A top official with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s transition team denied a report that the operation was asked to scale back its work to focus on the election as Trump’s chances for victory on Nov. 8 appear to dim.
Bill Palatucci, general counsel to Trump’s transition, said the work of assembling a potential Trump administration is on a track that is removed from the ups and downs of the campaign.
“Everybody here has a very workmanlike attitude,” Palatucci said in an interview Wednesday.
“We hear the [campaign] noise in the background, but we consider that separate from our mission. Our eye is on our work here and the deadlines that are facing us. There has been no change in our schedule or approach.”
Palatucci’s comments come as Trump’s continued decline in the polls casts doubt on his ability to compete effectively with Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who leads the transition effort, has appeared more distant from the campaign in recent weeks, saying in one interview that he “can’t control” Trump’s actions as a candidate.
Christie also may be avoiding the spotlight because of drama surrounding the unfolding Bridgegate trial, in which senior aides have testified that the governor knew more than he has acknowledged.
The campaign also has no additional big-money fundraisers scheduled for the GOP ahead of Election Day, a sign of its scaled-back ambitions in the final weeks of the race.
Reuters reported Tuesday night that Trump asked his transition team to “refocus on the race” and narrow its efforts to select and vet candidates for top Cabinet posts.
Palatucci said this claim was false, as did several other people familiar with the transition’s activities who described the effort as in full swing, including the task of choosing candidates for positions such as secretaries of state, Treasury and defense.
Palatucci, a longtime Christie associate, also denied that the governor had distanced himself from the campaign and emphasized Christie’s commitment to the transition planning.
“The governor has been spending a lot of time working with Mr. Trump on debate prep,” he said. “That phase is now over, but that’s where he was spending his time. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t and isn’t engaged daily with [transition executive director] Rich Bagger and others.”
Trump’s transition team has continued to attend meetings in Washington to prepare for a possible handover of power in January, including some with Clinton transition officials.