Jan 17, 2017

Presidential Transition Update

A handful of President-elect Trump’s Cabinet nominees took to Capitol Hill this week for the first series of grueling, high-profile Senate confirmation hearings; three Trump nominees saw their confirmation hearings postponed till this week due to their failures to complete the federal government’s mandatory ethics review process.

Meanwhile, President-elect Trump participated in his first press conference since July, broadcasting several important announcements. They included: (1) his choice for secretary of veterans affairs; (2) his legal plans to prevent conflicts of interest between his businesses and his presidency; (3) a call for the federal government to negotiate drug prices via new bidding procedures; (4) a restated promise that Mexico will reimburse the U.S. for a southern border wall; (5) an announcement conceding that he believes Russia conducted cyber-attacks against the Democratic National Committee and to impact U.S. elections; and (6) a call for Obamacare to be repealed and replaced “essentially simultaneously.” He also said he expects to announce a nominee to fill the Supreme Court’s vacant seat approximately two weeks after he takes office. Finally, he spoke at length concerning BuzzFeed News’ “salacious” allegations about a controversially published dossier alleging that Russia has compromising information on the president-elect.

Other updates this week include Trump’s meeting with vaccine critic Robert F. Kennedy Jr., to head a presidential commission on the link between vaccines and autism, and the announcement of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani as an unofficial advisor on cybersecurity issues for the private sector.


Trump Bashes Intel Officials, Press Over Leaked News of Alleged Compromising Dossier

On Jan. 11, President-elect Trump took to Twitter with a vengeance over leaked news reports that he’d received a briefing from senior intelligence officials about a dossier prepared for political opponents of Trump by a person who is understood to be a former British intelligence agent. American intelligence officials have not been able to confirm any of it, so there is lots of room to doubt its credibility. It seemed the president-elect could not drop the issue even a day later, with the president-elect releasing another thunderstorm of angry tweets directed at the intelligence community (here, here, here and here).

Trump commented on the dossier issue during his Jan. 12 press conference, calling it a “tremendous blot” on the reputation of U.S. intelligence agencies if they were guilty of leaking the unsubstantiated information from the briefing to the press.

According to a Jan. 12 tweet, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called the president-elect Jan. 11 to “denounce the false and fictitious report that was illegally circulated.” However, an Office of the Director of National Intelligence press release describes the phone call between the intel chief and Trump a bit differently, with Clapper calling to “emphasize that this document is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product and that [he does] not believe the leaks came from within the [intelligence community].” The press release also said Clapper told Trump on the call that the intelligence community “has not made any judgment that the information in [the dossier document] is reliable, and did not rely upon it in any way for [their] conclusions.” Citing his duty to brief the president-elect on the private security dossier summary, he noted, “part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.”

President-elect Trump also spent a substantial portion of his press conference and wrote several tweets criticizing the news organizations who reported the unsubstantiated “fake news” on the dossier (found here, here, here and here). CNN reported on Jan. 10 that intelligence officials recently presented a two-page summary of the dossier’s allegations to President-elect Trump and President Obama. BuzzFeed News quickly followed CNN with the controversial decision to publish the 35-page unverified report that was supposedly the basis for the briefing. BuzzFeed News reported that the document is “supposed to contain specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians.”

Although the details of the dossier remain murky and unverified, their publication the night before Trump’s first press conference since winning the election has the potential to spoil any post-election bump he may have gotten, forcing the president-elect to handle what, in the best-case scenario, is just an uncomfortable public relations debacle and a new button for global adversaries to push to delegitimize his future presidency. Worth noting, rumors about a potential Trump damaging dossier and its contents have been swirling around the press rooms of national media for months; however, most of the media could not verify any details and chose to not publish. Politico, the New York Times and the Washington Post have all been attempting to confirm specific allegations without any success.

Politico also reported that Congressional Republicans are calling for an investigation into the intel leaks, even hinting at the prospect of criminal prosecutions. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Jan. 16 that his committee will investigate possible dealings between Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives, revising the previous day’s statement to the press that the issue would be outside of his panel’s ongoing investigation into Moscow’s interference in the presidential election. Politico has more on the story here.

Politico: How Trump’s West Wing Model Differs From His Predecessors’

President-elect Trump appears not to be mirroring any of the models of his 21st century presidential predecessors as he develops the staffing structure for his future White House team. As he surrounds himself with a group of top advisors who have little to no federal government experience and who have spent just a short time working together, it’s anyone’s guess whether Trump’s boardroom-style management structure will work effectively in running the country or whether too many chefs in the kitchen will cause senior staff to clash.

