Road to the Oval Office Podcast: Trump Transition Update

Mark Alderman, Blake Rutherford and Howard Schweitzer of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies discussed the Trump transition, cabinet appointments and some of President-elect Trump’s key policy areas. 

Blake: Thanks to everyone who is dialed in today. My name is Blake Rutherford and I'm joined as always by Mark Alderman, the Chairman of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies, and Howard Schweitzer, the Managing Partner of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies. Mark, Howard, great to be with you guys.

Howard: Thanks, Blake.

Mark: Blake.

Blake: Happy Holidays to you and to everyone. We are continuing our discussion of the incoming administration of President-elect Donald J. Trump, but before we get to some of the more key developments over the course of the last few weeks since we were altogether, I want to take stock, Mark, and I want to begin with you and the state of transition from an outgoing administration perspective. We will, and a bulk of this call will, be dedicated to the incoming administration, but you have known and been connected and served this administration and it is coming to its end. I thought I would just get your thoughts and perspectives on what's going on in the White House these days.

Mark: Other than packing, I think what's going on is that the transition is taking place, Blake and Howard, really on three levels and in at least two different places. You have the transition taking place in Washington D.C. That's the presidential transition team that is largely led by Mike Pence and people that he has put in place there, of course with the president-elect. They are looking at 4,000 positions to be filled. It's that level of transition that is interacting to a degree with the outgoing administration.

I think the headlines there are two-fold. One is that the degree of interaction is not especially intense and that is of concern to some members of the outgoing administration. Headline number two is that there is clearly going to be a clean sweep through these political appointments. Witness the questionnaire that went through the Department of Energy asking for names of people who were involved in climate change conferences. There is the D.C. level.

The second level is the Trump Tower level where cabinet positions, agency heads are being vetted. I don't think the White House has a lot to do with that, but then you get to the actual presidential transition between President Obama and President-elect Trump. I am told by people who know that there is a lot of communication between the two of them and that they are getting along in a way that, I think, wasn't predictable, just as the entire election wasn't predictable. The president is on a tightrope because just as he is trying to work with the president-elect, he is also trying to leave him some corners that he can't get out of, most especially the intelligence report on Russia. That's the big picture from the outgoing administration.

Howard: Still politics.

Blake: Yeah, Howard, let's talk about the incoming administration. I want to get to a point certainly in a minute, but just on a macro level, what's happening at Trump Tower, what's happening at the Trump transition office? Just give us a since of the dynamic. We know what we see in television, but from an insider point of view.

Howard: Yeah, it's slow, Blake, for one thing. We're seeing the potential nominees and very high-level and impressive people circulate through Trump Tower. As we predicted, it would be during our call series running up to the election, they weren't really prepared for the transition. As compared to a more traditional candidate and candidacy, you didn't have the apparatus, the transition apparatus, being built up alongside the campaign that you'd expect to see in other times. It's slow to develop.

While I think that the vetting and nomination process at the top of the agencies is taking shape nicely and moving apace, as Mark said, there are thousands of jobs to fill and they're key. I would say it's slow. I think New York and D.C., Mark, you're absolutely right: two transitions. Not the world's greatest communication between the two. Trump Tower is the center of the transition, not the transition office. It's the center of the key decision-making and that's going to remain the case until he's inaugurated and perhaps beyond.

Blake: From that perspective, Howard, how do you sense that, because we'll certainly talk about some policy directives here in a minute, but just from you've seen transitions from the inside out, how would you rate this one so far?

Howard: Again, I think it's going slowly, but they're taking it seriously. They've got the landing team showing up at the different agencies. I know Mark alluded to that report coming out of the Department of Energy. They're taking it seriously.

In my experience having done this three times, until the administration is in power, has the reins of power, has their feet planted on the ground, they're not really governing. They call it a transition for a reason. It's a change. It's a movement into power. I think we've seen some pretty extraordinary things from the president-elect, like the Carrier move and the One China issue and the call with the leader of Taiwan - things that were pretty extraordinary. In general, I think notwithstanding the fact that they're behind the curve because they started slowly, it's going fine.

Mark: It's proceeding I think, Blake, in a very Trump-like fashion. It is a little slow down below because he didn't pay as much attention to that as-

Howard: Because they didn't think he was going to win.

Mark: Of course, of course, but at the same time, you have a very active president-elect. He is not simply waiting his turn to take the reins of power. As Howard said, you have the Carrier deal, you had the Boeing tweet, you had him showing up at the Army/Navy game and acting like the president of the United States. I think he himself is stepping very strongly and very publicly into the role. I think that's what you would expect from Donald Trump.

