Trump, Pence weigh Cabinet picks
Bedminster, N.J. — President-elect Donald Trump said Sunday that he had “made a couple of deals” after spending the weekend meeting with a long list of potential administration appointees, but he did not reveal any more picks.
Trump and the vice president-elect, Mike Pence, did drop some hints. Pence said that Mitt Romney was “under active and serious consideration” to become the nation’s next secretary of state. Trump said retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis was an “impressive” prospect for defense secretary.
“I think we have some really incredible people going to be working for the country,” Trump said Sunday evening. “We really had some incredible meetings. You’ll be hearing about them soon.”
Among the visitors to the white-pillared clubhouse Sunday were Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, the former commander of U.S. Southern Command.
Between conversations, Trump revealed he was making plans for transitioning his family. He told reporters that his wife, Melania, and their 10-year-old son, Barron, would move to Washington when the school year ends.
And Trump turned to Twitter to share some of his thinking. In between criticisms of “Saturday Night Live,” the hit musical “Hamilton,” and Democrats, he wrote that, “General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, who is being considered for secretary of defense, was very impressive yesterday. A true General’s General!”
The comments were indications that Trump is looking outside his immediate circle as he works toward rounding out his foreign policy and national security teams. On Friday, he named a loyalist, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, as his national security adviser.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential contender, and Trump exchanged bitter insults during the campaign, and Mattis has not been considered a Trump confidante. The appointment of more establishment figures could offer some reassurance to lawmakers and others concerned about Trump’s hard-line positions on immigration and national security and his lack of foreign policy experience.
Trump told reporters Sunday that one of his most loyal and public allies, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was also a prospect for secretary of state “and other things.” Giuliani at one point had been considered for attorney general, but Trump gave that job to Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
The businessman and president-elect also apparently was considering options to lead the Commerce Department, meeting with Ross.
“Time will tell,” Ross told reporters when asked if he wanted a post.
More meetings are on Trump’s Monday schedule. His transition team said former Texas governor and GOP presidential rival Rick Perry was expected to meet with Trump on Monday.
But even as Trump and his team discussed pressing issues facing the country and how to staff the incoming administration, the president-elect’s Twitter feed suggested other issues too were on his mind.
His targets Sunday included retiring Democratic leader Harry Reid. Trump tweeted that incoming Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, another media-savvy New Yorker, was “far smarter” than Reid and “has the ability to get things done.”
Trump also complained that “Saturday Night Live,” which thrives on making fun of politicians, is “biased” and not funny. The night before, actor Alec Baldwin portrayed Trump as Googling, “What is ISIS?”
Trump also insisted again that the cast and producers of “Hamilton” should apologize after the lead actor addressed Pence from the stage Friday night, telling the vice president-elect that “diverse America” was “alarmed and anxious.” Pence said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he wasn’t offended.
Trump started filling key administration positions on Friday, picking Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo to head the CIA, signaling a sharp rightward shift in U.S. security policy as he begins to form his Cabinet. Trump also named retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.
Trump’s initial decisions suggest a more aggressive military involvement in counterterror strategy and a greater emphasis on Islam’s role in stoking extremism. Sessions, who is best known for his hard line immigration views, has questioned whether terrorist suspects should benefit from the rights available in U.S. courts. Pompeo has said Muslim leaders are “potentially complicit” in attacks if they do not denounce violence carried out in the name of Islam.
Pompeo’s nomination to lead the CIA also opens the prospect of the U.S. resuming torture of detainees. Trump has backed harsh interrogation techniques that President Barack Obama and Congress have banned, saying the U.S. “should go tougher than waterboarding,” which simulates drowning. In 2014, Pompeo criticized Obama for “ending our interrogation program” and said intelligence officials “are not torturers, they are patriots.”
Sessions and Pompeo would both require Senate confirmation; Flynn would not.