NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — 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.
CBS News’ Major Garrett confirmed the offer Thursday night. 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.
Trump met also met Thursday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as a former secretary of state and a possible contender to be his top diplomat. His meeting Thursday in New York with Abe was his first get-together with a world leader as president-elect.
There were questions about whether Abe might try to sway Trump on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-country trade agreement that Trump opposes.
Trump has also said he would demand that allies such as Japan and South Korea contribute more to the cost of basing U.S. troops in their countries.
The State Department has said it had yet to hear from Trump’s transition team, raising the prospect of the Republican holding the meeting without any input from career diplomats with deep experience dealing with Japan.
“I think any deeper conversations about policy and the relationship between Japan and the United States will have to wait until after the inauguration,” Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, told “CBS This Morning.”
Meanwhile, the transition team continued to vet possible Cabinet candidates as Trump met with an assortment of GOP officials – including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling.
Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a vice chairman of the Trump transition team, said the process was going smoothly.
“I would say this is being done in about as professional as orderly a way as possible, and I was doing work on the transition not involving me,” Giuliani said.
Trump also rolled out new teams that will interact with the State Department, Pentagon, Justice Department and other national security agencies. The move is a crucial part of the government transition before Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
Also reportedly on the list for possibly Energy Secretary is former Texas Gov. and presidential candidate Rick Perry. He famously once could not remember that he wanted to eliminate that department along with the Education and Commerce departments.
So when can we expect the cabinet to take shape?
“I think before or right after Thanksgiving is probably more appropriate in terms of rounding out,” Conway said.
In Washington, Vice President-elect Mike Pence huddled with House Republicans on Capitol Hill and also planned to meet with Democratic leaders.
“It’s very humbling to be back with my former colleagues. We’re excited about moving the Trump agenda forward in the coming Congress,” Trump said. “I’m very confident that as we move toward inauguration, we’ll bring together a great team, work in concert with leaders in the House and Senate.”
Lawmakers said part of Pence’s mission was to tell fellow Republicans that the transition effort was proceeding smoothly, despite reports of chaos and infighting.
“He just wanted to reassure that the team is working hard and they’re working toward an agenda to do what’s right for the American people,” said Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio.
Eric Trump, the president-elect’s son, raised expectations of imminent progress Wednesday, telling reporters in the morning that appointments were “likely” to come during the day. Then, other Trump aides suggested a slower pace.
Transition team communications director James Miller said there is no timetable for announcing cabinet positions, 1010 WINS’ Steve Kastenbaum reported.
“We’re not going to rush to put names forward until we’re absolutely sure,” Miller said. “We’re going to make sure that they’re people we’re confident will pass confirmation and we think can implement the president-elect’s vision.”
Trump’s team noted that President Barack Obama waited until a few weeks after the 2008 election to announce many of his Cabinet appointments.
Trump appeared to be weighing an eclectic mix of individuals for top Cabinet posts, including longtime loyalists, former rivals and even a Democrat. Transition officials said Trump met Wednesday with Eva Moskowitz, a former New York councilwoman and charter school founder who is being considered for education secretary.
Moskowitz took herself out of the running Thursday, declaring, “At this time I will not be entertaining any prospective opportunities.”
Other meetings included Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., a potential pick for Health and Human Services, Ray Washburne, a Dallas businessman and top GOP fundraiser in the mix for Commerce secretary, and Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan. New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson were also spotted near the lobby’s gilded elevators during the day.
Giuliani, who spent two hours at Trump Tower on Wednesday, has been angling for secretary of state, though his consulting work for foreign governments has emerged as a potential roadblock. Trump is also said to be seriously considering John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, for the top diplomatic job.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who tangled ferociously with Trump during the Republican primary but ultimately endorsed the businessman, could get a top job such as attorney general. An official said, however, he is not viewed as a top contender. The official, like others, wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the transition talks and spoke on condition of anonymity.
According to published reports, Trump’s son-in-law and Ivanka’s Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, is being considered for a top-level White House role.
“Jared is a very successful real estate person, but I think he likes politics more than he likes real estate,” Trump said during the campaign.
It was also learned that Trump plans to meet with 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney this coming Saturday.
“Donald Trump is a phony and fraud, and his promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University,” Romney said during the campaign.
Trump called Romney a “sad case” and a “choke artist.” While talking about Romney, Trump also once said, “I hate people that think they’re hot stuff and they’re nothing.”
But bygones are now bygones, CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported.
“I think it’s good he’s meeting with people like Romney,” said U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), a member of the Trump transition team. “He’s meeting with a lot of talented people.”
One person who took himself out of the running for cabinet is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He said he wants to be free to plan strategically at all levels of government.
Trump aides have released few details about the president-elect’s schedule or phone calls since the election. They tried to play catch-up Wednesday, releasing a list of 29 world leaders who have spoken with Trump or Pence in recent days. Most of the calls had previously only been confirmed by those leaders’ governments.
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