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"We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn't be involved with..."
Donald Trump, 06 December 2016

"... a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing."
Neville Chamberlain, September 27, 1938

Trump Doctrine - The Transition

The pool of experienced candidates from which Trump could draw may be smaller than usual for incoming presidents. In his first major foreign policy address in April 2016, Trump promised to avoid experienced people "who have perfect resumes but very little to brag about except responsibility for a long history of failed policies and continued losses at war." Council of Foreign Relations Visiting Fellow Elizabeth Saunders told VOA 10 November 2016 the backlash resulting from Trump's position may force the president-elect to search outside the traditional pools of candidates. "The problem is many of those people have signed pledges never to work for him … and it's partly because they may find him unacceptable, but it's also because he is really at odds on many issues with the Republican foreign policy establishment," she said.

While there have been reports though that the Trump team has had difficulty filling national security seats, Dan Lamothe at The Washington Post had a good write-up for some of the names being tossed around, Sen. Jeff Sessions, Rep. Duncan Hunter and Steven Hadley. Joseph Schmitz, a lawyer who served as the Pentagon's inspector general during the George W. Bush administration, had advised Trump and could be in line for a security-related position. “Schmitz slowed or blocked investigations of senior Bush administration officials, spent taxpayer money on pet projects and accepted gifts that may have violated ethics guidelines,” according to an investigation by the Los Angeles Times in 2005.

Newt Gingrich said 17 November 2016 that he would not be serving in President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet. Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker, had been a loyal Trump supporter. But his disturbingly personal diatribes against the Clintons, which date back to the failed impeachent campaign against Bill Clinton in 1998, were so virulent on the campaign trail that Trump hesitated to name Gingrich his running mate. Post-election victory, however, the former Georgia congressman may be rewarded with the secretary of state position, which would have major implications for US foreign policy and Washington’s role in the international community.

John Bolton, the conservative former US ambassador to the UN and bane of the UN General Assembly, was another name circulating for the secretary of state job. Bolton in the role of the US' top foreign affairs minister would send chills down the spines of diplomats across the world. He was one of the pillars of the neoconservative doctrine that underpinned US foreign policy under former President George W. Bush, the effects of which, some analysts claim, was still plaguing the Middle East today. With John Bolton, the former United Nations ambassador, emerging as a finalist for a senior national security post, even secretary of state, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, said on 15 November 2016 that he would do “whatever I can” to block him. Such opposition improved the stock of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, to lead the State Department. Giuliani had indicated that he would not be Attourny General, as initially anticipated. The floating of Bolton had baffled observers, given Bolton's well-known hawkish foreign policy worldview, at comptete odds with Trump’s isolationist campaign pitch for less military engagement in the world.

Former Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., was head of Trump’s national security transition team. The former chairman of the House intelligence committee, Rogers serves on boards for consulting firms IronNet Cybersecurity and Next Century Corp. Jim Carafano, Heritage Foundation’s vice president for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, led the transition for the State Department. The 25-year Army veteran had advised Trump on terrorism and border security. In a radio interview, Carafano said the next administration must focuse on transnational criminal cartels, tougher border security and fight al-Qaeda globally.

Trump named retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, a figure close to Trump military adviser Michael Flynn, to oversee the the defense transition writ large, including the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments. Kellogg was chief operating officer for Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, which governed the country after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Kellogg took a leave of absence from Oracle Corp., from November 2003 to March 2004, to serve as the chief operations officer for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Working with Kellogg is Mira Ricardel, a former acting assistant secretary of Defense for International Security Policy during the George W. Bush administration who more recently served as vice president of business development for Boeing Strategic Missile & Defense Systems.

The Trump transition, already off to slow start, bogged down further 15 November 2016 with the abrupt resignation of former Congressman Mike Rogers, who had been coordinating its national security efforts. Rogers was the victim of what one observer called a "Stalinesque purge," from the transition of people close to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who left 11 November 2016. Rogers was initially seen as a leading candidate for CIA director, but was off the list. Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was now a top contender.

The purge indicated the emphasis on loyalty — and significant influence of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, husband of Ivanka. Kushner had a longstanding grudge sparked when Christie prosecuted Kushner's father in 2004. Due to Christie's investigation, Charles Kushner eventually pleaded guilty to 18 felony counts, including tax fraud and witness tampering, and was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

Matthew Freedman, the chief executive at Global Impact, a consulting firm, was removed from his post overseeing the National Security Council transition after questions emerged about his lobbying ties. He started as a foreign government lobbyist in the 1980s, when he joined a company then led by Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman.

Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned congratulations to US President-elect Donald Trump on 14 November 2016 and said Russia was ready for a "partner-like dialogue" with the United States. A Kremlin release said Putin and Trump agree that US-Russian ties are "extremely unsatisfactory" right now and that their talks need to be based on equality, mutual respect and non-interference in each other's internal affairs. Trump agreed in the phone call with Putin to normalize ties and cooperate in the fight against terrorism.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona issued a statement 15 November 2016 warning the next administration against another diplomatic "reset" with Russia that would validate President Vladimir Putin, whom he described as "a former KGB agent who has plunged his country into tyranny, murdered his political opponents, invaded his neighbors, threatened America's allies, and attempted to undermine America's elections.... The price of another reset would be complicity in Putin and [President Bashar al-] Assad's butchery of the Syrian people. That is an unacceptable price for a great nation".

Eliot A. Cohen wrote 15 November 2016 "The tenor of the Trump team, from everything I see, read and hear, is such that, for a garden-variety Republican policy specialist, service in the early phase of the administration would carry a high risk of compromising one’s integrity and reputation.... Trump was not a normal candidate, the transition is not a normal transition, and this will probably not be a normal administration. The president-elect is surrounding himself with mediocrities whose chief qualification seems to be unquestioning loyalty.... By all accounts, his ignorance, and that of his entourage, about the executive branch is fathomless. It’s not even clear that he accepts that he should live in the White House rather than in his gilt-smeared penthouse in New York."

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