President-elect Donald Trump remained at his Florida estate on Friday, keeping a limited Thanksgiving weekend schedule while speaking with more foreign leaders and preparing for further staff and Cabinet announcements.
After a Thanksgiving feast at Mar-a-Lago that included oven-roasted turkey, lobster bisque and “Mr. Trump’s wedge salad,” the president-elect was planning to make two “staff-level” announcements about his incoming administration later Friday, transition aides said. There will be no further personnel announcements until at least Monday, they said in a conference call with reporters.
Trump has spoken with five more foreign leaders since leaving New York for Florida on Tuesday, his transition team said. They include two of Europe’s most high-profile populist heads of state: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a left-wing leader who came to power after a string of recessions and whose term has been marked by some of the most dramatic moments of the Greek debt crisis; and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a right-wing leader whose policies have included a push to reject the migrants flowing into Europe from the war-torn Middle East.
At various points, both leaders have also broken from the rest of European Union members to pursue a closer relationship with Russia since the E.U. began to sanction Moscow over its activities in Ukraine.
Later in the day, the transition team announced that Trump had chosen Don McGhan as White House counsel and K.T. McFarland as deputy national security adviser. McGhan is a well-known campaign finance lawyer, while McFarland has served in national security roles with previous Republican administrations.
Transition aides said there will be no further personnel announcements until at least Monday.
After leaving Florida on Sunday, Trump plans to meet with at least seven possible job candidates on Monday, including several business executives, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, R, and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.
People familiar with the selection process have said Clarke is in contention to be Trump’s homeland security secretary, along with other candidates, including: Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, former chief of U.S. Southern Command; Frances Townsend, a top homeland security and counterterrorism official in the George W. Bush administration, and Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Clarke, a vocal Trump supporter, could be a controversial choice because of his strong stated views, including comparing the Black Lives Matter movement to the Islamic State.
The new developments came as Trump is preparing to select Wilbur Ross for commerce secretary, according to officials with knowledge of the decision. Ross is a billionaire investor considered the “king of bankruptcy” for buying beaten-down companies with the potential to deliver profits.
Ross helped shape the Trump campaign’s economic agenda, particularly its hard-line stance on the need to renegotiate – or even withdraw from – free-trade agreements. That position resonated with the working-class voters who were instrumental in delivering Trump’s upset victory. Elevating Ross to a position in his Cabinet could suggest that Trump intends to nurture the nationalist streak that was one of the hallmarks of his campaign.
Transition aides declined to comment Friday on Ross’s likely selection, or the possible choice of Ben Carson to be secretary of housing and urban development. Trump had tweeted Tuesday that he is “seriously considering” Carson for the HUD post, and Carson tweeted Wednesday that “an announcement is forthcoming about my role in helping to make America great again,” though he declined to be more specific.
Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who has no known experience with housing issues, ran against Trump in the Republican primary before becoming an adviser and confidant.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Jerry Markon, Karoun Demirjian