Former Bush official warns against serving in Trump admin

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trump top advisors controversy murray dnt_00001219

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  • Eliot Cohen served in the State Department under President George W. Bush
  • After engaging with Trump's transition team, Cohen is now warning against getting on board

(CNN)A former George W. Bush administration official who once encouraged recalcitrant Republicans to serve in the incoming Trump administration is now issuing a warning against getting on board, cautioning that those Republicans "would probably have to make excuses for things that are inexcusable and defend people who are indefensible."

Eliot Cohen, who served as a State Department counselor from 2007 to 2009, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post published Tuesday explaining why he had changed his mind after engaging with the Trump transition team.
    Earlier Tuesday, he had tweeted: "After exchange w Trump transition team, changed my recommendation: stay away. They're angry, arrogant, screaming "you LOST!" Will be ugly."
    Cohen, part of the #NeverTrump conservative coterie, recounted his experience working with a friend on Trump's transition team -- despite his personal opposition to Trump, Cohen had still hoped to discreetly "steer good people to an administration that understandably wanted nothing to do with the likes of me."
    But Cohen explained that a contentious exchange led to his friend "seething with anger directed at those of us who had opposed Donald Trump," and that "the episode has caused me to change my mind about recommending that conservatives serve in the administration."
    "This was a tipping point. The tenor of the Trump team, 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."
    "In a normal transition to a normal administration, there's always disorder," Cohen wrote, but "this time may be different. Trump was not a normal candidate, the transition is not a normal transition, and this will probably not be a normal administration."
    Cohen savaged the team assembled around Trump -- "The President-elect is surrounding himself with mediocrities whose chief qualification seems to be unquestioning loyalty" -- and argued that "by all accounts, (Trump's) ignorance, and that of his entourage, about the executive branch is fathomless."
    The former Bush official warned that as a result of the disarray and the people involved, "their mistakes -- because there will be mistakes -- will be exceptional," and that the new administration "will smash into crises and failures"
    "My bottom line: Conservative political types should not volunteer to serve in this administration, at least for now," Cohen wrote. "They would probably have to make excuses for things that are inexcusable and defend people who are indefensible. At the very least, they should wait to see who gets the top jobs."
    "I hope that I am wrong. I hope that the administration will settle down and that I can cheer it when it is right and offer temperate criticisms when it is wrong. But the auspices here are disturbing."