President-elect Donald Trump on November 20 assessed several more contenders for top US posts including Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani, as blunt-spoken retired Marine Corps General James Mattis emerged as a leading candidate for defense secretary.
Trump held meetings at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, with candidates for senior administration jobs after he takes office on Jan. 20. On November 19, he conferred with Mattis and Mitt Romney, formerly a fierce Trump critic now under consideration for secretary of state.
Summing up two days of talks as he said goodbye to retired US Marines Corps General John Kelly on November 20 evening, Trump said: "We really had some great meetings, and you’ll be hearing about them soon.”
|U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) and Vice President-elect Mike Pence (R) greet retired Marine General James Mattis in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S. (Photo: Reuters)
Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said no decisions would be announced on November 20 night.
The last person Trump escorted out of the clubhouse was Giuliani, a former New York mayor, who shook hands with him and started walking away before returning to Trump and engaging him in conversation. Giuliani then walked to his car, declining to answer questions but telling reporters to go get warm because “the show’s over.”
Giuliani was a candidate for secretary of state "and other things," Trump said earlier.
Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, advised Trump during the presidential campaign but was dismissed as the head of his transition team. Asked by reporters before the meeting whether there was a place for Christie in his administration, Trump sidestepped the question but called him "a very talented man, great guy."
Trump met with Wilbur Ross, the billionaire investor, who he said was under consideration for commerce secretary. Asked whether he wanted the job, Ross told reporters: "Well, time will tell." Trump also met with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is known for his hardline position on illegal immigration.
The president-elect has already tapped three senior leaders of his national security and law enforcement teams, choosing US Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general, US Representative Mike Pompeo as CIA director, and retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as national security adviser.
If Mattis is selected as defense secretary, he would be the first former flag officer, the very highest ranks of the military, to hold that post since George Marshall took the job in 1950.
Trump wrote on Twitter on November 20 that "General James 'Mad Dog' Mattis, who is being considered for Secretary of Defense, was very impressive. A true General's General!"
From 2010 to 2013, Mattis headed the US military's Central Command, which oversees operations stretching from the Horn of Africa through the Middle East and into Central Asia including Afghanistan and Pakistan. During that time, he was at odds with the Obama administration on the need to prepare for potential threats from Iran and about resources for Afghanistan.
Mattis, 66, served as an American commander in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was known to be popular among the troops.
Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who now heads Trump's transition team," said Mattis had "a legendary military career."
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said it was a "very real possibility" Mattis would get the job, telling the ABC program "This Week:" "I know that President-elect Trump loves leaders like General Mattis."Reuters