The biggest contrast to how White House organizations have been structured in the past is that Trump’s incoming chief of staff, former Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, will have to compete with other top advisers who will have unprecedented access to the president in the West Wing — a no-no for most White House staff. Moreover, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and newly named senior adviser, and Trump’s incoming chief strategist, Steve Bannon, are expected to be on even footing regarding access and influence in recommendations for the president-elect.

According to Politico, “so far, Trump’s structure appears to be closer to Bush’s than to Obama’s, where a small group of top aides who bonded during the historic 2008 campaign could shorthand with each other.”

Trump Calls for Quick Repeal of Affordable Care Act

President-elect Trump told The New York Times Jan. 10 that he is asking Republicans on Capitol Hill to replace ObamaCare "very shortly" after they vote to repeal the law. He echoed this sentiment during his Jan. 11 press conference arguing that Republicans are helping Democrats by replacing it immediately. During the conference, Trump said the law is collapsing on its own, citing increases in premiums in particular states with ACA exchange-based plans, and that he plans to have it repealed after his Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee is confirmed.

His demands could pressure Republicans to forgo their original plans to leave Obamacare in place for a transition period as long as four years. His comments also push Republicans to act quickly on ObamaCare's repeal, which some members have challenged. Originally, Republicans had planned a relatively quick vote on a budget, a fairly quick repeal of crucial parts of Obamacare and then, by year's end, passage of a replacement plan.

House Speaker Paul Ryan announced at a Jan. 12 CNN Town Hall that Republicans plan to repeal President Obama's health care law at the same time they approve a GOP replacement plan. "We want to do this at the same time, and in some cases in the same bill," Ryan said. He noted that Republicans are moving "as quickly as they can" to repeal and replace Obamacare but said he doesn't yet have a date, and it will take "a little bit of time" to do so. He added that the GOP will act "definitely within these first 100 days" of Trump's presidency.

The House of Representatives and the Senate voted separately on Jan. 13 and Jan. 12 (voting 227-198 in the House, with nine Republicans voting alongside Democrats; and 51 to 48 in the Senate, along party lines) to pass a budget resolution allowing them to begin dismantling the Affordable Care Act. The budget resolution’s passage sets in place a process for an eventual vote — in weeks or months — on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If Republicans decide to vote on repeal and replace separately, Senate Democrats could filibuster the replacement if they don't like it, leaving the healthcare system in limbo.

Politico is reporting that Republicans are leaning toward funding up to $9 billion in Affordable Care Act subsidies in 2017 to keep the program afloat — even though two years ago House Republicans filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration to halt those exact payments. The move is the most significant sign yet that the GOP is serious about propping up Obamacare temporarily in order to prepare for a smooth transition to a yet-to-be announced Republican replacement plan.

Takeaways from Trump’s First Press Conference in Months, Trump Discusses Plans for His Business Empire While in Office

On Jan. 11, President-elect Trump held his first press conference since July, also making it his first since he won the presidential election. In addition to him reading prepared statements and a 15-minute legal presentation on the financial holdings, the event included 17 questions by members of the press corps over the course of almost an hour.

President-elect Trump covered a range of topics but also announced his plans not to divest from his vast business holdings as he takes office. Trump’s assets — including commercial real estate, licensing businesses and cash holdings — will be transferred to a trust under the control of his adult sons and his longtime Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg before his inauguration on Jan. 20.

According to Forbes, Trump will also appoint an ethics advisor to vet all business transactions that could present a conflict of interest, (with details included in a white paper released by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius). The Trump Organization will employ a chief compliance officer, whose job will be to ensure that the company does not exploit the presidency for profit. President-elect Trump also claimed to have cancelled all pending business deals and promised that Trump Organization will not enter into new foreign licensing agreements while Trump is in office. Moreover, all new domestic projects are to be reviewed by the ethics advisor, and Trump pledges to donate to the U.S. Treasury any profits from foreign governments patronizing his “hotels and similar businesses.”

The New York Times has a summary of the 10 biggest highlights of his press conference here.

After the press conference, the head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) condemned President-elect Trump’s plan to separate his presidency from his business, calling it “wholly inadequate” in preventing potential conflicts of interest. “The plan the president-elect has announced doesn’t meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every president in the last four decades have met,” said Obama-appointed OGE Director Walter Shaub during a speech at the Brookings Institute. "Stepping back from running his business is meaningless from a conflict of interest perspective.” Shaub indicated that the only way for Trump to fully wall off conflicts between his business holdings and the presidency is to sell his assets and place them in a blind trust.

