I spoke with Newt Gingrich at The Washington Post last Friday for the latest installment of The Daily 202’s live interview series. The former speaker of the House, who had huddled with Donald J. Trump the night before at Trump Tower, spoke candidly about the president-elect’s leadership style, the three power centers that will exist in his White House and why he’d welcome a million federal workers taking to the streets.
Gingrich was a runner-up to be Trump’s vice president this summer, but he will not take a formal role in the new government. The 73-year-old predicted that Trump will create a new governing coalition with certain Hispanic and African-Americans but without some members of the House Freedom Caucus.
Below is a transcript of our hour-long conversation, edited slightly for length and readability:
Hohmann: You’re one of the few people who knows Trump really well and knows Washington really well. Looking ahead, what’s your prediction for how Trump changes Washington, and how Washington changes Trump?
Gingrich: Probably some time in February, the cabinet that he’s assembling … will get together for a meeting and realize that Washington does not accept the election. And whether it’s the bureaucracy, or it’s the news media, or, it’s the lobbying community, or it’s some parts of the Republican Party, all of them are committed to a different future than the one that Trump wants.
At that point, they’ll have two choices. They’ll either do what (Arnold) Schwarzenegger did in California, after he lost his referendum (in 2005), and decide, you know, ‘Okay. I’ve got to accommodate the system that’s already here.’ Or, because they are such a high-powered collection of people, who are so used to winning, they’ll say, ‘Okay, we’ve got to double, or triple, or quadruple our energy level, and break through.’ And at that point, you will know just how historic Trump’s going to be.
Hohmann: You really think we’ll know that in the first 60 to 90 days?
Gingrich: Oh, yeah. Because the problems they have to solve will all compound, almost immediately. The biggest of which is the bureaucracy. If you look at the Veterans Administration, which is sort of the archetype of disaster, you can’t fix it unless you change the civil service laws.
You can’t change the civil service laws within the normal framework of Washington. So you have to either do what Scott Walker did and break out of the normal framework – which in his case led to 100,000 people demonstrating, a six-month occupation of the Capitol, and death threats against both he and his wife – or you say, ‘Well, yeah, we’ll fix it as well as we can without really making anybody unhappy.’”