Donald Trump has asked roughly 50 senior Obama administration officials to remain in their roles in order to “ensure the continuity of government,” spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday.
This decision comes as Trump is reportedly struggling to fill important posts in his new administration.
Among the Obama holdovers are key national security officials, including Brett McGurk, special envoy to the global coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The move is somewhat surprising, given Trump’s repeated criticism of Obama’s effort to combat the terrorist group. He called the president “the founder of ISIS” during a campaign event last April.
McGurk, however, does have bipartisan credentials. He served as an adviser on Iraq and Afghanistan under President George W. Bush.
Spicer told reporters during a briefing in Washington that McGurk will remain at the State Department “until a replacement can be named.”
“What we’ve ensured is that, for the time being, we’ve got a team in place that will continue to advise him and make sure that the country remains safe and that our priorities will be carried out,” he said.
Another top Obama administration official staying on is Adam Szubin, who oversees international sanctions at the Treasury Department.
President Obama nominated Szubin as undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence in 2015, but he was never confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate.
Szubin, who has served under Obama and Bush, has been serving in his role in an acting capacity.
A Treasury Department spokesperson said Szubin would “serve as acting secretary of the Treasury until a new secretary is confirmed and in place.”
“At that point, Mr. Szubin will leave government service to pursue other endeavors,” the spokesperson said.
The president-elect has filled out his entire Cabinet and many senior White House and National Security Council (NSC) roles. But of the 690 administration posts that require Senate confirmation, only 29 have been named.
That includes key staff roles at the NSC and Pentagon, raising concerns about the incoming administration’s ability to handle national emergencies, such as potential terrorist attacks or catastrophic weather events.
Spicer blamed Democrats in the Senate, saying they have been slow-walking Cabinet nominees tasked with filling out many of those posts.
“Make no mistake, we are ready to go on day one,” the spokesman said.
It’s not uncommon for incoming presidents to keep key officials from the previous administration.
But Trump has made a point to ensure turnover in many areas, ordering Obama’s political ambassadors to leave their posts by Inauguration Day.