Trump denies transition is marred by disarray, nepotism

Donald Trump is gloating about Joe Biden's latest secret document woes.<i>Photo: Getty</i>

Donald Trump is gloating about Joe Biden's latest secret document woes.Photo: Getty Photo: AAP

US President-elect Donald Trump has hit out at reports that his transition is in disarray and scarred by in-fighting and nepotism.

The New York Times has reported that Mr Trump’s transition plans were in disarray, and that US allies were scrambling to figure out how and when to contact Mr Trump since last week’s election victory.

Mr Trump has hit back in a Twitter burst, pointing to his phone calls with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and New Zealand’s John Key.

The two figures who had been handling national security for the transition, Mike Rogers and Matthew Freedman, a lobbyist who consults with corporations and foreign governments, were both sacked.

Both were part of what is being described by The New York Times as a purge led by Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s son-in-law and adviser.

Those sackings came after the unexpected sacking of Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who was replaced as chief of the transition by Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Meanwhile, key US allies appeared to be struggling to reach Mr Trump.

At times world leaders were patched through to Mr Trump in his luxury Manhattan office tower with little warning, the newspaper quoting a Western diplomat, reported.

In what is a positive sign for nervous US allies like Australia and New Zealand, Mr Trump announced he is “always available to” foreign leaders.

He said the transition process was going smoothly and he had spoken to many foreign leaders, including Russia, the UK, China, Saudi Arabia and Japan.

Mr Turnbull called Mr Trump after last week’s election win, although The Daily Telegraph reports he needed the help of Australian golfing legend Greg Norman to do so.

The newspaper reports Australia’s ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey, contacted Mr Norman asking for Mr Trump’s private number. 

Mr Trump has been highly-critical of the New York Times’ coverage of his election campaign and win.

The New York Times is unrepentant, reporting that legal and procedural delays by Mr Trump’s transition team continue, all but freezing the traditional handoff of critical information from the current administration more than a week after the election.

US President–elect Donald Trump’s fractious relationship with the media points to a rocky transition ahead of the January 20 swearing–in ceremony.

Signs of a softening Trump

But some world leaders are seeing signs of softening rhetoric from the famously bumptious billionaire, and have expressed hope that he will engage with the rest of the world.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has told Parliament Mr Trump’s presidency is a win for the UK’s trade relationship with the world’s largest economy, and she would be discussing that with him at an early stage.

And the UN’s outgoing chief, Ban Ki–moon, says he’s observed a change following the election, and will now meet Mr Trump face to face.

In an interview on Wednesday with The Associated Press, Mr Ban said Mr Trump is showing signs of pulling back from his tough statements during a “difficult political campaign”.

“Slowly he is now showing some signs of changes from what he had been saying,” Mr Ban said. “I hope he will be engaging closely with world leaders and he will be closely working together with the United Nations.”

Mr Trump’s campaign promises included building a wall along the Mexican border, but he appeared to soften his stance after the election, saying in an interview with 60 Minutes he may be amenable to a fence along some parts.

“I’m asking world leaders not to erect walls,” Mr Ban said on the sidelines of UN climate talks in Marrakech, adding he would meet with Mr Trump to discuss “all the matters of our common concern”.

Reporters on the outside

American journalists have seen no sign of such softening.

The White House Correspondents’ Association says it is “unacceptable” that Mr Trump is travelling without a regular pool of journalists to inform the public of his whereabouts.

Mr Trump left his residence on Tuesday night for a family dinner after his transition team had told journalists he would not be in public the rest of the day.

A protective pool of journalists is supposed to join the president or president-elect’s motorcade to record their whereabouts and be on hand in the event of breaking news.

Mr Trump’s spokeswoman Hope Hicks has said the team plans to respect the traditions of press access at the White House.

WHCA President Jeff Mason says “the time to act on that promise is now”.
Mason says it is critical that journalists covering the president-elect “be allowed to do their job”.

The newspaper says he has taken calls from world leaders but they have been conducted haphazardly and “without State Department briefings that traditionally guide conversations with foreign leaders”.

Obama makes reassuring noises

Meanwhile current president Barack Obama, who is in Greece, said in a speech in Athens that “our future will be OK”.

While acknowledging that he and Mr Trump “could not be more different”, he said American democracy is bigger than any one person.

He says that’s as long as people retain faith in democracy and don’t waver from democratic principles.

Mr Obama assures that he’ll work with Trump’s team in the coming weeks on a smooth handover of power.

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