Trump to meet Romney far from the tumult of New York

With some 15 senior positions in his cabinet still to fill, the real estate billionaire decamped on Friday night to the huge, exclusive Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, a one-and-a-half-hour drive from his Fifth Avenue headquarters at Trump Tower.

Bedminster, US // Donald Trump was to meet on Saturday with one of his most vocal Republican Party critics to sound him out as a candidate for secretary of state, as the president elect spent his first weekend outside Manhattan since his election.

Meeting at a Trump golf course in New Jersey, Mr Trump was to sit down with Mitt Romney now considered a long-shot for the job of top US diplomat, a day after naming three polarising conservatives to fill key national security and judicial posts.

With some 15 senior positions in his cabinet still to fill, the real estate billionaire decamped on Friday night to the huge, exclusive Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, a one-and-a-half-hour drive from his Fifth Avenue headquarters at Trump Tower.

He will remain in Bedminster until Sunday night, far from the protesters besieging his New York building.

Mr Trump has not appeared in public since he gave reporters the slip to take his family to dinner in New York on Tuesday. He has not spoken publicly since the broadcast of an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday night, except for communicating through his favourite media: Twitter.

It was on the social network that Mr Trump reacted on Saturday morning to an out-of-court deal settling lawsuits that dogged his campaign over alleged fraud at his defunct Trump University training programme, for which he will pay former students US$25 million (Dh91.8m).

“I settled the Trump University lawsuit for a small fraction of the potential award because as President I have to focus on our country,” he tweeted.

The soon-to-be 45th president of the United States, set to take office on January 20, also tweeted criticism of the boos that greeted his future vice president Mike Pence when he attended a performance of the Broadway musical Hamilton. The cast also called for Trump’s incoming administration to work on behalf of all Americans.

“The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence,” Trump said. “Apologize!”

The Bedminster golf course is one of Trump’s favourite sanctuaries, where he likes to spend weekends and where he prepared for campaign debates against his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

In addition to Mr Romney, he was expected to meet retired general James Mattis, a candidate for defence secretary; education secretary hopeful Michelle Rhee, a former head of public schools in Washington; and several business leaders including Lew Eisenberg, Andrew Puzder, Betsy DeVos and Todd Ricketts, the owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

Mr Romney — the failed 2012 Republican presidential candidate — is a long-shot possibility for secretary of state, along with former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Mr Romney would bring a more orthodox Republican worldview to foreign policy. He described Russia in 2012 as the main American geopolitical threat — a sharp contrast to Mr Trump, who has exchanged compliments with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

During Mr Trump’s campaign, Mr Romney described him as a “fraud,” rebuking the tycoon for proposals such as banning the entry of all foreign Muslims.

Mr Trump also nominated anti-immigration Senator Jeff Sessions, one of his earliest supporters during the campaign, to be attorney general on Friday, showing he is prepared to take his hard line on illegal immigration into the White House.

To lead the CIA, Trump tapped hawkish Congressman Mike Pompeo, a strident opponent of the Iran nuclear deal and a sharp critic of Mrs Clinton, when she was secretary of state, during hearings into the 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya.

The incoming commander-in-chief also appointed retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn as his national security adviser. A controversial retired intelligence officer, Lt Gen Flynn, 57, has described Islam as a “cancer” and a “political ideology,” and in February tweeted that “fear of Muslims is rational.”

He has also courted controversy for refusing to rule out “enhanced” interrogation techniques such as waterboarding that have been described as torture and that Mr Trump has repeatedly condoned.

Lt Gen Flynn’s appointment does not require Senate approval.

But that of Mr Sessions as attorney general does, and he has baggage: racially charged comments he made in the 1980s that cost him a chance for a job for life as a federal judge.

Sessions also fiercely opposes immigration, and waged war on efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform through Congress in 2007 and 2013.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leader of the party’s left wing, is spearheading calls for Trump to withdraw his nomination.

“Trump isn’t ‘draining the swamp,’” she tweeted about his promise to sideline lobbyists and other insiders in Washington. “He’s inviting the biggest, ugliest swamp monsters in the front door.”

*Agence France-Presse

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