Howard: He's going to continue to do that as president.

Mark: Yeah.

Blake: One of the things that we've seen, and Mark you touched on a few key developments during this transition, one I wanted to get your take on, Howard, was the fact that Trump over the weekend said, "Look, I don't need a daily intelligence briefing." How much weight should we give at this stage of the process to the necessity of any president-elect ... Mark, I'm going to get your perspective. You certainly had some insight when a young president-elect Barack Obama came into office. How much weight should we give to the fact that Trump is not taking a daily intelligence briefing?

Howard: Not much.

Blake: Really?

Howard: In my opinion, he's got the responsibility. The buck stops with him. He owns this and he can't shed that ownership. I think he's going to figure out what he needs to do to be president. I'm not particularly concerned about the fact that he's making judgments about not getting an intelligence briefing everyday.

Look, I'll tell you, having been in government a long time, that it is not a bad thing for somebody to be questioning, for the president-elect to be questioning, the necessity of doing things the way they've always been done. The worst thing you can hear in government when you ask a question about why something is being done a certain way is, "That's the way we've always done it." Whenever I heard that in government, that was my signal to go deeper. He's going to ask tough questions. He's going to challenge conventional norms and that's okay.

Mark: That's okay and I think you're half-right, but I think there's half of this that is of great concern. The half-right part, I think, is the daily briefing is not constitutionally required so long as the president-elect is set up with those around him informed and available. Whether he himself receives the daily briefing or not I think, Howard, you're right. It's of less concern than the other dimension of this which is that the president-elect is very publicly and very extremely rejecting the intelligence community as a reliable source of important information. That is of concern, whether it's daily or however often he's briefed.

This whole controversy over the CIA assessment of the Russian hacking, I find it, and I think a number of prominent Republicans have said that they find it to be the same. I find it very troubling that the president-elect is calling the CIA ridiculous. I will give him points. The line about it's the same organization that said that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, that was a great line. He gets points for that line. The content of his rejection of the intelligence community as a source of reliable information is something that is beyond not just doing things the same way they've always done.

Howard: I've transitioned between three administrations. There's a huge difference between running in transition and governing. When he's the president of the United States and he own the responsibility, he's not going to reject the United States' intelligence apparatus. He's going to rely upon it heavily. I'm not concerned about that.

Blake: Let's talk about-

Mark: Well, his guy will be in charge, so presumably he will be getting intelligence that is more agreeable.

Howard: No. Mark, that's not the way it works.

Mark: I think his point about the Bush Administration was fair, but this isn't about history. This is about the future.

Blake: Let's talk appointments because this is certainly the thing that has been driving headlines over the last several weeks. Certainly don't want to run down a laundry list of whom the president-elect has identified as his candidates for certain positions, but Howard, I wanted to give you a chance. What appointments just generally have stood out to you?

Howard: Wilbur Ross for Commerce and Mattis for Secretary. Blake, they've all stood out in the sense that none of these people have experience running the civilian side of government. They all stand out from that point of view. Trump knows that and he's going to account for that at the second layer of appointees.

Look, I think you've got some really accomplished business people and accomplished people from other walks of life. Wilbur Ross has an incredible track record of restructuring companies and investing. General Mattis, although there's this issue around civilian control of the military, is highly respected and widely regarded as a thoughtful individual. Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation designee and the wife of the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, served in the Bush Administration. Highly regarded by people on both sides of the aisle. I should also mention the Treasury Secretary - Mnuchin. Yes, Trump's campaign chairman, finance chairman, but a banker. Somebody that knows financial markets. Gary Cohn from Goldman Sachs, apparently going to head the NEC. Certainly knows the economy and knows the financial markets.

I could keep going. You've got people like Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education, Secretary of Labor Puzder, and Tom Price for HHS that are more further along the ideological spectrum. Look, by and large it's been a good process that they're running. I think he's taking a look at people across the political spectrum and he's coming up with a pretty darn good cabinet.

Blake: Mark, what stands out to you?

Mark: What stands out most to me as an overview of his appointments is that to a man and woman, these people are all part of the government-business complex that has run the country throughout all administrations. This is not a populist cabinet. These are people who are very conservative, who have very definite views about government, about the limitation in most cases about government. These are not people from the populist movement that put Trump in the White House.

