Wilbur Ross now leading candidate for US commerce secretary

Former BoI investor was one of several candidates to meet Trump and Pence

US president-elect Donald Trump  points to investor Wilbur Ross at  Trump International Golf Club in  New Jersey on Sunday. Photograph: Peter Foley/EPA

US president-elect Donald Trump points to investor Wilbur Ross at Trump International Golf Club in New Jersey on Sunday. Photograph: Peter Foley/EPA

 

US president-elect Donald Trump said he has “made a couple of deals” after spending the weekend meeting a long list of candidates for government posts, including Wilbur Ross.

Speculation is mounting that Mr Trump may choose Mr Ross to lead the US Commerce Department.

The billionaire investor is best known in this country for leading a group of five investors that acquired a 35 per cent stake in Bank of Ireland in 2011 for €1.1 billion – saving it from nationalisation.

No appointments were confirmed, but Mr Trump and the vice president-elect, Mike Pence, did drop several hints.

Mr Pence said Mitt Romney is “under active and serious consideration” to become the nation’s next secretary of state. Mr Trump said retired Marine Corps General James Mattis was an “impressive” prospect for defence secretary.

“I think we have some really incredible people going to be working for the country,” Mr Trump said on Sunday evening. “We really had some incredible meetings. You’ll be hearing about them soon.”

Among the visitors to Mr Trump’s New Jersey golf club were Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach and retired Marine General John Kelly, the former commander of US Southern Command.

Foreign policy

Between conversations, Mr Trump revealed he was making plans for transitioning his family. He told reporters that his wife, Melania, and their 10-year-old son, Barron, would move to Washington when the school year ends.

Mr Trump also turned to Twitter to share some of his thinking.

In between criticisms of Saturday Night Live, the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, and Democrats, he wrote that: “General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, who is being considered for secretary of defense, was very impressive yesterday. A true General’s General!”

The comments were indications that Mr Trump is looking outside his immediate circle as he works toward rounding out his foreign policy and national security teams.

On Friday, he named a loyalist, retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, as his national security adviser.

Mr Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential contender, exchanged bitter insults with Mr Trump during the campaign, and Gen Mattis has not been considered a Trump confidante.

The appointment of more establishment figures could offer some reassurance to people concerned about Mr Trump’s hard-line positions on immigration and national security and his lack of foreign policy experience.

Mr Trump told reporters that one of his most loyal and public allies, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, was also a prospect for secretary of state “and other things”.

Mr Giuliani, at one point, had been considered for attorney general, but Mr Trump gave that job to senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

‘Alarmed and anxious’

More meetings are on Mr Trump’s schedule for Monday. His transition team said former Texas governor and Republican presidential rival Rick Perry is expected to meet Mr Trump on Monday.

But even as the US president-elect and his team discussed pressing issues facing the country and how to staff the incoming administration, his Twitter feed suggested other issues, too, were on his mind.

His targets included retiring Democratic leader in the US senate Harry Reid. Mr Trump tweeted that the incoming leader Chuck Schumer, another media-savvy New Yorker, was “far smarter” than Mr Reid and “has the ability to get things done”.

Mr Trump also complained that Saturday Night Live, which thrives on making fun of politicians, is “biased” and not funny. The night before, actor Alec Baldwin portrayed Mr Trump Googling, “What is ISIS?”

Mr Trump also insisted again that the cast and producers of Hamilton should apologise after the lead actor addressed Mr Pence from the stage on Friday night, telling the US vice president-elect that “diverse America” was “alarmed and anxious”.

However, Mr Pence said on CBS’s Face the Nation that he was not offended.

Mr Trump has selected Alabama senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Kansas representative Mike Pompeo to head the CIA, signalling a sharp rightward shift in US security policy.

Mr Trump’s initial decisions suggest a more aggressive military involvement in counter-terror strategy and a greater emphasis on Islam’s role in stoking extremism.

Mr Sessions, who is best known for his hardline immigration views, has questioned whether terrorist suspects should benefit from the rights available in US courts.

Mr Pompeo has said Muslim leaders are “potentially complicit” in attacks if they do not denounce violence carried out in the name of Islam.

Mr Pompeo’s nomination to lead the CIA also opens the prospect of the US resuming the torture of detainees.

Mr Trump has backed harsh interrogation techniques which president Barack Obama and US congress have banned, saying the US “should go tougher than waterboarding”.

In 2014, Mr Pompeo criticised Mr Obama for “ending our interrogation programme” and said intelligence officials “are not torturers, they are patriots”.

– (AP)