PIC Announces Special Inaugural Celebrations and Inaugural Concert Lineup

President-elect Trump's big inaugural concert at Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial gained a bit more star power on Jan. 13. It was announced that Toby Keith, 3 Doors Down and Lee Greenwood will headline "The Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration” concert on the eve of the inaugural, Jan. 19. The Piano Guys and The Frontmen of Country are among the other musicians performing. Hollywood actor Jon Voight also will make an appearance at the event.

"President-elect Trump has made it clear that this inaugural is of, by, and for the American people. The 58th Inaugural will celebrate American history and heritage, while setting the course to a brighter and bolder future for all Americans," Tom Barrack, chairman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said in a press release.

Another event to be held the same day, called Voices of the People, will feature a number of marching bands, baton twirlers and color guard troupes. Both of these events are open to the public. Tickets are not required for admittance to events on the National Mall, including the celebrations and the public standing areas for the swearing-in.


After announcing his choice of David Shulkin as his nominee for Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, President-elect Trump has only two Cabinet appointments left to announce for his Cabinet: Secretary of the Agriculture and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors.

An evolving list of rumored Trump appointees can be found here.

Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs

At his Jan. 11 press conference, President-elect Trump announced his intention to nominate Dr. David J. Shulkin as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Shulkin serves as the current undersecretary for health at the Department of Veterans Affairs in the Obama administration, overseeing the nation’s largest integrated healthcare system, currently serving 8.76 million veterans every year at more than 1,700 locations.

“I have no doubt Dr. Shulkin will be able to lead the turnaround our Department of Veterans Affairs needs. His sole mandate will be to serve our veterans and restore the level of care we owe to our brave men and women in the military,” said President-elect Donald J. Trump.

Before serving as Under Secretary for Health, Shulkin served in numerous chief executive roles, including as President at Morristown Medical Center, Goryeb Children’s Hospital, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute, and the Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization. Shulkin has also held academic positions, including the Chairman of Medicine and Vice Dean at Drexel University School of Medicine He is a board-certified internist.

In his time as undersecretary, Shulkin nearly doubled the amount of health care that veterans receive through private doctors but rejected calls for broader privatization. A press release announcing the appointment includes further details. If confirmed, he will be the first secretary to lead the department who is not a veteran.

Schedule of Senate Confirmation Hearings for Trump Cabinet Nominees

Confirmation hearings for a number of President-elect Trump’s Cabinet nominees continue this week, with eight on the schedule already. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Jan. 9 that he hopes to confirm “up to six or seven” nominees on Inauguration Day, the first official day the new Trump administration can send nominations to the Senate. According to an analysis by the Washington Post, “that would be on par with the Day 1 confirmations of Presidents Obama and George W. Bush and ahead of those of Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.” The Senate held six confirmation hearings this past week for the president-elect’s Cabinet picks. The Washington Post highlights each of the hearings here.

Below is a preview of the upcoming hearing schedule compiled by Politico thus far:

Tuesday, Jan. 17

Secretary of the Department of the Interior
Nominee: Rep. Ryan Zinke
Background: Montana Republican congressman, former U.S. Navy SEAL commander 
Committee: Senate Energy and Natural Resources 
Confirmation Hearings: Jan. 17 at 2:15 p.m. in 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Hearing Link
Committee Press Release

Secretary of the Department of Education
Nominee: Betsy DeVos 
Background: Billionaire, philanthropist, Republican donor
Committee: Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions 
Confirmation Hearings: Jan. 17 at 5 p.m. in 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Hearing Link

Wednesday, Jan. 18

Secretary of the Department of Commerce
Nominee: Wilbur Ross
Background: Billionaire private equity investor and founder of WL Ross & Co.
Committee: Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
Confirmation Hearings: Jan. 18 at 10 a.m. in 253 Russell Senate Office Building
Hearing Link
Committee Press Release

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
Nominee: Scott Pruitt
Background: Oklahoma Attorney General
Committee: Senate Environment and Public Works 
Confirmation Hearings: Jan. 18 at 10 a.m. in 406 Dirksen.
Hearing Link
Committee Press Release

Ambassador to the United Nations
Nominee: Nikki Haley
Background: Governor of South Carolina
Committee: Senate Foreign Relations 
Confirmation Hearings: Jan. 18 at 10 a.m. in 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Hearing Link

