Two of Donald Trump’s closest aides, Kellyanne Conway and Boris Epshteyn, who led the transition team, met with congressional aides to reassure them that the Trump White House was listening to their concerns.
A White House official said that the meeting went so well that Conway received a standing ovation. The official said the meeting lasted about 15 minutes and described it as “brief” and “warm.”
However, as POLITCO reports, other accounts dispute the White House’s optimistic assessment of the meeting. The reports say that Conway was swamped with questions regarding the tens of thousands of phone calls and emails GOP senators have received in response to the confirmation hearings of Betsy DeVos.
One communications director complained that GOP senators weren’t getting any support from the White House in terms of the confirmation hearings for Devos:
‘We said it would be nice to get some cover on this because we’re taking the heat on our own. But there was radio silence.’
Sources also claim that both Conway and Epshteyn failed to give satisfactory answers, and were dismissive of the concerns raised by the congressional aides.
Such complaints might have to do with Trump’s outsider status. His lack of political experience was an asset when it came to the campaign trail, but it is apparently hindering his ability to govern since he does not have the ties to Congress that most presidents have.
That said, it appears that Trump is taking steps to rectify this mistake by solidifying communication between the White House and Capitol Hill. Several congressional leaders have reported that the White House has begun briefing them when executive orders are being discussed and Trump has reportedly had several calls with House Speaker Paul Ryan.
To help facilitate this new relationship with Congress, the Trump team is expected to hire 15 new people charged with improving congressional outreach. This team will be led by Rick Dearborn, Trump’s deputy chief of staff, and Marc Short. Prior to becoming an advisor to Vice President Mike Pence, Short served as a chief of staff in both the House and the Senate, so his connections could go a long way towards helping Trump build bridges with lawmakers.
Rep. Chris Collins, who has a close relationship with the president, said that the Trump team is committed to filling these positions as fast as possible:
‘Like anything else, things go at a pace. He did not come into office with an entourage. They are filling these jobs as fast as they can.’
It might take awhile for Trump to rebuild those bridges, however, as numerous members of Congress have expressed frustration over being forced to defend Trump’s more controversial policies — such as Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.
To make matters worse, Epshteyn’s previous meetings with Congress have not gone well. He apparently failed to provide satisfactory answers regarding the immigration order and even abandoned one meeting after five minutes, refusing to take any questions.
Epshteyn isn’t the only member of Trump’s outreach staff to cut meetings short. In one recent meeting, Conway was asked whether she found Saturday Night Live‘s portrayal of Sean Spicer to be funny. It turns out she didn’t because, as one source reported, that Conway’s face “turned to stone” and she left the meeting.
If Trump wants to accomplish his ambitious agenda, then he will need the aid of Congress. But as of right now, there’s no telling whether or not he will be able to build a working relationship with them.
Featured image via Getty Images.