Donald Trump can’t decide whether he thinks the transition of power is going well or not.
But he knows he doesn’t like how much attention Barack Obama is getting and is also bothered by what Trump and his closest advisers see as an active effort to poke the president-elect and undermine the incoming administration with last-minute policy changes on his way out of office, according to two people close to the transition.
And the relationship is likely to get worse in the three weeks until the inauguration: Obama is scheduled to give a farewell address Jan. 10 that is expected to be a recounting of his successes and an inherent contrast with Trump and the administration is rushing to make public a report on Russian hacking during the election that intelligence officials say was done to help Trump, though the president-elect has disputed that entirely.
The president-elect’s latest Twitter attack on Wednesday morning — “Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks. Thought it was going to be a smooth transition – NOT!” — was followed, true to Trump form, six hours later by Trump telling reporters who asked whether the transition was going smoothly, “Oh, I think very, very smoothly. Very good. You don’t think so?”
In between, Trump had a phone call with Obama. The word of the day was smooth, with White House spokesman Eric Schultz saying that this conversation, “like the others since the election, was positive and focused on continuing a smooth and effective transition.”
Wednesday night, in response to a question from a reporter, Trump went even further to move past the situation.
“Our staffs have been getting along very well, and I’m getting along very well with him,” he said, “other than a couple of statements that I responded to and we talked about it and smiled about it and nobody is ever going to know because we are never going to be going against each other.”
Behind the theater is bubbling frustration for many involved.
Trump leapt right into the middle of what has been Obama’s most troubled relationship with a foreign leader, eagerly taking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s side against the administration’s abstention from a United Nations vote condemning the construction of Israeli settlements.
Trump also has been irked, according to transition officials, by other recent moves by the outgoing president. Obama’s decisions to permanently ban oil and gas drilling in portions of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, to eliminate dormant regulations requiring males from certain largely-Muslim countries to register with immigration authorities, and to issue pardons and commutations have also raised eyebrows around the president-elect.
The spite is being churned by an Israeli prime minister who has long proved to be one of the most adept players of American politics — and who leapt on Twitter himself Wednesday, pre-butting Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech criticizing his government with a thank you message to Trump for “your warm friendship and your clear-cut support.”
Trump is “frustrated by the president’s public comments” on the Russian hacking and “the whole ‘Israel situation,’” according to one person who has spoken to the president-elect, referring to the ongoing drama around last week’s U.N. vote. Trump aides and Obama administration officials talked little in the run-up to the vote, leading to a sharp and public divergence between the current administration and the transition on foreign policy, unlike anything in modern American history.
Most of all, though, Trump is frustrated with how Obama has poked him, by claiming in a…