Thursday, Jan. 19

Secretary of the Department of Energy
Nominee: Rick Perry
Background: Former governor of Texas 
Committee: Senate Energy and Natural Resources 
Confirmation Hearings: Jan. 19 at 10 a.m. in 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Hearing Link

Secretary of the Treasury
Nominee: Steven Mnuchin 
Background: Former Goldman Sachs executive, Trump’s national finance chair for the campaign
Committee: Senate Finance 
Confirmation Hearings: Jan. 19 at 10 a.m. in 215 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Hearing Link

To Be Determined

Secretary of the Department of Labor
Nominee: Andy Puzder
Background: CEO of CKE Restaurants, which include the Carl’s Jr. fast food chain
Committee: Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Confirmation Hearings: TBD

Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services
Nominee: Rep. Tom Price
Background: Georgia Republican congressman, House Budget chairman
Committee: Senate Finance
Confirmation Hearings: TBD; the Senate HELP Committee will hold a "courtesy hearing" on Jan. 18 at 10 a.m. in 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Hearing Link

Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Nominee: Rep. Mick Mulvaney
Background: South Carolina Republican congressman
Committee: Senate Budget and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs 
Confirmation Hearings: TBD

U.S. Trade Representative
Nominee: Robert Lighthizer
Background: Trade attorney, former deputy USTR under President Ronald Reagan
Committee: Senate Finance 
Confirmation Hearings: TBD 

Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs

Nominee: David Shulkin
Background: Physician, VA's undersecretary of health
Committee: Senate Veterans Affairs 
Confirmation Hearings: TBD


Tuesday, Jan. 10

Attorney General
Nominee: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
Background: Alabama Republican congressman
Committee: Senate Judiciary
Confirmation Hearings: Jan. 10 at 9:30 a.m., and Jan. 11 in 325 Russell Senate Office Building 325
Hearing Link
Committee Press Release
Politico has key takeaways here.

Wednesday, Jan. 11

Secretary of the Department of Transportation
Nominee: Elaine Chao
Background: Former Labor Secretary under the George W. Bush administration, deputy secretary of transportation under President George H.W. Bush
Committee: Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation 
Confirmation Hearings: Jan. 11 at 10:15 a.m. in 253 Russell Senate Office Building
Hearing Link
Committee Press Release
Politico has an article summarizing the hearing here.

Secretary of the Department of State
Nominee: Rex Tillerson
Background: CEO of ExxonMobil 
Committee: Senate Foreign Relations
Confirmation Hearings: Jan. 11 at 9:15 a.m. in 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Hearing Link
Committee Press Release
The New York Times has an article summarizing the hearing here.
Thursday, Jan. 12

Secretary of the Department of Defense
Nominee: Rt. Gen. James Mattis
Background: Retired U.S. Marine Corps general, 11th Commander of U.S. Central Command
Committee: Senate Armed Services
Confirmation Hearings: Jan. 12 at 9:30 a.m.
Hearing Link
Business Insider has an article summarizing the hearing’s big takeways here.
The House and Senate passed legislation this week that includes a waiver to allow General Mattis to become Secretary of Defense. U.S. law stipulates that retired military officers cannot serve as the civilian head of the military until they have been out of uniform at least seven years. Mattis retired in 2013, so an exception had to be granted by the full Congress.

Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development
Nominee: Dr. Ben Carson
Background: Retired neurosurgeon, former GOP primary rival
Committee: Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs 
Confirmation Hearings: Jan. 12 at 10 a.m.
Hearing Link
The Hill reports on the key takeaways from the hearing here.

Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
Nominee: Mike Pompeo
Background: Kansas Republican congressman, member of House Intelligence Committee
Committee: Senate Intelligence
Confirmation Hearings: Jan. 12
Hearing Link

Politico summarizes the key moments of the hearing here.

Sr. Director of Strategic Communications for NSC Bows Out Amid Plagiarism Scandal

The Washington Times reported Jan. 16 that conservative author and Fox News contributor Monica Crowley, whom President-elect Trump nominated for the position of Senior Director of Strategic Communications for the National Security Council, has decided to bow out of her future position after CNN KFILE found that Crowley plagiarized large swaths of her 2012 book What the (Bleep) Just Happened, (which contained no bibliography or citations). CNN's KFILE later discovered thousands of words plagiarized in Crowley's 2000 dissertation for her Columbia University doctorate degree. A review of Crowley's columns for the Washington Times also found plagiarism in seven columns.

