Trump sees cabinet hopefuls but no new picks yet
US President-elect Donald Trump said he saw “tremendous talent” in the stream of cabinet hopefuls – including former critic Mitt Romney – invited to his golf club for talks, but did not reveal any new nominations.
“You’ll hear something tomorrow,” the 70-year-old Republican billionaire told reporters after a marathon day of meetings at his golf retreat in New Jersey on November 19.
Mr Trump is building his new administration after his shock November 8 election win over Democrat Hillary Clinton, with an eye on his inauguration on January 20.
Mr Romney, the failed Republican presidential candidate in 2012, is reportedly in the running to be Mr Trump’s secretary of state, even though the two men traded harsh barbs throughout the White House campaign.
Other high-level candidates who trekked out to Mr Trump’s golf resort included retired general James Mattis, a potential Pentagon chief, and Michelle Rhee, the controversial former head of schools in the US capital.
Mr Trump – with Vice Presidentelect Mike Pence at his side – said his meetings had gone “really efficiently. Tremendous talent. We’re seeing tremendous talent.”
This included talks with Mr Romney, who emerged from the session saying nothing about whether he was offered the job or was interested in it.
“We had a far-reaching conversation with regards to the various theatres in the world where there are interests of the United States of real significance,” Mr Romney said.
“We discussed those areas and exchanged our views on those topics.”
Earlier, as Mr Romney walked towards reporters, Mr Trump cupped his hands around his mouth and said, “It went great.”
The huge, exclusive Trump National Golf Club Bedminster is one of the president-elect’s favourite sanctuaries, where he likes to spend weekends and where he prepared for campaign debates against Ms Clinton.
In addition to Mr Romney, Mr Mattis and Ms Rhee, Mr Trump saw several business leaders including Lew Eisenberg, Andrew Puzder, Betsy DeVos and Todd Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
When asked if the cabinet was being formed, he replied, “Yes. Partially. We’re doing this again tomorrow.”
Mr Romney appears to be on the shortlist for the State Department, along with former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Mr Romney would bring a more orthodox Republican worldview to foreign policy.
He has described Russia as the main American geopolitical threat – a sharp contrast to Mr Trump, who has exchanged compliments with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During Mr Trump’s campaign, Mr Romney described him as a “fraud”, rebuking the tycoon for proposals such as banning the entry of all foreign Muslims.
So far, Mr Trump has announced a handful of government nominations including ultra-conservative Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general, hawkish congressman Mike Pompeo as CIA director and retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn as his national security advisor.
A controversial retired intelligence officer, Mr Flynn, 57, has described Islam as a “cancer” and a “political ideology”, and in February tweeted that “fear of Muslims is rational”.
He has also courted controversy for refusing to rule out “enhanced” interrogation techniques such as waterboarding that have been described as torture and that Mr Trump has repeatedly condoned.
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leader of the party’s left wing, is spearheading calls for Mr Trump to withdraw his nomination.
“Trump isn’t ‘draining the swamp’,” she tweeted about his promise to sideline lobbyists and other insiders in Washington. “He’s inviting the biggest, ugliest swamp monsters in the front door.”
Mr Flynn’s appointment does not require Senate approval. But that of Mr Sessions as attorney general does, and he has baggage: racially charged comments he made in the 1980s that cost him a chance for a job for life as a federal judge.
With some 15 senior positions in his cabinet still to fill, the property mogul was to remain in Bedminster until last night, far from the protesters besieging his New York building.
More than 1000 demonstrators marched from Queens – the New York borough where Mr Trump was born – to Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan on November 19, decrying what they see as a threat to democratic values under a far-right Trump administration.
Demonstrators, many waving rainbow flags in support of the gay community, carried signs that read “Queens will resist hatred”, “No to fascism” and “Stop racism”. –
(Left to right) Vice President-elect Mike Pence, President-elect Donald Trump and Mitt Romney leave the clubhouse after their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, in Bedminster Township, New Jersey, on November 19.