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Trump moves to quickly fill his top Cabinet ranks
December 2, 2016 / 5:01 PM / in 10 months

Trump moves to quickly fill his top Cabinet ranks

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said he expected to have most members of his Cabinet announced next week, interviewing more candidates at Trump Tower for top jobs in his administration as he prepares to take office on Jan. 20.

Trump is still weighing who to choose as secretary of state. The Republican president-elect said on Thursday he had chosen retired Marine Corps General James Mattis as defense secretary and would make a formal announcement on that on Monday.

“We have tremendous people joining the Cabinet and beyond the Cabinet. You’ll be seeing almost all of them next week,” Republican Trump, who has never previously held public office, said in an interview that aired on Friday on Fox News.

Even without his full foreign policy team in place, Trump had more phone calls with foreign leaders, breaking tradition by speaking with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the first such contact by a president-elect since President Jimmy Carter adopted a one-China policy in 1979.

Trump also invited Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte to the White House next year during a “very engaging, animated” phone conversation, according to a Duterte aide. Duterte has sparred with Democratic President Barack Obama and insulted him. Obama cancelled a planned meeting with him in September.

A statement issued by Trump’s transition team made no mention of an invitation.

Domestically, Trump plans to move quickly after taking office on his goals to overhaul taxation, healthcare and immigration laws, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said in an interview published by the Wall Street Journal on Friday.

Top priorities include curbing illegal immigration, abolishing and replacing President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare programme, and filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court, Pence told the newspaper.

Asked what he would do on his first day in office, Trump told Fox News he may address his campaign pledge to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico, though he did not go into specifics.

“We could do the wall, we’re going to do some repealing, we’re going to do some executive orders that we think are inappropriate,” Trump told Fox, referring to the possibility of reversing executive orders issued by Obama, a Democrat, during his eight-year term.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a rally as part of their "USA Thank You Tour 2016" in Cincinnati, Ohio, December 1, 2016 . REUTERS/William Philpott

CEOs TO ADVISE ON POLICY

On Friday Trump named an advisory panel led by the chief executive of Blackstone (BX.N), the world’s biggest alternative asset manager, stacked with executives from some of America’s largest companies, such as Wal Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N), Boeing Co (BA.N) and International Business Machines Corp (IBM.N).

On Thursday he claimed success in persuading Carrier Corp, an Indiana an air conditioner maker, to keep about 1,000 jobs in the United States rather than move them to Mexico. But that drew criticism from former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, a Trump supporter who had been reported to be under consideration for a Cabinet job.

“When government steps in arbitrarily with individual subsidies, favouring one business over others, it sets inconsistent, unfair, illogical precedent,” she wrote in an opinion piece on the Young Conservatives website youngcons.com.

“Instead, we support competition on a level playing field, remember? Because we know special interest crony capitalism is one big fail,” she wrote.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump had an investment of up to $250,000 in 2014 in United Technologies Corp., the parent company of Carrier.

Trump is weighing who to put in charge of the Department of Homeland Security, which enforces immigration law and plays a key role in preventing terror attacks; a director of national intelligence; and several Cabinet posts dealing with energy and the environment.

On Friday, Jay Cohen, former under secretary of Homeland Security for science and technology and a retired Navy rear admiral, told reporters in Trump Tower that he interviewed for a position he would not reveal.

“Cyber security was discussed, and I believe that President-elect Trump understands fully the magnitude of that challenge,” Cohen said.

Trump has narrowed the field for secretary of state to four candidates, including the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, who attacked Trump throughout the 2016 campaign but spoke glowingly of the president-elect after having dinner with him earlier this week.

“There was actually good chemistry,” Trump said on Fox.

Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Ginger Gibson, Susan Heavey and Eric Walsh; Writing by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Frances Kerry, Jonathan Oatis, Grant McCool

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