In a Jan. 10 update, HarperCollins Publishing said, "The book, which has reached the end of its natural sales cycle, will no longer be offered for purchase until such time as the author has the opportunity to source and revise the material."

Crowley released a statement saying that “after much reflection I have decided to remain in New York to pursue other opportunities and will not be taking a position in the incoming administration ... I greatly appreciate being asked to be part of President-elect Trump’s team and I will continue to enthusiastically support him and his agenda for American renewal.” She was slated to work under National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general.

Trump Names Son-In-Law Jared Kushner as Senior Adviser to the President

The Trump transition team announced Jan. 13 that the president-elect’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, would be named a senior adviser in the Trump White House. He will not be salaried and will be counseling the president on the Middle East and trade issues.

“Jared has been a tremendous asset and trusted advisor throughout the campaign and transition and I am proud to have him in a key leadership role in my administration,” said President-elect Trump in a press release. “He has been incredibly successful, in both business and now politics.” The transition office said Kushner would work closely with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon to execute President-elect Trump’s agenda.

Trump relied heavily on Kushner's advice during the campaign, and his move to the White House was not a surprise. Ethics experts, however, have raised questions about whether Kushner's position in the new administration will violate a 1967 federal anti-nepotism law, and how he will be able separate himself from his real estate business to avoid conflicts of interest. His attorney already announced that Kushner is planning to divest himself of any board positions, trusteeships and assets, including his newspaper, the New York Observer. He will also file the same financial disclosure forms that Cabinet members do and will recuse himself from all discussions relating to Dodd-Frank and regulation of financial services.

A real estate investor and developer like his famous father-in-law, Jared is the husband of Trump’s oldest daughter, Ivanka.

The Washington Post has more on the announcement here.

Trump Announces Senior White House Economics Position Appointment

President-elect Trump announced Jan. 12 that Dina Habib Powell, the global head of impact investing at Goldman Sachs and president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, will serve as assistant to the president and senior counselor for economic initiatives. Powell is the first Arab-American to be announced in the Trump White House. Powell will join a number of other Goldman Sachs alumni in the administration, including Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon; his choice for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin; and his nominee to lead the White House National Economic Council, Gary Cohn. Trump’s nominee to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton, also represented Goldman Sachs in his work as a Wall Street lawyer. Powell previously served as the Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel in President George W. Bush's administration.

“Dina Powell is a tremendous talent and has a stellar record of public service as well as a great career in the private sector,” Trump said in a statement with the announcement. “She has been recognized for her strategic oversight of key programs and initiatives and is a leader in both economic growth and the crucial empowerment of women in various aspects of business development and entrepreneurial endeavors. I am proud to have her serve as a senior counselor in my administration, where I know she will produce great results working with the highly respected team of experts we have assembled.”

Trump Appoints Liaison for State and Local Governments and American and Foreign Businesses

On Jan. 13, Anthony Scaramucci, a hedge fund founder who was a fundraiser for Trump's presidential campaign, announced that he will join the president-elect's White House team as an advisor and public liaison to government agencies and businesses. While his official title has not yet been announced, Scaramucci played down media reports that he would hold a position equivalent to that currently held by senior Obama ally Valerie Jarrett, who currently oversees the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. A member of Trump’s transition team, Scaramucci is the founder of Skybridge Capital hedge fund, and like many of Trump’s other advisors, is a former employee of Goldman Sachs.

Business Insider has more on the story here.

Ethics Pressure From Democrats, OGE Causes Republicans to Delay Cabinet Hearings

Senate Republicans originally planned to rush through six hearings on Jan. 11, but were resigned to postponing the confirmation hearings for three of President-elect Trump’s Cabinet nominees, after increasing pressure to ensure that nominees are fully vetted by the federal agency charged with evaluating the conflicts of interest of political appointees.

Three of Trump’s nominees with hearings scheduled were not cleared by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) after they failed to complete critical questionnaires and disclosures: Betsy DeVos, nominee for secretary of the Department of Education; Andrew Puzder, nominee for the Secretary of the Department of Labor, and Wilbur Ross, nominee for the Secretary of the Department of Commerce. Similarly, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), nominee for the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, likely had his hearing delayed a day as a result of pressure by Minority Leader Chuck E. Schumer (D-NY) to spread out the hearings. Democrats are taking credit for the delays after days of public calls to slow down the process to allow the Senate to properly examine potential conflicts of interest for some of Trump’s wealthiest and most controversial nominees.

