Newsletter: Only one week left until President Trump. Buckle up


Good morning everyone. It’s Matthew Fleischer here, digital editor of the Times’ Opinion page, filling in for Paul Thornton. Here’s hoping you’re having a nice, relaxing long weekend — the last under President Obama.

Things might get a little bit … bumpy from here on out.

As Opinion columnist Doyle McManus wrote in his column this week, regardless if you agree or disagree with Donald Trump’s politics, the impending Trump presidency will almost certainly be complete chaos — for reasons far more fundamental than the president-elect’s penchant for abusive tweeting or whatever foibles may exist in his personal life.

The president-elect comes to the job with the habits of an entrepreneur and a showman, not a manager of large organizations. He’s known for making decisions based on the last advice he heard. He makes policy pronouncements on Twitter, often without his aides knowing in advance. And he’s impatient with hierarchy.

“You’ll call my people, you’ll call me. It doesn’t make any difference,” he told tech executives last month. “We have no formal chain of command around here.”

In the White House, dozens of issues jostle for attention and crises constantly threaten to derail long-term strategy. Usually, it’s the chief of staff’s job to act as a gatekeeper; he controls the president’s meetings and flow of information to make sure the chief executive can focus on his priorities.

In Trump’s case, that will be [Reince] Priebus, a seasoned political operative who rose from the Wisconsin Republican Party to become chairman of the Republican National Committee and won Trump’s confidence in the process.

But Priebus may not be fully in charge. Instead, aides have described a structure with three top aides: Priebus, political strategist Stephen K. Bannon, and communication strategist Kellyanne Conway. That’s a recipe for confusion.

Defenders of Trump’s troika plan point out that in President Reagan’s successful first term, he had three top aides too: James A. Baker III, Michael Deaver and Edwin M. Meese. But in that White House, Baker was clearly designated as first among equals; that hasn’t happened in the case of Priebus.

The picture is complicated by the fact that Priebus and Bannon come from intermittently hostile factions in Trump’s coalition.

Priebus, who’s close to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), represents the institutional Republican Party of orthodox conservatism. Bannon, former chief executive of the Breitbart media organization, has said he wants to “hammer” the GOP establishment and oust Ryan as speaker.

Nor is it clear which version of Trumpism the president-elect wants. Trump’s campaign never produced a policy blueprint to settle the question.

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Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution states: “And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.” Given his significant foreign holdings and his business ties to international governments, Trump could very well violate this provision of the Constitution on his first day in office, writes UC Irvine School of Law dean Erwin Chemerinsky, in an op-ed. L.A. Times

By now, you’ve probably read or heard about the scandalous accusations against Trump contained in an unverified foreign intelligence dossier published by BuzzFeed earlier this week. We won’t delve into the sordid details. And neither should have BuzzFeed, argues Opinion contributor Melissa Batchelor Warnke. At least not until it verified that the information contained in the dossier was, in fact, true. Printing rumors against Trump only fans his flame, she says. L.A. Times

In the wake of the BuzzFeed dossier uproar, Trump finally gave his first news conference as president-elect. Not that we should be surprised — Trump rose to power by breaking every single convention in the political playbook — but it was spectacularly unpresidential. L.A. Times

Times readers were obviously upset by the senseless slaughter at the Ft. Lauderdale airport that killed five and wounded eight others, but they weren’t necessarily surprised. Despite America’s post-9/11 security upgrades, airports still haven’t fixed a major security flaw — one that could have cost lives in Florida. L.A. Times

For reasons that still seem a bit mystifying, the Chargers football team has left its longtime home in sunny San Diego for the apparently sunnier skies of Los Angeles. Um, welcome … we think? L.A. Times

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