Mike Pence, Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr
In a surprise shake-up, Donald Trump’s transition team announced that Vice President-elect Mike Pence will take over the reins as the team prepares to enter the White House and begin building a cabinet.
Since May, transition efforts have been led by Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), who will now be demoted to vice-chairman of the transition team, along with retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, reports The New York Times.
By removing Christie from the top spot, the transition team gets to avoid any publicity or controversy surrounding the conviction of some of the New Jersey governor’s top aides for closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge as political payback to a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse Christie’s re-election campaign.
Trump said in a statement that he was appointing Pence to the top job because of his experience as a former Congressman and governor who has strong relationships with Republicans in Congress and Republican governors.
“The mission of our team will be clear: put together the most highly qualified group of successful leaders who will be able to implement our change agenda in Washington,” Trump said in a statement. “Together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding this nation — specifically jobs, security and opportunity.”
Others who have been added to the transition team include Rick Dearborn, the chief of staff to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Stephen Bannon, Trump’s campaign chairman, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Peter Thiel, the openly gay co-founder of PayPal, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and members of the Trump family, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner.
While it is not unusual for a vice president to head the transition team — Vice President Dick Cheney did the same for President-elect George W. Bush in 2000 — the elevation of Pence has some in LGBT circles worried, given the former Indiana governor’s longstanding anti-LGBT record and allegiance to the socially conservative wing of the GOP.
As the transition team begins vetting potential cabinet members, some LGBT leaders have expressed concerns about some of the names being floated as possible department heads, including anti-gay politicians such as Sessions, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former GOP presidential candidate and neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Placing Pence in charge of the transition team may serve only to bolster the perception, held by many on the Left, that people within the Trump administration will pursue an anti-LGBT agenda or work to repeal advances in equality once in power.