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.
Romney, a former GOP presidential nominee, said the 90-minute meeting at Trump’s private club in Bedminster, N.J., was a “far-reaching conversation.” He did not respond to questions about whether he would consider joining the administration.
Trump walked Romney out at the end of the meeting and said, “It went great.”
The sit-down came after an acrimonious election year. Romney was a harsh critic of Trump, calling him a “con man.” Trump called Romney a “choke artist” because of his loss to President Barack Obama. Trump and Romney have been trying to mend fences since then.
Earlier Saturday, Trump met with former D.C. public schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, possibly about the secretary of education post, and took to Twitter.
On Twitter, Trump rushed to the defense of Mike Pence, after “Hamilton” actor Brandon Victor Dixon challenged the incoming vice president from the Broadway stage after the show Friday night.
“Apologize!” Trump tweeted to the actor. “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”
Dixon tweeted back: “Conversation is not harassment sir. And I appreciate (at) Mike — Pence for stopping to listen.”
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.