Political Diary

POLITICAL DIARY: DAY 2 At White House Press Pool With Trump’s Transition Team

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Ksenija Pavlovic, Editor in Chief of the Pavlovic Today on the Day two of President-Elect’s meetings in Bedminster

Day two of President-Elect’s meetings  in Bedminster was eclipsed by recent controversy surrounding Hamilton, Mike Pence, and Trump’s Twitter polemics. Regardless, Ksenija Pavlovic, Editor in Chief of the Pavlovic today writes in her political diary that the transition still maintained some continuity, arranging for productive meetings with various high profile people in Hollywood, finance, and politics.

9:30 Marriott Bridgewater. Last night, surgeon, turned pharmaceutical tycoon, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the richest doctor in America, joined President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Pence for dinner. The doctor, whom Forbes featured on its cover for his remarkable advances in cancer research, came to Bedminster to discuss with the incoming administration medical innovation and the nation’s most pressing health priorities.

However, today’s news has been overshadowed by a weekend of dramatics. After a member of the cast of Hamilton decided to publicly confront of one its guests – none other than Vice President-elect Mike Pence – and critique the incoming Administration’s policies and mindview, President-elect Trump took to Twitter to share his feelings.

Whether or not the cast member’s address to the next Vice-President was warranted, it is unquestionable that it has, yet again, sparked another characteristic Twitter polemic by President-elect Trump.

At 6:22 AM, Trump tweeted his two cents about Hamilton which read:”The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior”

Then, at 8:26 AM he repeated his call for  an immediate apology to Mike Pence:

The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior”.  

Trump, with his trademark use of the Twitter, has forced this topic at the top of the news cycle.

Once again, the President-elect’s savvy instincts on message outreach has been showcased. He knows how to use media to send his message. Despite overwhelming criticism, it does not seem that he has any plans on backing down from his signature tweeting style. Nor is the President-elect relenting either from his demand for Hamilton’s cast to apologize to the Vice President-elect Pence.

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Church near the Trump International Golf Club in Bedminster where President-Elect went to attend Sunday mass.

10: 30 AM   For day two of high-profile presidential meetings, I head over to Trump International with Peter Foley, photographer from EPA. As we drive on the highway, I look at the weather forecasts for the day. The temperature is creeping below freezing – a dramatic turnaround from yesterday.

The next thing I notice is a church close to the Trump International Golf Course. It is bracketed with black cars – a convoy befitting the next President of the United States. It’s Sunday, and Trump has elected to go to Mass before his meetings. We can only speculate as to the President-elect’s intentions: is this simply for optics, or does the President’s piety always impel him to attend church on a weekly basis? Regardless of the reason, a president of faith is of particular importance to American politics. Capturing the President-elect in this light is an effective way of communicating that significance.

11:00 AM I am at the Trump International Golf Course, reviewing the list of twelve high-profile people scheduled to meet with the President-elect: from Ari Emanuel, brother of Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel to General John Kelly.

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Ari Emanuel in Bedminster

12:30 PM  Ari Emanuel, a longtime Trump ally and Hillary supporter rolled all into one, is scheduled for the first meeting of the day.

Ari’s contradicting alliances begs the question as to why he is here. It is possible, though highly unlikely, that Trump would discuss a cabinet position with the CEO of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment.  What political assets does the “King of Hollywood” really have to offer?

If politics is, in truth, show business, then perhaps Ari is useful. But, Trump’s team is replete with these types of people (think Kellyanne Conway), and Trump has been found wanting of real policy wonks by his side.

There is, however, a not-so-obvious explanation of this rather conspicuous partnership. WME, most notably represents Hamilton. With that in mind, having WME’s top head trek from New York to Bedminster – on a Sunday morning – suggests that this may be an attempt at crisis management, damage control for what some would say a particularly unpresidential reaction to a Broadway musical’s evening performance.

After the meeting, neither Emanuel nor Trump made any comments on Hamilton and referred to the subject of their conversation in a broader sense, stating that they had a good discussion about business, politics, and, above all, bridging the political divide across America. I cannot help but wonder if by bridging the political divide across America, the meeting was in fact about the divide brought to the fore by Hamilton cast?

1:15 PM The President-elect and Vice President-elect then met with Peter Kasinow. They had a substantive conversation about labor laws, regulations and freeing up commerce to create more jobs in America.

1:40 PM Another power meeting is about to take place, this time with Jonathan D. Gray,  Global Head of Real Estate and a member of the board of directors of Blackstone. During the election campaign, according to John Podesta’s hacked emails, Gray was referred to as  a supporter of Clinton.

The hacked email that came from Clinton’s campaign finance director Dennis Cheng to Podesta reads as follows:

John Gray of Blackstone… he is going to run Blackstone one day. Really admires HRC and wants to be helpful, but doesn’t know our world that work. Would be good for him to get to know you. The next time you are in NYC, I think you and I should meet with him.

President-Elect’s meeting with Gray however should not come off as a surprise considering that the head of Blackstone is none other than private equity tycoon Stephen Schwarzman, a loyal Republican with ties to George W. Bush (their friendship going back all the way to their Yale years together).

It has been suggested that Blackstone’s John Gray is a top contender for Treasury Secretary. But, the real question on the press’ mind is of the whereabouts of Chris Christie. The Governor of New Jersey, in a rather inconspicuous fashion, has already made his way into the building alongside former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani.

