NEW YORK—Now Person of the Year as well as president-elect, Donald Trump said Wednesday he expects to select his secretary of state next week and former rival Mitt Romney still has a chance to win the post.
“Yes, he does,” Trump told NBC’s “Today.”
Romney, the 2012 presidential nominee, was blisteringly critical of Trump on foreign policy and other issues during the businessman’s campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton. So Trump’s consideration of him—and Romney’s inclusion on the short list for one of the Cabinet’s most prestigious positions—has been a surprise.
Trump has put Romney through a very public audition process—and allowed aides to take the unusual step of denouncing him in interviews. Over the weekend, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Trump was widening his search for his top diplomatic representative to the world, and a top transition official told The Associated Press that longtime Romney rival Jon Huntsman was now also in the running.
The development comes as Trump works to fill out his White House team. Transition officials said Wednesday that Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has been selected as the new U.S. ambassador to China. Trump and Branstad are expected to be in Iowa on Thursday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the public announcement.
Meanwhile, Trump was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, a choice the magazine’s managing editor said was “straightforward” given that Trump had upended politics-as-usual during the course of his extraordinary race for the White House.
That phenomenon is not over. In one example, Trump drew the ire of China last week by taking a phone call from the leader of Taiwan. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that 1996 Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, now a lobbyist, coordinated that call. The title, Trump said, is “a great honor. It means a lot.”
In a separate interview with Time, Trump said he will “work something out” to help immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children and granted work visas by President Barack Obama.
Trump’s tough comments on illegal immigration during the campaign have led to fears among immigrant advocates that he would end Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Trump offered no details in the Time interview but talked much more sympathetically than he had during the campaign. He said “We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud.”
As for Romney, Trump dismissed suggestions he was stringing Romney along to make him pay for saying the former reality show star was unfit to serve.
“No, it’s not about revenge. It’s about what’s good for the country, and I’m able to put this stuff behind us—and I hit him very hard also,” Trump said in the telephone interview on NBC.
Those close to the selection process have said that Trump has begun moving away from both Romney and another former front-runner for the post, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker and former CIA Director David Petraeus had also been previously identified by transition aides as part of the final four.
In the wide-ranging NBC interview, Trump said he picked a fight with Boeing this week over the cost of new presidential planes because “we’re going to get the prices down, and if we don’t get the prices down we’re not going to order them.” He said Boeing would benefit from his administration’s tax cuts and reductions in regulations.
The federal government has agreed that Boeing will build two new planes, which would go into service around 2024. That means Trump might never fly on the aircraft designed to carry U.S. presidents around the globe.
Trump also confirmed that he had sold Boeing stocks back in June.
The night before, Trump told supporters in Fayetteville, North Carolina, that he intends to be a president “for all Americans.”
The his victory tour, which is meant to salute supporters in the states that helped propel him to the White House, will continue Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa. He’ll also meet with some of the victims of last week’s car-and-knife attack at Ohio State University.
Authorities have said university student Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 18, stabbed students before being fatally shot by police. He first rammed a campus crowd with his car before emerging from the vehicle with a knife. They said Artan, a Muslim Somali immigrant, was inspired by ISIS rhetoric. Trump has denounced the immigration policies that allowed Artan into the country. Trump’s visit to Columbus, Ohio was revealed by a person familiar with the plans but not authorized to discuss them before they are announced.