Trump says Cabinet picks free to express own ideas

US President-elect Donald Trump said that he wants his Cabinet picks to "be themselves and express their own thoughts".
US President-elect Donald Trump said that he wants his Cabinet picks to "be themselves and express their own thoughts". PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President-elect Donald Trump on Friday (Jan 13) shrugged off the strikingly divergent positions his Cabinet picks have taken on Russia, torture, and a host of other issues, saying he wanted them to express their own ideas.

"All of my Cabinet nominee (sic) are looking good and doing a great job," he said in an early morning tweet. "I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!"

The views of his nominees - on public display in Senate confirmation hearings this week - have often contradicted Trump's most incendiary pledges made during the presidential campaign.

They have variously warned of the threat posed by Russia, hailed Nato, repudiated torture, defended the US intelligence community and cautioned against withdrawing from the Iran nuclear treaty and the Paris Climate Accord.

On virtually every controversial foreign policy stance that Trump took during the election, the nominees hedged and backtracked and sought to assure senators that they shared the consensus that has shaped Western strategic thinking and institutions since World War II.

The contrast was all the more striking because it came against the backdrop of an ugly feud between Trump and the US intelligence agencies, stoked by the leak of an unsubstantiated report that Russia had gathered compromising personal and financial material on the president-elect.

"Totally made up facts by sleazebag political operatives, both Democrats and Republicans - FAKE NEWS! Russia says nothing exists," Trump tweeted early Friday.

"Probably... released by 'Intelligence' even knowing there is no proof, and never will be. My people will have a full report on hacking within 90 days!" jm/ec .