After the meeting with Gray was concluded, it has been suggested that the topic of discussion included the economy, global capital markets and the world’s financial situation. President-elect Trump discussed with the CEO of Blackstone future legislation concerned the tax code and the nation’s long-term debt. All of these are indeed important questions for a candidate for the Secretary of Treasury.

One of the reasons why Trump is successful in bringing on board former Clinton’s supporters is the fact that they are all businessmen and not political ideologues. That is in fact one of the major reassuring aspects of Trump’s politics that could serve both his advantage and the American people’s advantage, who by and large were disappointed by the election results.

2:00 PM Everyone is still waiting for Christie and Giuliani to start their meetings. I however choose to speak with Secret Service Agent  Omar J. Vela, who previously served in the 75th Ranger Regiment. We spoke of his long-term career trajectory, from that of serving in the army to now being a member of the President-elect’s security detail. I asked him about the wide spread  problems veterans face with PTSD. His is of the opinion that it all depends on mental toughness of a solder. That is in fact a most common answer any army ranger would give,considering that this group of elite soldiers is probably the toughest in the army. Nonetheless, PTSD is a big problem in the military and one that  is woefully underreported.

2:40 Chris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State,  is meeting with President-Elect Donald J. Trump. Kobach is the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. He is here to discuss border security, international terrorism, and reforming federal bureaucracy.

As Trump parts with Kobach, the lingering question of the day thrown at the President-Elect concerns the type of apology he wants from the cast of Hamilton. “We’ll see,” he ambiguously remarks, leaving the press to continue his high-profile meeting.

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Chris Christie in Bedminster

At this point, an official from the transition team confirms that Governor Christie, though already inside the makeshift Transition HQ, would come out to appear in front of the press pool.  As they greet each other, Trump refers to the qualities he values in Christie: “ He is smart, talented, and he is tough.” He also suggests that they will be talking about “great” stuff. ‘Great’ is the word of the day, I pen down.

3:22 PM As Chris Christie leaves the premises, transition team officials remark that Trump and Christie had a productive discussion on the topic of domestic security, law enforcement and the American Justice system. It is still not exactly clear what position Christie is in the running for.

The press then raises the question of Trump’s presidential living arrangements (considering that Melania and Barron Trump will remain in NYC for the remainder of the school year). When asked if he will stay in the White House for the entirety of his office, Trump succinctly responded, “Of course!”

3: 25 PM Giuliani shows up, and Trump assures us they will be discussing “good stuff.” By good stuff, the President-Elect clarifies that he means talking about America’s prominence in the world as well as ongoing national security threats.

4:35 PM Trump has been again made available to the press pool when the question of Hamilton incident is again brought up. “Should people boycott Hamilton?” one of the journalist asks. “It’s fine with me,” Trump says, disappearing back through the door.

7:00 PM The last meeting of the evening occurred with General John Kelly. They had a discussion in broad terms about national security and various areas of conflict in the Middle East. Additionally, they discussed General Kelly’s diplomatic experience during his time as the Commander of United States Southern Command in Latin America and as a Combat Commander in the Middle East.

9:00 PM I am back in New York City. While night falls upon Manhattan, I am reviewing my political entry. Although President-Elect did not yet make any final announcements, this weekend of meetings has showed that his cabinet is shaping up, and that he is learning about the job that awaits him on the quick. How the Trump Administration’s cabinet will ultimately look is, indeed, not certain but judging on what has been done this weekend, it looks promising. The American people can only wish for the best.

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            Day one of President-Elect’s meetings  in Bedminster can be accessed here

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About the author

Ksenija Pavlovic

Ksenija Pavlovic

Ksenija Pavlovic is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Pavlovic Today, The Chief White House Correspondent.

Pavlovic was a Teaching Fellow and Doctoral Fellow in the Political Science department at Yale University, Lead Instructor in International Affairs and Security and Politics Law and Economics programs at Yale Global Scholars, Head Writing Fellow at the Yale Graduate Writing Center, Fellow of the “Research and Travel Award in Grand Strategy” from International Security Studies (ISS) at Yale University, Fellow of the Roger Hertog Global Strategy Initiative in Religious Violence at Columbia University, a Doctoral candidate in Political Conflict and Peace Building Processes at Complutense University in Madrid, Fellow of the OSI Global Supplementary Grant Program, and a Visiting Doctoral Fellow at the Juan March Institute. She holds an M.Sc. in European Politics from the London School of Economics, an M.A. in American Politics, and a B.A. in Journalism and Communication from the University of Belgrade. She speaks English, Serbian, Croatian, and Spanish.

Pavlovic has interviewed exclusively pivotal figures including Arianna Huffington, Sir Richard Branson, President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim, Karlie Kloss, filmmaker and founder of the Webby awards Tiffany Shlain, film director Lars von Trier, actors Adam Brody, Monica Bellucci, fashion designers Adolfo Dominguez, Tommy Hilfiger and Donna Karan, publisher and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes; the world No.1 tennis player Novak Djokovic; novelist Martin Amis, as well as big names in the governmental arena such as the former President of Serbia Boris Tadic, the leading members of the first democratic Serbian government and Milorad Dodik, President of the Serbian entity of BIH. Moreover, Ms. Pavlovic has exclusively covered the Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, London Film Festival, Madrid Fashion Week, The Madrid Open, and a range of other international benefit and political events.

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