The delays stumble the nascent Trump Administration, which has sworn to run federal government with corporate efficiency and draws attention to the reality that the Trump team is behind its predecessors in its preparation to begin governing on Jan. 20.

The New York Times has more on the story here.


Trump Meets With Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Vaccines and Autism

On Jan. 13, President-elect Trump met with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for what he says is a potential presidential commission on vaccines and autism. While the Trump transition team has said that no final decision has been made, it is unlikely that RFK Jr. would have made up the story, so there’s a good chance that an announcement is forthcoming.

“The President-elect enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a range of issues and appreciates his thoughts and ideas,” Trump transition spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement. “The President-elect is exploring the possibility of forming a commission on autism, which affects so many families; however no decisions have been made at this time. The President-elect looks forward to continuing the discussion about all aspects of autism with many groups and individuals.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a proponent of a scientifically discredited theory that vaccines cause autism. The announcement was met with alarm from health professionals who argue that putting a vaccine critic and conspiracy theory believer in such a position of authority on the issue is dangerous. Worth noting, vaccine policy tends to be set at the state or municipal level, so even if Trump’s new commission reaches some sort of conclusion and tries to implement some form of new vaccination policy, they are likely to be met with lawsuits from states.

New Polls Show Majority of Voters Don't Like Trump's Transition

Quinnipiac University released a poll Jan. 10 showing President-elect Trump's popularity has remained almost stagnant since the election. According to the poll, 51 percent of the voters don't approve of what he has done so far, and only 31 percent do. The poll also shows that the gender gap remains, with 43 percent of men approving and 43 percent disapproving, and among women, just 31 percent approving and 59 percent disapproving.

Moreover, Trump’s new plan to wall off his business from conflicts of interests during his presidency may not be enough, as the poll indicates that 72 percent want his finances reviewed to make sure he doesn't have conflicts of interest, and 66 percent want him to put all of his business holdings into a blind trust. In contrast, President Obama’s favorables are at 55 percent/39 percent, so he is far more popular than Trump.

"President-elect Trump gets points for strength and intelligence, but voters' feelings about his personality traits, empathy, leadership and level-headedness, are headed south,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Gallup released a similar poll on Jan. 13 showing that President-elect Trump’s transition is historically unpopular. Gallup found that more Americans disapprove of Trump’s transition than approve, with 44 percent approving of the transition and 51 percent disapproving.

This is a stark break from past presidents. Barack Obama’s 2009 transition had 83 percent of Americans approving of the effort, with only 12 percent disapproving, when interviewed around the same time. In 2001, George W. Bush — who, like Trump, lost the popular vote — had a 61 percent approval rating for his transition, while only 25 percent of Americans disapproved. Bill Clinton saw comparable numbers in 1993, with 68 percent approval and 18 percent disapproval.

The Hill: Things Trump Can Do on His First Day in Office

President-elect Trump has made many campaign promises about what he will do on his first day in office, including rolling back many Obama-era policies. Many of President Obama’s midnight regulations can be reversed with a simple stroke of a pen, while others require congressional action. The Hill has compiled a list of what he could actually do on day one.

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to Lead Cybersecurity Advisory Board

The Trump transition team announced in a Jan. 12 press release that former Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be unofficially advising and sharing his experiences with the president-elect on private sector cybersecurity problems and emerging solutions developing in the private sector.

In addition, the president-elect is anticipating having Mayor Giuliani coordinate a series of meetings with senior corporate executives from companies that have faced or are facing cybersecurity challenges, including hacking, intrusions, disruptions, manipulations, theft of data and identities, and securing information technology infrastructure. The meetings’ goals will be to obtain experiential and anecdotal information from each executive on challenges faced by his/her company, how the company met the challenges, approaches that were productive or successful, and those that were not.

The press release notes that “no consensus advice or recommendations resulting from group deliberations or interaction is expected or will be solicited.” The advisory board, Giuliani said during a Jan. 12 interview on Fox News, will "give the government all the information available in the private sector,” and “it’ll form a little more connection between these people who are doing cybersecurity so they can work with each other.”

Cybersecurity issues were a hot topic during the 2016 election, after alleged Russian operatives hacked the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign in what intelligence officials said was eventually an attempt to swing the election to favor Trump. Mayor Giuliani is the chairman of the global cybersecurity practice at Greenberg Traurig and the Chairman and CEO of Giuliani Partners, an international security consulting firm.