By KEN THOMAS, CATHERINE LUCEY and JULIE PACE
President-elect Donald Trump offered former military intelligence chief Michael Flynn the job of national security adviser as he began to build out his national security team Thursday, according to a senior Trump official. The move came as Trump made his most direct foray into foreign policy since the election, meeting with Japan’s prime minister.
Flynn, who served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has advised Trump on national security issues for months. As national security adviser, he would work in the White House and have frequent access to the president. The post does not require Senate confirmation.
The official wouldn’t say whether Flynn had accepted the job, which left open the possibility that the arrangement was not finalized. The official was not authorized to discuss the offer publicly and insisted on anonymity.
Flynn, who turns 58 in December, built a reputation in the Army as an astute intelligence professional and a straight talker. He retired in 2014 and has been a fierce critic of President Barack Obama’s White House and Pentagon, taking issue with the administration’s approach to global affairs and fighting Islamic State militants.
Flynn has called for Washington to should work more closely with Moscow, echoing similar statements from Trump. But his warmth toward Russia has worried some national security experts.
Flynn traveled last year to Moscow, where he joined Russian President Vladimir Putin and other officials in a celebration of RT, a Russian television channel. He later explained that he had been paid for taking part in the event, but brushed aside concerns that he was aiding a Russian propaganda effort.
Trump is a foreign policy novice and his early moves on national security are being closely watched by U.S allies and adversaries alike. He’s said to be considering a range of officials with varying degrees of experience to lead the State Department and Pentagon.
The president-elect held his first face-to-face meeting with a world leader since winning the presidential election, huddling privately with Japan’s Shinzo Abe. While Trump made no comments following the meeting, Abe said the president-elect was “a leader in whom I can have great confidence.”
Trump also consulted with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and sat down with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a potential contender to lead the State Department.
In Washington, Vice President-elect Mike Pence huddled with Republican leaders in Congress. He then met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, the newly elected leader of the Senate Democrats, seeking to convey respect as Democrats prepare for Republican rule of both chambers and the White House for the first time in a decade.
“We look forward to finding ways that we can find common ground and move the country forward,” Pence said outside Schumer’s Senate office.
In a separate gesture of reconciliation with establishment Republicans, Trump planned to meet with 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who lambasted Trump as a “con man” and a “fraud” in a stinging speech last March. Trump responded by repeatedly referring to Romney as a “loser.”
The two began mending fences after Trump’s victory when Romney called with congratulations. They are to meet this weekend, a transition official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss Trump’s schedule publicly. Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said they were still “working on” the meeting.
Trump’s actions Thursday aimed to show leaders both in the U.S. and overseas that he could soften his rhetoric, offer pragmatism in the White House and reaffirm longstanding American alliances. Since his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton last week, Trump has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and nearly three dozen other world leaders by telephone.
Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, also visited the skyscraper and called Trump “a true friend of Israel.” He specifically cited as another “friend” Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon, whose selection as a top White House adviser has created a backlash among Democrats. Bannon’s news website has peddled conspiracy theories, white nationalism and anti-Semitism.
“We look forward to working with the Trump administration, with all the members of the Trump administration, including Steve Bannon, in making the U.S.-Israel alliance stronger than ever,” Dermer said.
Trump, a reality television star, business mogul and political newcomer, also rolled out new teams that will interact with the State Department, Pentagon, Justice Department and other national security agencies. The move is part of the government transition before Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
Coordination had been on hold until Trump’s team submitted documents including a list of transition team members who will coordinate with specific federal agencies, plus certification that they meet a code of conduct barring conflicts of interest.
White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said the minimum paperwork was finished Thursday, meaning agencies could start providing briefings and written materials to Trump’s team. Indeed, the departments of State, Defense and Justice say meetings are being set up.
Conway said she expected initial announcements of Cabinet choices to come “before or right after Thanksgiving,” telling reporters Trump he was “loving” the transition. “He’s a transactional guy. He’s somebody who’s used to delivering results and producing.”
One potential Cabinet member, Eva Moskowitz, said had taken herself out of the running to become education secretary. Moskowitz, a Democrat and advocate for charter schools, met with Trump this week, stoking speculation that she might inject a bit of bipartisanship in the new administration.
Moskowitz, who voted for Clinton, suggested there were “positive signs” that Trump might govern differently than he campaigned, but she wrote in a letter to parents that many of her students, who are overwhelmingly black and Latino, would feel that “they are the target of the hatred that drove Trump’s campaign.”
Thomas and Pace reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Erica Werner, Jonathan Lemire, Matthew Pennington and Steve Braun ontributed to this report.
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