting. "He pulled me aside. Said we got to change what we're doing at the border. This is not a good thing. Security is overriding everything we're doing," Mr. Ridge recalled.
The result was the first in a series of intelligence-sharing accords the two nations, signed in hopes of facilitating trade and forestalling future terrorist attacks.
Mr. Ridge say he hopes Mr. Trump comes to see the value in such agreements: "I would like to think that once he sits down and sees the extraordinary relationship – cultural, financial, historic, economic – with our friends north of the border, he dare not play around with the border and with NAFTA."