WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate’s second-most powerful Republican told reporters Wednesday that he has yet to be looped in on President-elect Donald Trump’s transition — a process that will require confirmation from his chamber on many fronts.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate majority whip, said his knowledge of Trump appointments is limited to news reports. In his capacity as the chief Republican vote-counter, Cornyn will be tasked with shepherding many of those appointments through Senate confirmation.
“The honest fact is, I don’t know,” he said on a conference call when asked about turmoil in the Trump transition. “I’m reading the same things you’re reading and listening to the same things you’re listening to, most of which I think are just speculation."
“So, obviously, this is my impression that the Trump team was not completely prepared for the transition, and after the election they’ve had to scramble quite a bit.”
Earlier Wednesday, Senate Republicans re-elected Cornyn to continue in his role as majority whip.
Cornyn gave no hint of irritation with the Trump team in a conference call with reporters. However, it is tradition that a presidential transition organization stays in touch with Capitol Hill leaders over potential appointments — both as a courtesy and to gauge would-be nominees' prospects for confirmation.
Cornyn attributed the growing pains to “a pretty natural end product of what has been a surprising election.”
But at least in the past, Senate leaders expected consultation during the appointment process — particularly when the president-elect is of the same party.
In 2009, Senate Democratic intelligence leaders expressed furor with President-elect Barack Obama for not briefing them on his nominee for CIA director, Leon Panetta, before making the appointment public.
When asked to comment on news reports suggesting U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz could be in contention for either U.S. attorney general or a nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Cornyn again said he had no inside information to offer. Cruz fueled appointment speculation on Tuesday after meeting with Trump in New York City.
“I just don’t have any information on that,” Cornyn said. “I have read and heard what you’ve heard, but I have nothing else. I haven’t heard anything to confirm any of that.”
He then suggested that Cruz would “probably be a better source than me.”
Not all appointments will need Senate confirmation, particularly when it comes to Trump’s White House advisers. Democrats are actively opposing Trump’s selection of former Breitbart News chief Steven Bannon as chief White House strategist, charging Bannon with racism, sexism and anti-Semitism.
“I have never met him, so I really can’t help you,” Cornyn said, when asked about Bannon. “[But] I am pretty excited about Reince Priebus, who’s going to be chief of staff.”
Beyond executive branch appointments, Cornyn was ebullient about the GOP gaining control over the legislative and executive branches. He said he looked forward to repealing President Obama's health care law, scaling back regulations and confirming Trump's judicial nominees once Republicans take full power in January.