President-elect Donald Trump speaks at the DeltaPlex Arena, December 9, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As power shifts, Trump’s team remains unprepared to govern

Updated
The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/19/17, 9:41 PM ET

At last minute, Trump asks Obama appointees to stay

Rachel Maddow reports that Donald Trump, having failed to fill crucial positions in his administration, has, with less than a day before taking office, asked as many as 50 senior Obama appointees to remain in their positions.
When one U.S. administration transfers power to another, it’s not uncommon for various officials to remain at their posts for a while, which is why this Associated Press report, published yesterday, may not have seemed especially surprising.
President-elect Donald Trump has asked roughly 50 senior Obama administration appointees to remain in their posts after his inauguration to ensure continuity in government, his incoming White House press secretary said Thursday.

The officials include the highest-ranking career officials at key national security agencies like the Pentagon and State Department.
Just on the surface, there is a certain irony to the appeals: much of Trump’s campaign platform was predicated on the idea that President Obama’s team was an incompetent and disastrous failure, unfit for power, who must be replaced by people hand-picked by the Republican amateur.

Evidently, as of yesterday, Trump decided Obama administration officials aren’t so bad after all – because the people he spent a year bashing are now being asked to keep doing their jobs a while longer.

Note, we’re not just talking about random, low-level officials in obscure government offices. Team Trump has pleaded with top members of Obama’s team – professionals who work on highly sensitive tasks related to national security, for example – to stick around, for an indefinite amount of time, while the incoming administration gets its act together.

And therein lies the broader point. Trump and his team have known for months they needed to prepare a vast executive-branch team to take the reigns of power this afternoon – and they blew it badly. The Republicans didn’t just ask dozens of Obama appointees to keep going to work because of the officials’ competence; Trump World is also scrambling because it’s desperate.

Trump and his team were supposed to line up a small army of officials, and that simply never happened. The Washington Post is maintaining an online database on executive-branch offices that require Senate confirmation, and there are a total of 690 positions. As of now, Trump has nominated a grand total of 30 people to fill those posts.

And that doesn’t include other government offices that don’t require Senate confirmation – positions Trump simply can fill on his own – which also remain empty.

Republicans are eager to complain that Democrats are to blame for the fact that so few of Trump’s cabinet nominees are ready for confirmation, but it’s not Dems’ fault Trump hasn’t nominated anyone for 660 out of 690 executive-branch positions.

What’s more, let’s also not forget that some of the people Team Trump have asked to stick around for a while have reportedly said no, which means those offices will be literally empty at 12:01 p.m. (ET) this today.

Christopher Lu, the Deputy Secretary of Labor and the former executive director of the Obama-Biden transition, talked to Rachel about this on the show last night, and he noted how unusual it is for an incoming administration, 24 hours before the inauguration, to reach out to current officials, pleading with them to stay. It’s evidence of a team that’s woefully unprepared.

Asked if he’s worried about the Trump administration’s preparedness, Lu said, “Of course.”

I can appreciate why this seems crazy, but the fact remains that Donald Trump and his aides knew they had a responsibility to find qualified, competent staff to run key agencies of the world’s dominant superpower, but they just didn’t try very hard to complete this task.

Foreign Policy magazine had this striking report yesterday:
President-elect Donald Trump will enter the White House Friday with most national security positions still vacant, after a disorganized transition that has stunned and disheartened career government officials.

Instead of hitting the ground running, the Trump team emerged from the election ill-prepared for the daunting task of assembling a new administration and has yet to fill an array of crucial top jobs overseeing the country’s national security and diplomacy, fueling uncertainty across the federal government.
One career government official said, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

There are a lot of reasons to worry about the new Trump/Pence administration. This belongs near the top of the list.

Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, boasted this week that the Trump transition will become “the gold standard going forward.” For all of our sake, I’m going to hope he realizes how ridiculous such a claim is.


Donald Trump, Inauguration and White House

As power shifts, Trump's team remains unprepared to govern

Updated