NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The political world was focused on Trump Tower Tuesday, as President-elect Donald Trump assembled his top advisors to make some big decisions.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, the decisions included filling out Trump’s Cabinet, including top national security posts. Meanwhile, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were both weighing in on speculation about joining the Trump administration.
Insiders, including Vice President-elect Mike Pence and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) huddled with Trump at his tower in Midtown Tuesday, as they worked on the next round of high-profile appointments.
“Well, I don’t know exactly what all will be discussed, but I’ll be meeting with a lot of different people,” Sessions said before the meeting.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller cast the meeting with Pence as a significant step in the process toward nominating Cabinet secretaries.
“If the vice president-elect is getting together with the president-elect to discuss names, I would say it’s getting serious,” Miller said.
Giuliani and former UN Ambassador John Bolton are said to be favorites for Secretary of State.
Giuliani, 72, would be an out-of-box choice to serve as secretary of State. As a former mayor, federal prosecutor and top Trump adviser, Giuliani is known for his hardline law-and-order views.
But some grumble about Giuliani’s work for foreign governments – including Qatar in the Middle East – and his support for a war that the president-elect opposed.
“The thing Donald Trump said over and over again — he opposed the Iraq War, and he learned that lesson, that regime change in the Middle East is not a good idea — I don’t see Giuliani coming out with statements like that,” said U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky).
Bolton has years of U.S. foreign policy experience, but he has also raised eyebrows with some of his hawkish stances, including a 2015 New York Times op-ed in which he advocated bombing Iran to halt the country’s development of nuclear weapons.
A spokeswoman for Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his interest in the job. But during an appearance in Washington late Monday, Giuliani said that Bolton would be a “very good choice” to serve as secretary of state. Asked if there was anyone better, Giuliani replied: “Maybe me, I don’t know.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker also expressed interest in the State Department post and said his team has had “some conversations” with Trump officials. However, the Tennessee Republican told MSNBC there were others who were more “central” to Trump’s presidential campaign for the post.
Former Trump campaign finance chair Steve Mnuchin was recommended as treasury secretary.
Trump was also considering tapping Richard Grenell as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, a move that would bring some experience and diversity to his nascent administration. Grenell, who served as U.S. spokesman at the U.N. under President George W. Bush, would be the first openly gay person to fill a Cabinet-level foreign policy post.
As Trump narrows in on top appointments, there were signs of tumult within his transition team. Former Rep. Mike Rogers, a well-respected Republican voice on national security, announced his resignation from the transition team on Tuesday, a move likely to rattle GOP officials who worry about Trump’s lack of foreign policy credentials.
Christie ran the transition effort until Trump won, and the governor was demoted. Pence is now in charge.
The New Jersey governor weighed in on whether he would have a role in the new administration.
“I’ve spoken to the President elect often in the last six days. If there’s a way that I can be helpful that’s meaningful, Mary Pat and I will consider it,” Christie said. “He knows after 14 years that no matter what he decides, we’re going to be friends.”
The switch from Christie to Pence to head the transition team has slowed Trump’s ability to coordinate with the White House. Pence has yet to sign a memorandum of understanding facilitating interactions between transition officials and Obama administration officials, effectively pausing those efforts. Christie had previously signed the document, but it’s no longer valid given Pence’s promotion. And Pentagon officials say they have yet to hear from the transition team.
The transition planning comes amid an intense and extended backlash from Trump’s decision on Sunday to appoint Steve Bannon, a man celebrated by the white nationalist movement, to serve as his chief strategist and senior adviser.
Until joining Trump’s campaign this summer, Bannon led a website that appealed to the so-called “alt-right,” a movement often associated with efforts on the far right to preserve “white identity,” oppose multiculturalism and defend “Western values.”
Trump also announced Sunday that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will serve as White House chief of staff.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, Republicans named U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) for another term as House speaker. Ryan was optimistic Tuesday, promising that Trump and a unified Republican Congress will mean that “a better way, better days lie ahead for our country.”
“We realize the task ahead of us is enormous to put the country on the right track we have to be bold and we have to go big,” he said.
But in an ominous sign for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California), the Democrats have postponed their leadership election until after Thanksgiving.
The GOP’s grip on Washington has some Democrats looking for a leadership reset.
“It’s just like death, –there are different stages of grief that you go through,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-North Carolina). “And after a defeat such as this, there are different stages that we have to go through, we have to interpret the results.”
Also this week, Trump transition officials are also asking about having some of Trump’s family members get high-level security clearance.
His three adult children could get access to America’s top secrets, but they are also expected to continue running Trump’s businesses.
That could be a problem for Trump, who criticized Hillary Clinton’s ties to the Clinton Foundation as “pay for play” during the campaign, CBS2’s Alex Denis reported.
“If they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ the relationship with the family and the business would be very open and above boards, or the walls between the two would be very high if President Trump wants to keep faith with the promises he made and all the criticism he leveled during the campaign,” said CBS News’ John Dickerson.
Trump’s former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, told NBC’s “Today” show she’s “not intimately aware” that such a move is afoot.
“You know, we’re filled with questions in the Trump transition and that’s logical,” she said. But she said any such “inquiries remain very informal.”
Conway also said Tuesday she was certain the Trump children “will be there to support their father in informal capacities.”
In past years, it is often three or four weeks post-election before some of the top Cabinet appointments are announced. In 1968, Richard M. Nixon waited five weeks and then announced his Cabinet all at once.
This year, a rumored nominee for Health and Human Services has been Dr. Ben Carson, but Carson said on Tuesday that he will not be joining team Trump.
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