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Trump builds his team -and isn’t changing his style

 trump-family-interview
Washington, United States | AFP |

As a candidate, Donald Trump tore up the political rule book. As the president-elect, the Republican billionaire, who was back at work building his cabinet Friday, is showing no signs of tempering his unconventional style.

On the heels of his first “thank you” rally in Ohio — one of a handful of Rust Belt states that were key to his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton — Trump was at home in New York for another day of interviews with cabinet hopefuls.

Former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, reportedly on the short list to be secretary of state, was one of the many expected to move in and out of Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan throughout the day.

From his unorthodox intervention to keep manufacturing jobs in Indiana to his surprise announcement that he would nominate James Mattis to head the Pentagon, Trump the provocateur is still keeping everyone guessing.

Trump’s choice of the tough-talking retired Marine general to head the Pentagon was generally welcomed by both Republicans and Democrats — though it creates an unusual situation in a country that values civilian control of the military.

The 66-year-old “Mad Dog” Mattis, who commanded US forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, is the second retired general to be named to Trump’s governing team after Michael Flynn, tapped for the post of national security advisor.

The president-elect opted to reveal his nomination of Mattis in typically unorthodox style — to thousands of supporters who had gathered at a downtown Cincinnati arena for Trump’s first post-election rally.

Though his tone was somewhat more conciliatory, Trump made it clear that he wants to maintain the fervor that he generated on the campaign trail by issuing provocative statements and stirring up his rank-and-file by slamming the press.

“We’re doing a thank you run just to thank some of the states that we weren’t supposed to win and we won really in landslides in some cases,” the 70-year-old said in an interview with Fox News broadcast early Friday.

The Republican Party, which was split during the campaign on whether to back the political novice for the highest office in America, has quickly adapted to the new normal, with only a few voices of dissent still heard.

Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives who refused to campaign for Trump in the run-up to Election Day, is now firmly in the president-elect’s corner.

“He was a very unconventional candidate. He’s going to be an unconventional president,” Ryan told the CBS news program “60 Minutes,” in an interview to air in full on Sunday.

“What I like about it, in my, like I said, almost daily conversations, is he’s just a get-things-done kind of guy.”

Not presidential? ‘That’s OK!’ 

Trump, who sometimes almost seems surprised himself at the power and influence now in his hands, is clearly enjoying the process of building his governing team.

Of his second meeting with onetime critic Mitt Romney earlier this week, Trump told Fox News: “There was actually a good chemistry… he’s been very gracious.”

Romney — the 2012 Republican presidential candidate — is also being considered as a potential secretary of state, along with former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and Senator Bob Corker.

The former Massachusetts governor — who once called Trump a “con man” and a “fraud” — has made a spectacular about-face since the real estate mogul won the presidency.

As Trump maintains his cards close to the chest on who will end up leading the State Department, his somewhat off-the-cuff calls to foreign leaders have sparked some concern.

Pakistan’s candid readout of his call with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in which Trump called Sharif a “terrific guy,” left tongues wagging in diplomatic circles.

Last month, he stunned observers by inviting his daughter Ivanka to sit in on his meeting in New York with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

But criticism of Trump’s style doesn’t seem to have fazed the septuagenarian.

On Thursday, he visited a Carrier air conditioner factory, after announcing he had reached a deal with parent company United Technologies to keep about 1,000 jobs in Indiana, instead of shifting them to Mexico.

As he glad-handed workers on the assembly line, Trump defended his unusual negotiations with the company.

“I think it’s very presidential. And if it’s not presidential, that’s OK because I like doing it,” Trump said.

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