Obviously, his senior strategist may or may not be an exception to that. He's as much an enigma as he is an exception. Everyone else is from the aristocracy, if you will: billionaires, generals, CEOs. I think to Howard's point that shows a certain level of responsibility that the president-elect is looking for in these appointments, but no one should mistake their political ideology. These are people who, while not populists, are most certainly not coming to Washington with a Democratic agenda, although some of them have been Democrats.

Howard: Some of them are Democrats including, by-the-way, the president-elect. Mnuchin, Wilbur Ross, Gary Cohn - that's the economic team, but they're not ideological conservatives. They're not even Republicans. I don't agree that it's a very conservative ... There are some strong conservatives on the list, but I think it's across the ideological spectrum much more than I expected.

Mark: That's fair, but they are certainly not the populists that the movement that put him in office I think might have expected.

Howard: No, they're not.

Mark: The swamp is hardly drained.

Howard: Fair.

Blake: Howard, in terms of the nominees, which ones at this stage would you anticipate experiencing the biggest challenge during confirmation?

Howard: Tom Price and Scott Pruitt for EPA. I think those are the two. If Tillerson gets the nod for Secretary of State, as it looks like he will, put him in that mix, too. I think Price because of his conservatism and Pruitt because of his opposition to the agency. He's being entrusted to run the EPA and just on climate change. Those are the two.

Mark: I agree with that.

Blake: Yeah, I was going to say, Mark, do you agree with that?

Howard: By-the-way, can I say one more? There will be a sacrificial lamb or two.

Mark: Right.

Blake: That's where I'm going. If you're in Trump Tower and you're looking at the landscape, what's your strategy at this point? Because looking at it optically, it's easy to see how Democrats could align to want to stop one or two of these. You're starting to see some Republicans, for example, Senator Rand Paul's comments that Ambassador John Bolton is, in his words, not getting confirmed for anything. Senator Marco Rubio, Senator John McCain expressing concern about Tillerson at State already. How do you deal with that, Mark?

Mark: Let's note that the arithmetic has actually changed just a little bit since we last talked. There was a Senate election in Louisiana. There's now a Senator Kennedy from Louisiana who is a Republican. The headcount in the Senate is 52-48. If two Republicans lined up with all the Democrats - footnote: you have to have all the Democrats in line for this arithmetic - then you're at 50-50 and Vice President Pence breaks the tie. It will take three Republican Senators and all the Democrats lined up to deny a confirmation.

I agree with Howard. At least one will be denied. I think the strategy on the Democratic side is which one do you throw everything you've got at? I think the strategy in Trump Tower is whether you're prepared to lose one and who's the backup if so? I'm not sure Tillerson's going to be appointed. As Howard said, I think Price and Pruitt are the most vulnerable in a confirmation today. I think if the CEO of ExxonMobile becomes the nominee for Secretary of State, he becomes the most vulnerable. I don't think he gets confirmed.

Maybe that's okay with the president-elect because maybe his number two choice is okay with him, too. Maybe he doesn't make the appointment if he sees that it can't be confirmed. That's something that's happening in Trump Tower. You can imagine what the various advisors are saying. I don't know what the president-elect thinks about that.

Blake: Howard, there has been a lot of attention on this particular appointment. We've seen a number of names circulate through, a number of dinners involving candidates.

Howard: Yeah, it reminds me of a TV show I watched once.

Blake: Yeah. Right. What do you expect in terms of rounding out the cabinet? There's that appointment left and then a few others. Where do you think this goes as we head into the new year?

Howard: There's also a Supreme Court nomination to come. That may be the mother of all battles. We'll see who he puts forward. Look I think, by and large, there are a couple of positions left to be filled. By and large, it's taking shape. A couple may fall by the wayside. I don't think he's sitting there playing games so much. I think he's sitting there trying to for a variety of reasons - loyalty, policy, trust, capability - making these picks and I think he intends to get every single one of them confirmed. They just won't be.

Blake: Yeah. Obviously, to be watched and followed. I want to pivot now to the policy agenda, which is beginning to take shape. Howard, I thought I would start with you. A lot going on in the world. From a big-picture perspective, what do you think the key forces at play are that are guiding the policy agenda and what we'll see in the all-important first 100 days?

