The presidential transition hit a new low Wednesday, with President-elect Donald Trump openly criticizing President Obama for bungling U.S. relations with Israel and erecting other “roadblocks” to a smooth transfer of power in Washington.
With 24 days to go before Mr. Trump’s inauguration, the president-elect’s frustration with Mr. Obama’s perceived undermining of his victory, and wide-ranging efforts to tie the hands of the incoming administration, boiled over in a series of comments by Mr. Trump on Twitter.
“Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks,” Mr. Trump said. “Thought it was going to be a smooth transition — NOT!”
The president has been rushing with executive actions to lock in policies that Mr. Trump isn’t likely to support, such as bans on offshore drilling and a fresh round of pending sanctions against Russia for cyberattacks that the administration says were aimed at helping Mr. Trump win the election.
The expanded sanctions against Russia are expected to be announced Thursday, and Mr. Obama is promising to launch covert cyberoperations in retaliation.
Last week, the administration officially dismantled a dormant legal framework that Mr. Trump could have used for vetting Muslim visitors in the U.S.
Mr. Obama also riled Mr. Trump this week by claiming in an interview that he would have defeated the Republican in the November election, if only the pesky Constitution had let him run for a third term. Mr. Trump responded, “NO WAY!”
But the move that most alarmed Mr. Trump, judging from his tweet storm, was the administration’s decision not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution that condemned Israel for settlement activity in the West Bank.
“We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but not anymore.”
The move at the United Nations angered the Israeli government, which accused the Obama administration of orchestrating the vote.
The president-elect told Israel on Wednesday, as George W. Bush said in a different context, that help is on the way. “The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this (U.N.)! Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!” Mr. Trump said.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry defended the administration’s actions at the U.N. in a lengthy speech Wednesday, saying “no American administration has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama’s.”
It was an astonishing public airing of the disagreements between Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama, who has pledged to do everything possible to create a “smooth and efficient” transfer of power. Although the two men have spoken by phone many times since the election, their mutual praise and handshake during a cordial Oval Office meeting on Nov. 10 now seem distant.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest dismissed Mr. Trump’s comments, telling CNBC, “We’ve been ignoring these tweets for a year — why would we start responding now?”
Asked by reporters if his transition was proceeding smoothly, Mr. Trump said, “I think very, very smoothly. Very good. You don’t think so?”
Speaking to reporters in Florida about U.S. jobs, the president-elect said he spoke with Mr. Obama earlier Wednesday and had “a very nice conversation.”
Mr. Trump has been irritating the White House in ways that go beyond his victory over the president’s chosen successor, Hillary Clinton. He has expressed eagerness to unravel some of Mr. Obama’s most cherished initiatives, including the Affordable Care Act, a global climate change agreement and a massive free trade deal in the Asia-Pacific region.
The president-elect also disturbed the White House with his call last week for the U.S. to “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” In response, Mr. Obama on Tuesday hailed the efforts of the U.S. and Japan at “slowing the spread of nuclear weapons” to keep the peace in Asia.
During the memorial event at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Mr. Obama also seemed to take aim again at Mr. Trump’s foreign policy plans with one of those “inflammatory” statements.
“Even when hatred burns hottest, the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward,” Mr. Obama said. “We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different.”
Trump transition spokesman Sean Spicer said Wednesday that the president-elect’s tweet about the less-than-smooth transition “speaks for itself.” But Mr. Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, said Mr. Obama and his staff have been “helpful and generous” to the Trump team.
As if the transition has become a popularity contest, Obama supporters were gloating on social media Wednesday that the president beat Mr. Trump in a Gallup poll as the “most admired” man of 2016. Of those surveyed, 22 percent chose Mr. Obama, while Mr. Trump came in second with 15 percent. Pope Francis was third.
Gallup said it was Mr. Obama’s ninth consecutive win, but the 7 percentage point margin was his narrowest victory yet.
In the 70 years that Gallup has asked the question, the incumbent president has won 58 times.
Mrs. Clinton was rated as the most admired woman, edging out first lady Michelle Obama.
Transition tensions also flared this week when Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, who is running for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, accused the Trump team of breaking the law by sending questionnaires to government agencies such as the Energy Department seeking to identify employees who had worked on climate change.
“Those questions have no place in a transition,” Mr. Perez said. “That is illegal.”
The president-elect’s transition team responded that “the transition has a memorandum of understanding in place with the administration, and we continue to uphold both of our ends in this agreement.”