By CATHERINE LUCEY and LAURIE KELLMAN
Mitt Romney is a key contender to become the nation’s next secretary of state and Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis was an “impressive” prospect for defense secretary, President-elect Donald Trump and his No. 2 Mike Pence said Sunday.
“Gov. Romney is under active and serious consideration to serve as secretary of state of the United States,” said Pence, the vice president-elect who is leading the search for Trump’s cabinet members, in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
The remark made clear Trump and Romney’s meeting a day earlier in New Jersey was more than a public attempt to bury the hatchet after trading ferocious insults during the campaign.
Trump met with Ret. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis a few hours after Romney. On Sunday, the billionaire interrupted his tweeted criticisms of “Saturday Night Live,” the hit musical, “Hamilton” and Democrats to write 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 Trump could be nearing additional Cabinet announcements soon as he works toward rounding out his foreign policy and national security teams. He took a hard line on both subjects during the presidential campaign, proposing a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country and more.
But even as Trump and his team discussed some of the weightiest matters facing the country, the president-elect continued tweeting about an array of matters.
His targets Sunday included incoming Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, another media-savvy New Yorker, who Trump said was “far smarter” than retiring Democratic Leader Harry Reid. He 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 Trump as Googling, “What is ISIS?”
Trump also insisted again that the cast and producers of “Hamilton” should apologize after the lead actor addressed Pence from the stage Friday night, telling the vice president-elect that “diverse America” was “alarmed and anxious” about the incoming administration. Pence said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he enjoyed the show and wasn’t offended.
Meanwhile, Trump received more visitors to his golf club in New Jersey Sunday. His schedule in Bedminster was to include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Trump said he may announce some of his picks on Sunday.
Both Romney and Trump put on a show of smiles, a public handshake and a thumbs-up Saturday, a marked shift in tone after a year in which Romney attacked Trump as a “con man” and Trump labeled him a “loser.” But the two have started to mend fences since Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump started filling key administration positions on Friday, picking Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo to head the CIA, signaling a sharp rightward shift in U.S. security policy as he begins to form his Cabinet. Trump also named retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.
Trump’s initial decisions suggest a more aggressive military involvement in counterterror strategy and a greater emphasis on Islam’s role in stoking extremism. Sessions, who is best known for his hard line immigration views, has questioned whether terrorist suspects should benefit from the rights available in U.S. courts. Pompeo has said Muslim leaders are “potentially complicit” in attacks if they do not denounce violence carried out in the name of Islam.
Pompeo’s nomination to lead the CIA also opens the prospect of the U.S. resuming torture of detainees. Trump has backed harsh interrogation techniques that President Barack Obama and Congress have banned, saying the U.S. “should go tougher than waterboarding,” which simulates drowning. In 2014, Pompeo criticized Obama for “ending our interrogation program” and said intelligence officials “are not torturers, they are patriots.”
Sessions and Pompeo would both require Senate confirmation; Flynn would not.
Kellman reported from Washington.