Trump goes to NJ to talk with Romney, Christie, others
President-elect Donald Trump this weekend moved his operation to fill top administration posts and talk with Republican party elders to his private New Jersey golf club, meeting with arch-critic Mitt Romney, who purportedly is being considered for secretary of state.
Trump, who has conducted most of the discussion — and made a couple of Cabinet-level picks — from Trump Tower in Manhattan, is scheduled to meet Sunday with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, two leading supporters. He’s also scheduled to meet with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
A Kobach spokeswoman told The Associated Press on Saturday that Kobach was on his way to New Jersey but she did not confirm details of the planned meeting Sunday. Kobach served as an adviser to the Trump campaign on immigration issues and has a background in designing laws cracking down people who are here illegally.
Trump is still weighing a range of candidates for leading national security posts.
Other contenders for secretary of state are said to be Giuliani, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who met with Trump on Thursday.
Also on Friday, Trump picked 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. A former military intelligence chief, Flynn has accused the Obama administration of being too soft on terrorism and has cast Islam as a “political ideology” and driver of extremism.
The selections form the first outlines of Trump’s Cabinet and national security teams. Given his lack of governing experience and vague policy proposals during the campaign, his selection of advisers is being scrutinized both in the U.S. and abroad.
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 hardline 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.”
Asked Saturday whether more anymore announcements would be made in the coming hours, Trump said, “We’ll see, could happen.”
Sessions and Pompeo would both require Senate confirmation; Flynn would not.
However, potential roadblocks exist, particularly for Sessions, the first senator to endorse Trump and one of the chamber’s most conservative members.
His last Senate confirmation hearing, in 1986 for a federal judgeship, was derailed over allegations that he made racist comments, including calling a black assistant U.S. attorney “boy” in conversation. Sessions denied the accusation, but withdrew from consideration.