Donald Trump keeps US guessing as candidates line up

President-elect Donald Trump walks outside to greet Mr Peter Kirsanow, attorney and member of the US Commission on Civil Rights, before their meeting at Trump International Golf Club.
President-elect Donald Trump walks outside to greet Mr Peter Kirsanow, attorney and member of the US Commission on Civil Rights, before their meeting at Trump International Golf Club.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (REUTERS/AFP) - United States President-elect Donald Trump met Cabinet hopefuls at his Manhattan office tower on Monday (Nov 21), as he sought to build a team to implement his vision for America.

Mr Trump met Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Democratic US Representative Tulsi Gabbard and former Texas governor Rick Perry. But he announced no further appointments, keeping candidates and the public guessing about the shape of the administration that will take office on Jan 20.

Mr Trump has so far picked two Cabinet members and three top White House advisers, and aides said he was not expected to make further announcements on Monday.

"It could come this week. It could come today but we're not in a rush to publish names just because everybody is looking for the next story," campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said. "We've got to get it right."

Ms Fallin, Ms Gabbard and Mr Perry were the latest of dozens of officials who have made their way across the opulent lobby of Trump Tower for talks with the Republican President-elect in a relatively open - and unconventional - transition process since his election victory on Nov 8.

 

Mr Trump, who has not held a news conference since his election, also issued a video on Monday evening outlining some of his plans for his first day in office, including formally declaring his intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, trade deal, which he called "a potential disaster for our country".

The President-elect said he would replace the accord with bilaterally negotiated trade deals that would "bring jobs and industry back onto American shores".

The 12-nation TPP is Democratic President Barack Obama's signature trade initiative and was signed by the United States earlier this year but has not been ratified by the US Senate.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday the TPP "would be meaningless without the United States".

MEETINGS WITH MEDIA

Mr Trump spoke often with reporters camped out at his New Jersey golf course over the weekend, but has not held a traditional news conference to talk about his priorities. He held an off-the-record meeting with a group of television anchors and executives on Monday afternoon and was scheduled to meet print media representatives on Tuesday.

The Washington Post reported that four participants at Monday's meeting described it as a contentious but generally respectful session.

They told the Post that Mr Trump singled out reporting of his campaign by CNN and NBC that he considered to be unfair.

Mr Trump also returned to Twitter on Monday night, saying "many people" would like to see Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage as British ambassador to the United States. "He would do a great job!"

Mr Farage, who helped lead the successful referendum fight for Britain to leave the European Union, spoke at a Trump rally during the US campaign and visited the President-elect after his victory.

Mr Trump's first meeting on Monday was with Iraq war veteran Gabbard, a representative from Hawaii who backed US Senator Bernie Sanders in his unsuccessful 2016 Democratic presidential nominating contest against Mrs Hillary Clinton.

The "frank and positive" discussion focused on the war in Syria, counter-terrorism and other foreign policy issues, Ms Gabbard said in a statement. She did not say whether a Cabinet role was part of the discussion.

Ms Gabbard has veered from Democratic Party positions at times, backing policies cracking down on immigration to the United States by Muslims.

Ms Fallin told reporters she was not offered a position but discussed "a wide range of topics" with Mr Trump. The Republican governor's spokesman said that included a focus on the Interior Department, an agency whose responsibilities include oversight of oil and gas leases on public lands.

Former Republican US senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts told reporters he had a "great" meeting about veterans issues with Mr Trump.

Mr Trump also met former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich and Ms Elaine Chao, the US labour secretary under former president George W. Bush, advisers said.

Mr Trump's transition team said Mr Perry, the former Texas governor, was being considered for Cabinet posts including defence, energy and veterans affairs.

Mr Trump, a New York businessman who has never held public office and who was the surprise winner over Mrs Clinton this month, has so far named senior leaders of his national security and law enforcement teams.

They are US Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas as CIA director, and retired Army Lieutenant-General Michael Flynn as White House national security adviser. He has also proposed US Senator Jeff Sessions to be attorney-general.

For Thanksgiving, Mr Trump planned to travel on Tuesday to Mar-a-Lago, a golf resort he owns in Florida, a spokesman said.