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Trump Names Vice President-Elect Mike Pence To Lead Transition Team


I'm Ari Shapiro. Big changes today to Donald Trump's transition team - and here to talk with us about it - NPR's Scott Detrow. Hi, Scott.


SHAPIRO: So New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has led the transition team up until now, is out. What happened?

DETROW: That's right. Well, Chris Christie was put in charge of the transition right after both conventions when both the Clinton campaign and the Trump campaign started to do the groundwork for preparing to govern. Of course, since then, Chris Christie has had a lot of problems.

Recently two of his top aides were convicted in the scheme to tie up traffic on the George Washington Bridge in order to extract political retribution against a mayor from a town right where the bridge came off. So Chris Christie has been increasingly under pressure, increasingly embroiled. And his profile has really dropped within Donald Trump's circle even though he was one of Trump's first prime endorsers.

SHAPIRO: And as Christie gets demoted, Vice President-elect Mike Pence gets promoted to running the transition. What does that say about this?

DETROW: I think this is good news for Republicans in Washington, D.C., who are hoping that even though Donald Trump ran a very insurgent campaign railing against both parties, that he may govern like a typical Republican.

The idea of Pence joining the ticket this summer was viewed by a lot of people in D.C. as kind of the bridge between Trump's outsider campaign and establishment Washington.

SHAPIRO: Scott, what are these people actually doing? What is the transition team focusing on right now?

DETROW: Two things - names and policies. Hundreds, thousands of people are going to be appointed in a Trump administration. The transition team is figuring out who those people are. And they're also setting an agenda. Donald Trump is going to go into the White House in about 90 days or so, and they are figuring out a plan for what he's going to do right away.

SHAPIRO: The Trump team also just today released this list of leaders of the transition team. What does the list tell you?

DETROW: Well, if Pence taking on this responsibility means a step in the direction of kind of a typical Republican administration, I think the list of people on this transition team could be viewed in the other way.

This is filled with people who were among the early endorsers of Donald Trump - people like Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, people who had been kind of out of power for a while align themselves with Trump really closely, and now that's benefiting them. They're in line for top jobs like secretary of state or attorney general.

SHAPIRO: One of the things that stands out to me is the number of people on this list with the last name Trump.

DETROW: Yes, that's right. His children are all part of the transition just like they were key members of his campaign. And I think that's something to keep a close eye on because Trump has said that he will turn his business over to his children to run without his involvement.

It's tough to see a hard line between personal business and government administration when your children are both running your business and serving as key advisers on your transition team.

SHAPIRO: This list has got two names of people who have been talked about as potential chief-of-staff picks. One is RNC chairman Reince Priebus. The other is the CEO of the Trump campaign, Steve Bannon, who came from Breitbart. What would either of these picks say about the direction Trump wants to take his presidency?

DETROW: This would be the first really big sign of which way Trump wants to go. There are two very distinct roads here. Reince Priebus is the head of the Republican Party. Probably no one in the orbit of Donald Trump is more establishment Washington, D.C., than Reince Priebus.

And Steve Bannon - he took a leave of absence to run Trump's campaign, but he heads the website Breitbart, which is a really anti-establishment, a very controversial, aggressive website that traffics in conspiracy theories, embraces the alt-right, you know, white nationalist movement and really pushed Donald Trump's campaign from the very beginning.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Scott Detrow on big changes to the Trump transition team. Thanks, Scott.

DETROW: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.