Trump creates competing power centers in his West Wing – Politico
President-elect Donald Trump began to fill out his senior team in the West Wing on Thursday, naming campaign manager Kellyanne Conway as his counselor and installing Republican National Committee chief strategist Sean Spicer as his press secretary, one of the most public and prominent jobs in the administration.
Trump also filled out more of his communications staff, appointing campaign spokesman Jason Miller to be communications director, campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks to be strategic communications director and Dan Scavino, who ran social media for Trump’s campaign, to do the same for his White House.
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Those three, along with Spicer, were also given the title of assistant to the president.
The flurry of announcements ended weeks of rumors and jockeying for position among Trump’s campaign veterans and supporters. Of the four, Hicks and Scavino are so-called Trump originals who were with him from the start. Other longtime aides have worried that they were being frozen out in favor of more recent hires like Conway and Miller and members of the GOP establishment like Spicer and incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.
One such loyalist — Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s first campaign manager — on Wednesday announced that he will start a lobbying firm in D.C. rather than accept a White House job other than the one he wanted.
With Priebus as his chief of staff, Steve Bannon as his chief strategist and Conway as his counselor, Trump has set up three competing power centers in his administration, promising a continuation of the competition for his ear that occurred throughout the campaign and the transition process.
In the first of two announcements on Thursday, Trump’s transition team said Conway will “continue her role as a close advisor to the president and will work with senior leadership to effectively message and execute the Administration’s legislative priorities and actions.”
“Kellyanne Conway has been a trusted advisor and strategist who played a crucial role in my victory. She is a tireless and tenacious advocate of my agenda and has amazing insights on how to effectively communicate our message. I am pleased that she will be part of my senior team in the West Wing,” Trump said in a statement.
Conway, who joined Trump’s campaign as it was mired in controversy over the summer and managed it to a surprise victory last month, had previously said she was hesitant to accept a White House role because such a job would take her away from her four young children. She had previously hinted that she would turn down a position inside the White House. Ultimately, Conway told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday morning that “it’s very difficult to say no,” to a White House job, “and the president-elect is a very persuasive man.”
Conway, in her new position, will be the highest–ranking woman in the White House. On Thursday morning, she noted that past counselors to the president have included Karen Hughes, who filled that role for President George W. Bush, and Edwin Meese, who worked for President Ronald Reagan. She said that while her job title is not novel, her duties and responsibilities will not be modeled after any particular predecessor but will be specific to Trump’s administration.
Conway, a veteran GOP pollster, has been one of his most visible spokespersons, both before and after Election Day, and she told CNN’s “New Day” that she expects to keep communications as one aspect of her new job, even as Spicer, Hicks, Miller and Scavino also play prominent roles.
Dealing with data and strategy, pulling from her background, is also likely to be part of her new position, a role she said was established in her discussions with Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser Jared Kushner. Speaking with MSNBC, Conway said she expects Trump will ask her to continue serving as a “discreet adviser” and somebody who “supports him in his effective connecting and communicating with America.”
“Well, the portfolio will be whatever the president wants it to be,” Conway said in explaining her new position to CNN anchor Chris Cuomo. “I’m just really pleased and frankly very humbled, Chris, to take on this role in the West Wing, near the president, and to be supportive of the senior team that he already has in place, colleagues of mine that I’ve worked together very closely with throughout the campaign and the transition.”
The incoming counselor to the president said Thursday morning that her concerns about White House work taking her away from her children were ultimately assuaged by seeing Trump spend time with his own children and grandchildren and by her decades-long relationships with female employees of Trump’s companies. Conway said three of her four children are excited about the family’s move from New Jersey to Washington, although her 12-year-old daughter did begin a “keep the Conway kids from moving to Washington” online petition. “When you’re a pollster and you have 75 percent agreement on anything, you’re really excited. When you’re a mother, 100 percent agreement would be fantastic, so we’re getting there,” Conway told “Fox & Friends.”
At an event hosted by POLITICO earlier this month, Conway suggested that the demands placed on any White House staffer are especially difficult for mothers, a predicament she said many men do not understand.
“I do politely mention to them the question isn’t would you take the job, the male sitting across from me who’s going to take a big job in the White House. The question is would you want your wife to,” she continued. “Would you want the mother of children to? You really see their entire visage change. It’s like, ‘Oh, no, they wouldn’t want their wife to take that job.’”
Asked Thursday morning on Fox Business Network if she would have enough time to do her job and still be a full-time mother, Conway responded, “I don’t play golf and I don’t have a mistress so, I have a lot of time that a lot of these other men don’t.”
The transition team statement announcing Conway’s White House position also seemingly jabbed at Democrat Hillary Clinton, who spoke often of shattering the “glass ceiling” by becoming the first woman elected to be president. Conway, the Trump team statement noted, is the first woman to manage a winning presidential campaign and as such, the Manhattan billionaire’s campaign had “shattered the glass ceiling for women.”
Shane Goldmacher contributed to this report.