Howard: I think the economy and globalization are the key forces guiding the policy choices that are being made. I think when you step back and look at the election, those were the key drivers of the outcome: the impact of globalization and the state of the economy. In Trump's picks, I think while some of them seem perhaps counterintuitive like the Goldman presence in the Cabinet, he is picking people that he believes can get the economy moving. I think he's also accounting for the need to address the forces of globalization, which I think primarily means trade and consolidating the power for trade-related policy in commerce. Wilbur Ross as the incoming Secretary of Commerce may be relegating the U.S. TR to a less-significant role than it's normally had.

To me, Blake, he's got to get the people that voted for him. If they expect anything from this guy, they expect jobs, they expect economic opportunity, and they expect him to deal with the forces out there that they believe had denied them that. That's where this is headed.

Mark: Now comes the hard part. As hard as it was for Donald Trump to get nominated, as hard as it was for him to get elected, as you were saying earlier, Howard, very soon he will own it all and he will have to govern. That is the hard part. He has to make some very hard policy decisions about what to pursue and what not to pursue. He has to decide which of his campaign promises to abandon, which of his campaign promises to take some action on and make it look good, and which he has to actually try to get down.

For example, his campaign was defined in my mind, in the minds of many I think, by as much as any other issue, he was going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. Well, that's not happening. We haven't even heard any talk about that happening. He hasn't even appointed anybody who is going to try to do that. That one is just going to go.

He campaigned on repealing the Affordable Care Act. He's going to do that on day one. Congress is going to do that on day one. That will be delivered, but the way in which it will be done will be hollow to a degree because it will be delayed three years, is the current talk, while they try to figure out what to replace it with.

All of these campaign promises, and yes, the economy is at the absolute core, are now colliding with the reality that he's got to govern. He's got to work with Congress to get anything done. Even when Congress and the president-elect agree and can just roll the Democrats and make it happen - witness the Affordable Care Act - it's really hard to figure out what to do.

Blake: With that in mind, Howard, what do you sense? Because we talk often about the benefits to an incoming president getting a couple of early wins, moving the needle. Mark talked about repealing the Affordable Care Act on day one, right? From a policy-positioning perspective, what would you anticipate? Or I guess we could flip it around a different way: what would you advise this president to tackle first?

Howard: I would advise him to stop the process of regulating on day one. I think if you're focused on what's the one thing that speaks to the American people broadly, it's over-regulation by the government. I would just freeze everything that's going on on day one. You can't just snap your fingers and roll back existing regulations. That takes time. That takes a regulatory process. We're going to see that play itself out in a number of areas. He's got to do some things out of the gate to just shut down the process, stall the process of putting government resources into regulating and ratchet that back.

Blake: What's the consequence of that in terms of certainly the regulatory climate touches all agencies, it touches all sectors? What do you sense the effect of that is? Certainly, it has optical value, no question, but as you talked about, too, scaling back regulations is not an overnight process. It's complicated and involved.

Howard: No. The devil's in the details.

Blake: Right. That will certainly be interesting to see. Mark, the Democrats are looking at their own position now as a minority party across the country, but certainly minorities in both the House and the Senate. The Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, and the House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, still, as you talked about, wield a great deal of power and influence in Washington. What do you sense from a Democratic perspective they're focused on policy-wise?

Mark: The Democratic minorities in both houses, especially in the Senate where the 60-vote filibuster breaker still applies to legislation, will have a voice in what comes out of Congress. I think what they are wrestling with is whether to take the McConnell approach that the Republicans did on day one, literally, as the president was being inaugurated. Mitch McConnell was advising Senate Republicans to oppose anything and everything that the Obama Administration did. They were very true to that injunction. Whether to do that, whether to try to get some things done, and if so what, and where this party is at this point.

I think that what you will see is not the McConnell approach. I don't think that that is politically where the Senate minority is, anyway, because too many of those members are up for election in red states. The McConnell approach would not be popular. I think you're going to see the Senate Minority Leader work with the White House on the infrastructure bill.

If I were advising the president-elect, which through this morning no one has suggested I should do, I would tell him to sit down with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, and especially Chuck Schumer, and figure out how to get this infrastructure package that he has promised passed. It's not easy. Again, devil's in the details. Republicans want to pay for it with taxes. Democrats want actual spending. If he can deliver an infrastructure program in 100 days, I think that is the most realistic and meaningful win that the Trump Administration can aspire to. I think the Democrats would help him with that.

