Trump to host Abe amid Cabinet-building efforts
Japan’s Shinzo Abe will on Thursday become the first foreign leader to meet Donald Trump, as the US president-elect continues efforts to select candidates for top jobs in his cabinet.
The Japanese Prime Minister will meet Trump during the evening at the Republican billionaire’s headquarters in midtown Manhattan in an encounter that will be closely watched for hints on long-standing security pacts that he has called into question.
Abe will likely try to grasp the incoming US leader’s real thoughts on foreign policy, following remarks during the campaign that Japan might want to become a nuclear power to counter unpredictable neighbor North Korea, and suggestions he might pull US troops from the region.
The meeting will take place after a busy day, during which Trump will meet a stream of potential new hires as well as holding talks with influential Republican realpolitik strategist Henry Kissinger, now 93.
In an interview with The Atlantic magazine following the vote, Kissinger said Trump could “establish coherence between our foreign policy and our domestic situation.”
There is “obviously a gap between the public’s perception on the role of US foreign policy and the elite’s perception,” said Kissinger, who served as the Secretary of State and head of the national security council in the 1970s.
One fresh name floated for a cabinet post is South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who according to CNN and MSNBC is being considered for secretary of state and other posts. Until now, US news outlets have suggested that former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was tipped for the job of top diplomat.
Media reports suggested Trump might have believed that the 72-year-old’s controversial professional ties –which include lobbying for a Venezuelan oil firm – were too much to secure senate confirmation.
Retired general Michael Flynn is being considered for the role of national security adviser – a position that does not require senate confirmation, NBC News reported.
Flynn is one of the few national security experts who strongly supported Trump during the campaign.
Between 2012 and 2014, the 57-year-old headed the Defense Intelligence Agency but left under a cloud because of clashes with personnel and administration officials, US media reported.
Rick Perry – former governor of oil-rich Texas and one of the contenders that Trump crushed in the Republican primary –is being considered for energy secretary, The Wall Street Journal reported.
If so, the appointment is likely to raise eyebrows with many recalling an embarrassing moment during the 2011 Republican primary when he struggled to remember the third government agency he wanted to eliminate.
Perry said that when he became president “there’ll be three agencies I’ll end: commerce, education...” The moderator asked if he could name the third agency. “No,” said Perry. “Oops.” The answer was the Department of Energy.
Trump’s team has sought to tamp down talk of turmoil amid widespread reports of a backstabbing purge of mainstream Republican aspirants.
“It’s false to say it’s not going well. Everything up there is very smooth,” his former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told reporters.
Trump rejected the negative reports on Twitter as “so totally wrong,” and slammed The New York Times as “fools” for their transition coverage.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller told The Times that the firings were designed to remove lobbyists from the team.
Late on Wednesday, Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that anyone leaving the incoming Trump administration would be “banned from being a registered lobbyist for five years.”
The aim was to honour Trump’s goal “of making sure that people aren’t using government to enrich themselves,” he said.
Trump’s appointment of the anti-establishment firebrand Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist, however, has rankled many Democrats.
Bannon, who played a key role in the campaign, is on leave as chairman of the Breitbart website, which critics say is a haven for white supremacists.
At least 169 House Democrats signed a letter demanding that Trump remove Bannon, saying that his appointment “directly undermines your ability to unite the country.”
Trump’s running mate Mike Pence will meet some of those Democrats on Thursday when he travels to Washington to meet top legislators from both parties.
In first post-election appearance late Wednesday, Hillary Clinton told a benefit event in Washington that although many were “deeply disappointed” by the election result, it was important to continue working for the greater good.