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


President-elect Donald Trump said during his trip to Washington, D.C., we can't get started fast enough. He has yet to name any Cabinet members. There's been a lot of speculation. He did announce his transition team yesterday. Those are the people who will help him make those choices. NPR's Sarah McCammon has been covering the Trump campaign and joins us now. Thanks for being with us.


SIMON: Vice President-elect Pence is going to lead the team. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie apparently has been demoted from that role. Forgive this, but was he just a bridge too far at this point?

MCCAMMON: (Laughter) Nice one there, Scott. Of course, Christie is under a bit of a cloud right now after some of his close aides were recently convicted in that Bridgegate scandal. So he put Pence - and we don't know for sure if this is why, but these events did follow each other. Pence is stepping into the lead, you know, leading the effort to create a cabinet and fill other appointments. We did see some hints of this because Christie himself had said that Trump was not in the initial transition meeting on Wednesday this week, and Pence was there, apparently leading things. Pence, of course, has experience in both Congress and as the governor of Indiana - experience that will likely be useful for Trump, who, of course, has never held a position in government.

SIMON: The three oldest Trump children are on this list of transition team members - Ivanka, Donald, Jr., and Eric. Of course, they also reportedly played a big role in the campaign. Do we know what they'll be doing?

MCCAMMON: You know, Trump has said they will be running his business while he's president, and he's promised it would be in a blind trust. And that's intended to shield him from conflicts of interest. But, of course, these are his children, and it's clear that they're continuing to take an active role in the transition to a Trump administration. We know that they've been in and out of meetings at Trump Tower in New York this week. And it's not clear exactly what their role will be, but federal law prohibits federal employees - and that includes the president - from hiring immediate family members to agencies that they control, which is a lot of agencies if you're the president. And that also would include his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who's played an important role in the campaign and was seen taking a walk this week with White House chief-of-staff Denis McDonough.

SIMON: Lot of names have been - have been batted about this week. Which ones strike you as more solid than just rumors?

MCCAMMON: Well, there are a lot of rumors, among them Steve Bannon, Trump's campaign CEO, and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who are both on the transition team. There has been speculation that one of them might be a candidate for Trump's chief-of-staff. Bannon is, of course, the former head of Breitbart News, and he has said he would go back there. Choosing him, though, would elevate a key figure in the alt-right movement, which has been associated with white nationalism. His website, for instance, has promoted many conspiracy theories that have been debunked. Some of the people leading the committee, also, are names we have heard before during the campaign - Dr. Ben Carson, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich - and Chris Christie is still part of the team. There are also some names that are familiar in Washington and Wall Street - you know, two big establishment cities that Trump has promised supporters he would tear down the establishment during the campaign.

SIMON: And what have we learned about the Trump agenda over the last couple of days?

MCCAMMON: Things seem to be softening a little bit. His advisers have given mixed messages about the wall with Mexico, the ban on Muslim immigration and other issues. And here's what he said on "60 Minutes" about the Affordable Care Act.


LESLEY STAHL: When you replace it, are you going to make sure that people with pre-conditions are still covered?

DONALD TRUMP: Yes, because it happens to be one of the strongest assets.

STAHL: You're going to keep that.

TRUMP: Also, with the children living with their parents for an extended period - we're going to...

STAHL: You're going to keep that.

TRUMP: We're going to very much try and keep that in. Adds cost, but it's very much something we're going to try and keep.

MCCAMMON: And here Trump has said, you know, he wanted to make sure that people with preexisting conditions were still covered, but that's one of the costliest parts of the health care law. He didn't say whether he would keep in place the mandate for coverage and that helps balance out the equation for insurers. He did tell The Wall Street Journal that he and President Obama had discussed the law's provisions in their meeting this week. He said he'd consider the president's concerns and that he wasn't sure whether Obamacare would be amended or repealed and replaced. Of course, during the campaign, he promised - repeal and replace Obamacare.

SIMON: NPR's Sarah McCammon, thanks so much for being with us.

MCCAMMON: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.