Trump predicts all Cabinet picks will win confirmation
New York — Facing a week of high-profile tests for his administration-in-waiting, President-elect Donald Trump predicted Monday that all of his Cabinet picks would win Senate confirmation, while insisting there is a “very simple, very easy” way to disentangle himself from his global business empire before he takes office.
Trump’s confidence comes as lawmakers in both parties eagerly await the submission of ethics forms from Cabinet nominees, including at least two billionaires whose extensive personal financial dealings have never faced public scrutiny.
“I think they’ll all pass,” Trump said between private meetings in his Manhattan sky rise, describing his Cabinet picks as “all at the highest level.”
Senators are set to question Trump’s picks for the nation’s top diplomat, lead law enforcement officer and head of homeland security, among at least nine picks set to parade before Senate committees beginning Tuesday. A day later, Trump faces reporters for his first formal news conference in nearly six months.
Among the topics he’s expected to address: How the New York real estate magnate will build a firewall between his presidency and his global empire. Trump has pledged to step away from the Trump Organization during his time in office, but amid warnings from government watchdogs and officials in both parties, he has yet to say specifically how he would do that.
Trump insisted Monday it would be “simple” for him to disentangle himself from his extensive international business interests. The details, he said, would have to wait until Wednesday’s news conference.
“All I can say is it’s very simple, very easy,” he said.
Trump continues to own or control some 500 companies that make up the Trump Organization and has said that he intends for his two oldest son and company executives to run the business while he’s gone.
Trump met privately Monday with several international business leaders and media figures, as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell, afterward, said they discussed his Senate agenda, including the upcoming confirmation hearings and repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s health care law.
While Democrats have complained about the quick pace of the hearing schedule, McConnell insisted that, “Everybody’ll be properly vetted as they have been in the past.”
On Friday, Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub said in a letter to congressional leaders that his office “has not received even initial draft financial disclosure reports for some of the nominees scheduled for hearings.”
Trump’s incoming press secretary Sean Spicer insisted on Monday that “Everyone who has a hearing this week has their paperwork in.”
But one of the committees that hasn’t yet received the forms is the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which has scheduled a hearing this week for Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick to lead the Education Department. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee said it had also not received the forms for Trump’s pick for commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, though a spokeswoman said they’re expected soon.
Committee aides said they had received ethics forms for Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general; Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for secretary of state; James Mattis, his pick for defense secretary; Rep. Mike Pompeo, his choice for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Chao, his pick for transportation secretary.
Other confirmation hearings this week include retired Marine Gen. John Kelly for homeland security secretary and Ben Carson for housing secretary. Committees handling those nominations declined to comment on the records.
McConnell said he’s hopeful that up to six or seven of Trump’s picks, “particularly the national security team,” will be “in place on Day One.”
Trump’s nominees, meanwhile, have been going through extensive preparation in the days leading up to the hearings.
Transition officials said the nominees have spent more than 70 hours participating in full-blown mock hearings, with volunteers playing the role of senators asking questions.
“They’re listening, they’re learning, they’re preparing,” Spicer said.