Conservatives should stay away from Trump transition, former Bush administration official says

SAIS scholar, national security expert Eliot Cohen, who previously urged conservatives to serve under president-elect Donald Trump, now says he was 'wrong'

National security expert and former State Department counselor Eliot Cohen, a professor of strategic studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., leveled sharp criticism at President-elect Donald Trump's transition operation Tuesday, urging conservatives not to serve in the incoming administration in a commentary published by The Washington Post.

Eliot Cohen

Image caption: Eliot Cohen

In the article—titled "I told conservatives to work with Trump. One talk with his team changed my mind."—Cohen writes that "the president-elect is surrounding himself with mediocrities whose chief qualification seems to be unquestioning loyalty," later adding, "By all accounts, his ignorance, and that of his entourage, about the executive branch is fathomless."

Last week, Cohen—a self-described "Never-Trumper" who previously helped to organize letters signed by foreign policy experts denouncing Trump as unfit for office—wrote an article for The American Interest in which he said that he "did not have a worry" about serving in a Trump administration and suggested that conservative political types should do just that, albeit with a realistic understanding of the challenges ahead.

On Tuesday, after an email exchange with a "friend in Trumpworld" who is part of the transition effort, Cohen, who served from 2007 to 2009 as counselor to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the George W. Bush administration, reversed course and said he was "wrong."

"The tenor of the Trump team," he writes in The Post, "from everything I see, read and hear, is such that, for a garden-variety Republican policy specialist, service in the early phase of the administration would carry a high risk of compromising one's integrity and reputation."

More from The Post:

One bad boss can be endured. A gaggle of them will poison all decision-making. They will turn on each other. No band of brothers this: rather the permanent campaign as waged by triumphalist rabble-rousers and demagogues, abetted by people out of their depth and unfit for the jobs they will hold, gripped by grievance, resentment and lurking insecurity. Their mistakes—because there will be mistakes—will be exceptional.

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