Mitt Romney a possible choice for US secretary of state

Left: Retired US Marine Corp General James Mattis flanked by Mr Trump (far left) and Mr Pence at the clubhouse of Trump International Golf Club in New Jersey on Saturday. After their meeting, a Trump team statement said Mr Trump and Mr Pence were "ve
Mr Trump and Mr Mitt Romney leave the clubhouse after meeting for an hour and 20 minutes on Saturday. They "had a far-reaching conversation with regard to the various theatres in the world", said Mr Romney.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Left: Retired US Marine Corp General James Mattis flanked by Mr Trump (far left) and Mr Pence at the clubhouse of Trump International Golf Club in New Jersey on Saturday. After their meeting, a Trump team statement said Mr Trump and Mr Pence were "ve
Retired US Marine Corp General James Mattis flanked by Mr Trump (far left) and Mr Pence at the clubhouse of Trump International Golf Club in New Jersey on Saturday. After their meeting, a Trump team statement said Mr Trump and Mr Pence were "very impressed" with Gen Mattis.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Trump holds flurry of meetings to fill top jobs, confirms retired general James Mattis is candidate for defence post

BEDMINSTER (New Jersey) • President-elect Donald Trump held a flurry of meetings over the weekend to fill top Cabinet posts, including with 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and retired general James Mattis.

Vice-President-elect Mike Pence and senior adviser Reince Priebus said yesterday that Mr Romney is a possible choice for the job of US secretary of state, but Mr Trump is also looking at other candidates.

Mr Trump confirmed on Twitter yesterday that he was considering Gen Mattis, who previously headed the US Central Command, for US defence secretary, a day after meeting him in New Jersey.

Mr Trump wrote: "Gen Mattis... was very impressive yesterday. A true General's General!"

After meeting for an hour on Saturday, a Trump team statement said Mr Trump and Mr Pence were "very impressed" with Gen Mattis.

"They had an incredibly in-depth conversation on plans for national security. The discussion included ISIS, the Middle East, North Korea, China, Nato and other hot spots around the world," the statement said.

Mr Trump has told reporters that his search process was going "really efficiently" and that he had spoken to "really, really talented" people who could form part of his Cabinet. He also said he might have some announcements soon.

CANDIDATE FOR DEFENCE

Gen Mattis... was very impressive yesterday. A true General's General!

MR TRUMP, on Twitter about retired General James Mattis, who previously headed the US Central Command.

On Saturday, he met Mr Romney for an hour and 20 minutes at his New Jersey golf course. Mr Romney said the pair "had a far-reaching conversation with regard to the various theatres in the world".

"We discussed those areas, and exchanged our views on those topics - a very thorough and in-depth discussion in the time we had," Mr Romney said.

"And I appreciate the chance to speak with the President-elect and I look forward to the coming administration and the things that it's going to be doing."

Mr John Feehery, a Republican strategist, said Mr Trump was showing "great magnanimity" by talking to Mr Romney.

"I think it is meant to reassure some of the establishment that he is going to reach out to them, and that's an important part of healing the party."

Mr Romney was a leader of the Republican "never Trump" movement that tried to block Mr Trump from becoming the nominee.

In March, Mr Romney said Mr Trump would be dangerous as president, with policies that could touch off a recession.

He also said: "I'm afraid that when it comes to foreign policy he is very, very not smart."

For his part, Mr Trump had denounced Mr Romney as a "choke artist" for losing the 2012 election to President Barack Obama.

The outreach to Mr Romney signalled a change in Mr Trump's tone after he moved to elevate hardliners to pivotal national security positions.

On Friday, he moved to install retired Lieutenant-General Michael Flynn, who is bent on destroying Islamist extremism, as his national security adviser. He also selected Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, an immigration hardliner, as his attorney-general.

Also on Saturday, he met Mr Andy Puzder, chief executive of fast-food giant CKE Restaurants, who is tipped as a possible labour secretary.

In addition, he met two candidates for education secretary: Ms Michelle Rhee, the former Washington, DC public schools chancellor; and Ms Betsy DeVos, a former head of the Michigan Republican Party.

Mr Trump was scheduled to sit down yesterday with Mr Wilbur Ross, a potential commerce secretary who made billions by investing in bankrupt companies and distressed assets, and business executive David McCormick, head of investment firm Bridgewater Associates, as well as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was recently demoted in his role on Mr Trump's transition team.

Meanwhile, conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham said yesterday she is being considered to serve as White House press secretary.

REUTERS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2016, with the headline 'Romney a possible choice for US secretary of state'. Print Edition | Subscribe