President-elect Donald Trump will keep 50 top aides to President Obama on critical issues like the war on the so-called Islamic State, international sanctions and global counterterrorism efforts, his spokesman announced Thursday.
“What we’ve ensured is that, for the time being, we’ve got a team in place that will continue to advise him and make sure that the country remains safe and that our priorities will be carried out,” incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.
The group includes Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, the Pentagon’s number two; Undersecretary of Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, the State Department’s number four; and the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Nicholas Rasmussen.
It also includes Obama’s lead aide in the war on ISIS, Brett McGurk, who managed Iraq and Afghanistan under former President George W. Bush. And it comprises Adam Szubin, whom Senate Republicans have refused to confirm as director of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Also staying on are Assistant Treasury Secretary for Management Kody Kinsley; Susan Coppedge, the top State Department official on combating human trafficking; and the acting head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Chuck Rosenberg. Rosenberg served in several senior roles in Bush’s Justice Department, including as chief of staff to then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey, the future FBI director, and adviser to Attorney General John Ashcroft.
It’s not uncommon for incoming presidents to temporarily retain officials who served their predecessors in sensitive roles until their successors can be vetted and, if necessary, confirmed by the Senate. Bush retained one of Bill Clinton’s National Security Council press aides and some senior NSC directors who manage key issues. At least one Clinton NSC official, a career State Department person, served Clinton, then Bush, then Obama.
But the news comes amid reports that Trump is off to a slow start when it comes to enlisting people for key national security posts.
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