Mitt Romney is a key contender to become the next U.S. secretary of state and retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis was an “impressive” prospect for defence secretary, president-elect Donald Trump and vice-president-elect Mike Pence said Sunday.
“Governor Romney is under active and serious consideration to serve as secretary of state of the United States,” said Pence, who is leading the search for Trump’s cabinet members, in an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation.
On Sunday, the billionaire interrupted his tweeted criticisms of Saturday Night Live, the hit musical Hamilton and Democrats to write that, “General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, who is being considered for secretary of defence, 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.
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 Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican 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.
Process to fill cabinet continues
Meanwhile, Trump received more visitors to his golf club in New Jersey Sunday. Besides Giuliani, Trump met with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, his former transition chairman who was replaced by Pence after the election.
Trump’s transition team said former Texas governor and Republican presidential rival Rick Perry was expected to meet with Trump on Monday.
The businessman and president-elect also apparently was considering prospects to lead the Commerce Department, meeting with billionaire investor Wilbur Ross.
“Time will tell,” Ross told reporters when asked if he wanted to the post.
Trump also was making plans for transitioning his family. He told reporters Sunday that his wife, Melania, and their 10-year-old son, Barron, would move to Washington when the school year ends.
Trump started filling key administration positions on Friday, picking Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo to head the CIA, signalling 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.