Trump picks Florida Panthers owner as Army secretary

Associated Press

Sunrise, Fla. — President-elect Donald Trump on Monday tapped another billionaire businessman for an administration job, naming Army veteran and fellow New Yorker Vincent Viola to be his secretary of the Army.

Trump planned an afternoon of meetings with other businessmen and former U.S. government officials as he works to complete his team.

A West Point graduate, Viola adds to the list of former military men Trump has chosen for his Cabinet. His picks for defense secretary, homeland security secretary, national security adviser and deputy national security adviser are all retired military.

In a written statement, Trump praised Viola, the son of Italian immigrants, as “living proof of the American dream” and someone who has a lengthy history of engagement with national security issues. The Army secretary is the civilian head of the Army.

Viola grew up in Brooklyn, the first member of his family to attend college. He was trained as an Airborne Ranger infantry officer and served in the 101st Airborne Division. He is a lawyer who started multiple businesses and bought the Florida Panthers hockey team for about $250 million in 2013.

Trump made the announcement as electors in all 50 states were meeting to formally elect him president, paving his way to take office on Jan. 20.

Trump announced his choice for Army secretary from Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach, Florida, estate where he was spending the holidays with his family and continuing work on the transition.

Viola would join a circle of wealthy businessmen chosen for Trump’s administration, including fast food executive Andy Puzder to lead the Labor Department, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross for Commerce, financier Steven Mnuchin as Treasury secretary and Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn as his top economic adviser.

More open posts remain, including that of U.S. trade representative. Trump planned to meet Monday with Robert Lighthizer, a former deputy U.S. trade representative in the Reagan administration, and Thad Allen, the retired Coast Guard commandant who oversaw the federal response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

Trump also scheduled a meeting with R. Donahue Peebles, board chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Peebles is also founder, chairman and CEO of Peebles Corp., a real estate development and investment company.

J. Christopher Reyes, co-chairman of Reyes Holdings, a Chicago-based beer and food distributor, was also on Trump’s meeting schedule for Monday, said Trump spokesman Jason Miller.

Meanwhile, Vice President-elect Mike Pence was holding transition meetings in New York, including a foreign policy discussion with Henry Kissinger, who was secretary of state under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.