Ed Feulner, former president of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, has joined Donald Trump’s transition team to help prepare for the possibility of a win by the Republican presidential candidate this fall.
Feulner, 75, is the first major figure with deep credibility in the conservative movement to join the Trump transition effort, which is being run by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Two sources with direct knowledge of Feulner’s involvement confirmed his role.
Contacted by phone, Feulner confirmed that he is working for Trump’s transition team but declined to comment and referred questions to the Trump campaign.
Feulner is credited with building the Heritage Foundation from a small, struggling policy think tank in the 1970s to the influential behemoth it became during the presidency of Ronald Reagan and beyond. He retired as president in 2013, when former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, took the reins of the organization.
The addition of Feulner has great symbolic value for Trump, who is viewed with intense suspicion by many conservatives who doubt his commitment to their ideology. However, despite the addition of Feulner, Christie is having trouble finding people to fill many of the slots needed to run a successful transition team, according to one conservative policy expert in Washington, D.C.
When asked about the lack of names announced so far, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks argued that the transition effort has “a great team and tremendous, overwhelming interest, but the campaign is focused on connecting with voters and Mr. Trump’s message and vision for the country.”
Hicks added that “Hillary Clinton may put an inordinate amount of focus on her transition team because she is relying on a rigged system that has propelled her thus far.”
Clinton has several high-profile Democrats — led by former interior secretary and Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar — running her transition.
Both Trump and Clinton have taxpayer-funded office space provided for a transition effort, the result of a 2010 law that moved up the availability of such money to just after the party conventions, rather than after the election.
In 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney was the first presidential candidate to take advantage of the new law, and his transition effort cost taxpayers nearly $9 million.