Howard: There is no Democratic strategy. There is no cohesiveness among the Democrats in Congress. You've got, as Mark said, 10 Democratic senators up for reelection in red states in 2018. They're not on the same page as Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. Chuck needs them to get reelected. He's acutely aware of that. I think that is probably his overwhelming priority, but there is no cohesiveness among the Democratic Party. See the House of Representatives, which over the objection of some members, reelected Nancy Pelosi their leader which is-

Mark: Completely concur-

Howard: Completely counterproductive.

Mark: That there is no coherent strategy, but nor is there on the other side of the aisle. One of the things that is so interesting as a political science matter is that you have a division between the White House and the Republican majority in Congress. You have a division within the Republican majority in Congress, especially in the House. You have however many Democrats you have with nobody agreeing on anything.

Howard: Let's be clear. These are still institutions. I don't care who is in these jobs, under what administration, the House and the Senate always hate each other more than they hate the president. It doesn't matter if they're all the same party or not. The president still is going to exert executive power and it's going to irk the heck out of the United States Congress. The "Republican Party," you have a non-Republican that got elected as a Republican president of the United States.

Mark, to your point, which I agree with, if I was Chuck Schumer, what I would try to do is line up with Trump on things like infrastructure that the Republicans will not line up with him on. I would try to take advantage of the division, as you're saying.

Mark: Exactly right.

Howard: The division between the Congressional Republicans and the White House, which will intensify, in my opinion, over time.

Mark: Paul Ryan-

Howard: I'd try to be on the Trump side of that and cross your fingers with one hand behind your back and hope that you can do something in two years.

Blake: Yeah, the politics of that get particularly interesting depending on where there is alignment. Howard, we've heard a lot about whether that comes in the form of tax reform, whether it is in financial services. I want to stay domestically before we look abroad, but I wanted to get your comments. Even health care. What are you general comments on those key policy issues? Let's start with tax reform, just because we have heard, whether it ends up being, certainly it's a priority of the Speaker. I thought you might just comment on what you see going forward for tax reform.

Howard: I see it getting done. It is a priority. Ryan has his "A Better Way" agenda, which Trump has been moving toward in the area of taxation. Again, the devil's in the details, but everybody believes the tax code needs to be reformed. Depends whether they can do enough and do it broadly enough so they can get the 60 votes, get the culture vote, and get this thing done. I believe they can.

I think we're going to see corporate tax rates come down dramatically and we're going to see a repatriation of this multi-trillion-dollar pot of money that's sitting overseas that companies like Apple haven't been willing to bring back to the United States because corporate tax rates are so high. I think we're going to see a package that gets that done. There's going to be a big push from the Ways and Means Committee and the White House early in the year. It probably gets done in the back-half of 2017.

Blake: Let's talk about financial services, too, because certainly Dodd-Frank is and has been a big issue to the business community at large, particularly the banking sector. What do you sense happens in financial services generally, but then more specifically to Dodd-Frank?

Howard: They pick their spots. I think there are changes that need to be made. Trump said in the campaign, "Repeal and replace Dodd-Frank." That isn't going to happen. It's not on his priority list. See his Cabinet. It isn't going to happen.

There are things that are going to happen piecemeal. The banking community knows that they have their pet items like the Volcker Rule, for example, that they may go after the CFPB. Actually, at this point, the banking community doesn't want a repeal en masse. They've spent so much money on compliance, so much money getting geared up to deal with it, that I don't even think they could deal with a repeal right now. They want to pick their spots, like the CFPB. The CFPB, which by-the-way is not being done away with, but which will be reformed and it needs to be, that's the kind of thing that can get done in this political climate and will get done over the strenuous objection of one of the senators from Massachusetts, but it's going to get done.

They're going to pick their spots, Blake. It's the community. The reforms that Jeff Hensarling, Chairman of Financial Services, that the Republicans really want are more at the community bank level. They're freeing up capital to small businesses less than they are wanting to relieve the money-centered banks of the pressure they're under.

Blake: Mark, we talked about health care and we talked about the repeal and replace agenda, but that it may take three years in trying to figure it out. Any health care dynamics you sense we'll be talking about over the course of the next six months?

Mark: Well, I think we're going to be talking about the replace part of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, if in fact it gets repealed. This is really complicated because now you're into the weeds in parliamentary procedure in Congress. The Republicans can not break the filibuster on the Affordable Care Act. They're going to have to use the reconciliation process, which is how the act came into being. That process is supposed to be a budgetary and tax matter.

