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Trump’s acolytes await word of campaign reward

When Donald Trump comes to Washington on January 20, his YouTube supporters Diamond and Silk will be travelling to the capital with him. Then, they will turn round and go home.

Over the course of the tycoon’s campaign, Diamond and Silk served as two of the president-elect’s biggest surrogates to the African-American community, talking him up on their hit video blogs, speaking alongside him at rallies and appearing as celebrity guests at campaign offices. But like many of Mr Trump’s high-profile surrogates who campaign for and on his behalf, they have not been offered a job in the administration, something they say suits them just fine.

“If Donald Trump asked us to come serve, we would come and serve the country,” Lynette Hardaway, who is known as Diamond, said in an interview. “But I think our voices will best serve Donald Trump outside of DC.”

She added: “I wouldn’t do well in a cabinet.”

As Mr Trump’s administration starts to take shape, a clearer idea is emerging of who among the members of the president-elect’s motley campaign bandwagon will be coming to Washington with him — and who, so far, has been left without a prime role on the team.

Among the high-profile campaign surrogates successful in securing jobs in the administration are Kellyanne Conway, Mr Trump’s smooth-talking and even-keeled campaign manager, who will become counsellor to the president, and Omarosa Manigault, a former contestant on Mr Trump’s The Apprentice reality TV show who this week was named assistant to the president and director of communications for the office of public liaison.

Other prominent surrogates who supported the president-elect early and loudly have retreated into the background, some with a whimper, others with a bang.

Jason Miller, Mr Trump’s senior communications adviser during the campaign, was named White House communications director before Christmas, but then withdrew his candidacy citing family reasons. His withdrawal came not long after AJ Delgado, another Trump cable news surrogate, posted a series of tweets, calling Mr Miller “the baby daddy” and appearing to call him “The 2016 version of John Edwards”. Mr Edwards, a former US senator and Democratic presidential candidate, had an extramarital affair with his campaign videographer. Ms Delgado later deactivated her Twitter account. She is listed as a senior adviser on the transition team, while Mr Miller had been Mr Trump’s transition communications director.

Elsewhere, Katrina Pierson, Mr Trump’s national spokesperson for most of the campaign and a mainstay of cable news, remains a senior adviser to the transition but as of this week had not been given a formal job in the administration.

Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor who broke ranks with his party to support Mr Trump early in the Republican primary, appears to have been officially shut out of the cabinet, despite once being seen as a likely contender for vice-president or attorney-general.

Last year, Mr Christie was demoted as head of Mr Trump’s transition team to vice-chair — even as one of his former aides, Bill Stepien retained his senior position on the transition team, eventually being named Mr Trump’s White House political director this past week.

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment on the surrogate appointments, and declined to make the surrogates who remain members of the transition team available for interview.

While some of Mr Trump’s picks might seem unusual on the surface, it is worth, at least in the beginning, giving them the benefit of the doubt, said Carl Sferrazza Anthony, historian of the National First Ladies’ Library, citing the example of Ms Manigault. “There has clearly got to be some strength and some talents she possess that wouldn’t seem analogous to being a reality TV actor,” he said. “It’s certainly not for name recognition that I think she is being named to that position.”

(Indeed, Ms Manigault previously held several junior level posts in Bill Clinton’s White House.)

How much the arrival of the Trump family will change Washington is still to be determined, said Gil Troy, an American presidential historian and professor at McGill University.

“What’s particularly interesting about Trump is he is completely outside the system and changing the rules in so many ways,” Mr Troy said, citing as an example the decision of Melania Trump and their son Barron to remain in Manhattan for the rest of the school year, rather than taking up residence as the immediate first family.

Still, Mr Troy said there was a risk of overestimating how much Mr Trump and his circle of campaign surrogates might end up changing the capital. “On the one hand, Washington is, was and always will be Washington. There is a certain kind of continuity about Washington that withstands presidents,” he said.

Via FT

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