WASHINGTON - The bloodletting in President-elect Trump's transition team that began with last week's ouster of Gov. Christie escalated Tuesday with new departures, particularly in the area of national security, as power consolidated within an ever-smaller group of top Trump loyalists.
Former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers announced that he had left his position as the transition's senior national security adviser. Rogers, a former chairman of the House intelligence committee and the leading candidate for CIA director, was among at least four transition officials purged this week, apparently because of perceived ties to Christie.
As turbulence within the team grew, some key members of Trump's party began to question his views and the remaining candidates for top positions.
Trump met Tuesday with Vice President-elect Pence, who replaced Christie at the head of the transition Friday, to discuss cabinet and White House personnel choices. Little to no information was released by the transition office, leaving reporters gathered in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York to hustle after team members passing through.
Trump has appeared increasingly uncomfortable with outsiders and suspicious of those considered part of what one insider called the "bicoastal elite," who are perceived as trying to "insinuate" themselves into positions of power.
Those in the inner circle reportedly were winnowed to loyalists who had stuck with Trump throughout the campaign and helped devise his winning strategy. They include Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), former Breitbart News head Stephen Bannon, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and members of Trump's family, including son-in-law Jared Kushner.
"This is a very insular, pretty closely held circle of people," said Philip Zelikow, a former director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia and a senior figure in the George W. Bush transition. "Confusion is the norm" for transitions, he said, "but there are some unusual features here, because they're trying to make some statements."
"They feel like their election was a lot of the American people wanting to throw a brick through a window," Zelikow said. "They want to make appointments that make it sound like glass is being broken."
Increasingly, among the shards are more mainline Republicans in the national security field. In an angry Twitter post Tuesday, Eliot Cohen, a leading voice of opposition to Trump during the campaign who had advised those interested in administration jobs to take them, abruptly changed his mind, saying the transition "will be ugly."
After responding to a transition insider seeking names of possible appointees, Cohen said, he received what he described as an "unhinged" email from the same person saying "YOU LOST" and accusing Trump critics of trying to infiltrate the administration's ranks.
"It became clear to me that they view jobs as lollipops, things you give out to good boys and girls, instead of the sense that actually what you're trying to do is recruit the best possible talent to fill the most important, demanding, lowest-paying executive jobs in the world," Cohen said.
Rogers' departure coincided with word from Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, whose possible selection as secretary of state comforted more mainline Republicans, that he was unlikely to be chosen. "Has my name been in the mix? I'm pretty sure, yeah. Have I been having intimate conversations? No," Corker said in an interview.
The two names most prominently mentioned for the diplomatic job - former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and John Bolton, an assistant secretary of state and one-year ambassador to the United Nations during the two Bush administrations - are both Trump loyalists. But both could be problematic, even among Republicans who would have to confirm them.
Giuliani, thought to be an early choice for attorney general, was said by a person close to the transition team to have personally appealed to Trump for the diplomatic job. He has virtually no diplomatic experience or knowledge of the State Department bureaucracy.
Bolton, a national security hawk who got his U.N. job through a recess appointment after the Senate refused to confirm him, was a leading advocate for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, contradicting Trump's campaign position opposing it.
Former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean Sr., a longtime mentor to Christie, said in an interview that Kushner was widely seen as unhappy with Christie's handling of the transition. There was "some shock" within Christie's circle at their abrupt dismissal from the transition ranks, Kean said.
Tensions between Christie and Kushner date back more than a decade. In 2005, Christie, then the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, led the successful prosecution of Kushner's father, Charles, a prominent real estate developer and philanthropist, who was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion and witness tampering.
Christie also has been beset by scandal. After a trial that put his administration in a negative light, two of his former top aides were found guilty Nov. 4 for their roles in disruptive 2013 lane closures at the George Washington Bridge.
In addition, Christie is believed by some Trump intimates to have been insufficiently loyal in the final weeks of the campaign.
Those who have been ousted along with or following Christie include Richard Bagger, the former Christie chief of staff who had been executive director of the transition, and William Palatucci, a New Jersey Republican who served as the transition's general counsel.