It's very unclear how, for example, on day one they're going to repeal the Affordable Care Act, yet not do away with the ban on preexisting conditions and not do away with the requirement that kids be allowed to stay on their parent's policies until 26, two things that the president-elect has said he's keeping. How all of that gets done in the sausage making of legislation is very, very unclear. Not to mention the fact that there are 20 million people who have insurance under this act and sometime between now and the effective date, they're going to have to figure out what to do with all of that.

The other issue, though, that I will just quickly note in health care, is Medicare and Medicaid. Medicaid is going to get block granted. That, again, is in the weeds on government administration, but it fundamentally means turning the power for the Medicaid program over to the states. You give the states a bunch of money and they figure out what to do with it. That is a big deal. That is a revolution in the Medicaid program from how it's been run since 1965.

I think with Medicare, you have a Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee who is in favor of privatizing Medicare. You have a Speaker of the House who has a version of that with a voucher program. We're going to see how close to that proverbial third rail the Republicans are prepared to go. I doubt they actually get there, but those two programs are going to be where all the health care action is along with the Affordable Care Act.

Blake: Howard, we spent a lot of time talking about the Secretary of State nominee and what might happen there. We've got some foreign policy considerations that this administration will have to address. Most notably, what to do about Cuba and certainly the relationship with China, which we've already seen as presented its own interesting dynamic. I wanted to, before we wrap up the call, get your thoughts generally on what you anticipate early as it pertains to issues abroad.

Howard: I think people are over-interpreting some of what Trump is doing. By that I mean they're looking very superficially at the call with the Taiwanese leader, his tweet on Cuba. They are assuming that he is going in a dramatic direction and taking a dramatic departure from past policy and President Obama's policy in the case of Cuba.

He's doing what he told us what he would do, which is posturing for negotiating purposes. He is no dummy. He knows he can't pull the rug out from American Airlines, which just started flying to Cuba a couple of weeks ago. He knows it's not in the United States' best interest to re-alienate our neighbor off the coast of Florida, but he wants to cut a better deal. That's what he told us he was going to do. When he tweets that the deal is open for rollback, that's what he's doing. He's negotiating.

On China there, too. He knows he needs China to bring North Korea into line. He knows he has to make good on his promise to the American people that he's going to do something about Chinese trade issues. Again, he is telegraphing to the Chinese. He's telegraphing to the American public. No sacred cows. Everything's open for revisiting. "I'm going to do what I told you I was going to do, which is negotiate," and that's what we're seeing.

Blake: Mark?

Mark: I think in that regard there was a very interesting appointment last week that has attracted very little attention. That was the appointment of Terry Branstad, the governor of Iowa, as Ambassador to China. I think the Branstad appointment, and the probably Tillerson appointment, tell you a lot about the way that Donald Trump views the relations between our country and the two most important countries on the planet to us. He views these relations as personal.

He appointed Terry Branstad because Terry Branstad a lot of years ago went to college with the president of China and has maintained a personal relationship. Other than that, Governor Branstad, the longest-serving governor in the country, would himself tell you he hasn't had that much experience with China. Tillerson, obviously, has had a lot of experience around the world, but his relationship with Putin, which is going to cause him a confirmation issue, is I think an attraction to the president-elect and just confirms, as you were saying, Howard, that what he intends to do is posture and leverage and renegotiate these relationships in a very personal way. It's him and maybe Tillerson against Putin. It's him and Branstad against the president of China. I think you can see how he intends to govern those two ultra-critical international relations from the appointments that he's making.

Howard: The danger is trying to do too much here. I mean, look, I think as I said at the beginning, the worst words you can ever hear in government are, "This is the way it's always been done." Anywhere, but especially in government. Trump was fundamentally elected president because people believe he is not going to do things the way they've always been done because he called into question institutionalism. We're going to see that play out. That's really, really healthy.

Even the bureaucracy inside these agencies that he will soon be running, the doers inside these agencies are happy for that breath of fresh air, Mark, but gosh, I know. You cannot try to do too much and that is what will crush this guy if he's not careful.

Blake: Yeah, and certainly you've seen that from the inside. Both of you have. I think we have come to the end of this call. I did want to let everyone who is listening know that we're going to be rolling out an in-depth policy piece very soon and we're going to have a series of updates to compliment these calls as the transition continues to unfold. I would certainly encourage you to not only stay tuned, but to stay in touch with us. We will be in touch with you.

Mark, Howard, as always, fun to talk to you about everything that's going on inside the transition of President-elect Donald J. Trump. I suspect when we are back together, there will be more interesting things to talk about and I'm looking forward to that discussion as well. Thanks to everyone for listening.

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