Donald Trump made the rounds in Washington on Thursday during his final hours as president-elect, thanking his congressional allies during a luncheon at his namesake hotel – after completing his Cabinet line-up by tapping former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to lead the Agriculture Department.
The incoming president arrived in the Washington area shortly after noon at Maryland’s Joint Base Andrews. He was joined by his wife, Melania, and other members of his family, as he prepared for an afternoon of pre-inaugural events.
His first stop was his hotel along Pennsylvania Avenue, where he praised GOP leaders like Speaker Paul Ryan and touted his Cabinet nominees as having the “highest IQ” of any team.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence told reporters earlier Thursday morning that hundreds of personnel are now preparing to assume control of federal agencies on Inauguration Day Friday.
“Our beachhead teams are ready to land,” he said, boasting that the transition was “on schedule and under budget.”
The “beachhead teams” are composed of 536 temporary employees that serve as assistants to the secretary-designates. They can serve up to 120 days, at which point they may be retained.
“We are all ready to go to work,” Pence said. “In fact, we can’t wait to get to work for the American people to make America great again.”
Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, at the same briefing, said several Obama administration officials in critical roles would stay on, including Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, U.S. Envoy for Countering ISIS Brett McGurk and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development nominee Ben Carson, Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions and longtime adviser Rudy Giuliani were seated to the side of the podium as Pence spoke. Pence said his primary purpose was to thank “the team that got us here to this day at the direction of the president-elect.”
“When you see a box turtle on a fence post, you know he had some help getting there,” Pence said.
Trump is hoping to have a number of his Cabinet nominees confirmed on Friday hours after he officially takes office. Several of his top nominees — including Secretary of Defense nominee Gen. James Mattis and Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson — have already had confirmation hearings. Republicans, at the least, would like the national security team confirmed on Day 1.
Spicer chided Democratic senators who have threatened to hold up some of the votes and have led aggressive questioning of the nominees so far. Spicer said there’s “no excuse” for what he called “delay tactics” and “partisanship.”