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.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and America’s third-ranking diplomat, Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon, will serve as acting chiefs of their agencies until successors for the top jobs are confirmed by the Senate, Trump’s spokesman Sean Spicer said.
Also staying will be Brett McGurk, the Obama administration’s special representative for the fight against the Islamic State terror group, and Nicholas Rasmussen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Trump also is keeping Adam Szubin, the Treasury Department’s top official for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Work will likely man the ship for only a matter of hours. Trump’s selection for the Pentagon, retired Gen. James Mattis, is expected to be confirmed on Friday shortly after the inauguration ceremony.
Shannon is expected to run the State Department at least until next week. A Senate vote on Trump’s choice to succeed John Kerry as secretary of state, former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, isn’t expected until Monday or Tuesday.
On the diplomatic front, it was not immediately clear if the Trump administration would accept an invitation to attend Russian-supported Syria peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Monday.
Trump has made a great point about seeking closer cooperation with Moscow on counterterrorism and security matters. Obama’s special envoy for Syria, Michael Ratney, has indicated he is willing to attend, but the transition team hadn’t instructed him to make the trip.
As in previous transitions, U.S. embassies and consulates abroad headed by noncareer, presidential appointee ambassadors will transfer to the most senior career diplomat present until the new administration fills the top posts.