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'Ready to go on day one,' says Trump spokesman

January 19, 2017

As Trump prepared to fly to Washington, his press secretary gave his first televised address to the White House Press Corps. He said many senior Obama appointees were asked to stay on - for now.

Trump listens to a question as he speaks to reporters at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida
Image: picture alliance/dpa/AP Photo/E. Vucci

US President-elect Donald Trump requested about 50 senior government employees appointed by the Obama administration temporarily stay on to head various departments, his press secretary Sean Spicer announced on Thursday.

At his first on-camera media briefing to the White House Press Corps, Spicer said high-ranking career officials at key national security agencies such as the Pentagon and the State Department were requested to stay on pending Senate approval of Trump's final appointments.

"Our focus is on continuity of government," Spicer said. "Make no mistake we're ready to go on day one."

But some of those asked to remain vowed to leave anyway. 

Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Stephanie O'Sullivan, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Cathy Novelli and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Toria Nuland all appeared on Trump's partial transition list but told colleagues they are stepping down, Reuters reported.

Other who were asked to stay on include Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and America's third-ranking diplomat, Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon, Spicer said.

Brett McGurk, Obama's special representative for the fight against the Islamic State group, and Nicholas Rasmussen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center were also asked to stay as acting chiefs.

McGurk, the "Special Presidential Envoy" appointed in November 2015, worked with about 70 allied states and with regional militia on the ground in Iraq, Syria and beyond.

Spicer said Trump had filled his cabinet but appointees were being held up by "delay tactics" by the Democrats.

Trump 'not concerned with past'

Spicer told reporters that in the first day of his presidency Trump expected to focus on infrastructure and American manufacturing, and to put together a tax package that would spark growth.

Spicer played down concerns that Trump would work only with those who showed loyalty to him, saying trump he's happy to work people who did not work to get him elected.

"He has shown a deep concern with getting America back on track and he's really not concerned with what happened in the past," Spicer said.

The incoming White House spokesman said it "shouldn't be a shocker" that Trump would be staying at his new Washington hotel, saying the hotel was a symbol of the kind of government Trump wants to run, "ahead of time and under budget."

Spicer said the first few daily media briefings would be held in the usual briefing room, following reports that Trump would no longer host the White House Press Corps in the West Wing.

Spicer was sparse on details of Trump's political plans, including foreign policy, saying it wasn't immediately clear if the Trump administration would accept an invitation to attend Russian-supported Syria peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Monday.

On Thursday Trump flew in to Washington ahead of his inauguration on Friday.

aw/rc (AP, Reuters)