BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump is filling his Twitter feed like the campaigner of old even while racing to fill senior positions in his administration.
Trump planned to meet Saturday with one of his sharpest Republican critics of the campaign, 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, at Trump’s golf club in New Jersey, and on Sunday with two leading supporters, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. In the campaign, Romney called Trump a “con man” and a “fraud,” while Trump repeatedly called Romney a “loser.”
But first came a tweetstorm. The president-elect rushed to the defense of Mike Pence on Saturday after “Hamilton” actor Brandon Victor Dixon challenged the incoming vice president from the Broadway stage after the show Friday night. “Apologize!” Trump tweeted to the actor. “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. this should not happen!”
Trump also bragged on Twitter about agreeing to settle a trio of lawsuits against Trump University, claiming: “The ONLY bad thing about winning the presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!”
On Friday, Trump picked Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo to head the CIA, signaling a sharp rightward shift in U.S. security policy as he begins to form his Cabinet.
Trump also named retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn as his national security adviser. A former military intelligence chief, Flynn has accused the Obama administration of being too soft on terrorism and has cast Islam as a “political ideology” and driver of extremism.
The selections form the first outlines of Trump’s Cabinet and national security teams. Given his lack of governing experience and vague policy proposals during the campaign, his selection of advisers is being scrutinized both in the U.S. and abroad.
Trump’s initial decisions suggest a more aggressive military involvement in counterterror strategy and a greater emphasis on Islam’s role in stoking extremism. Sessions, who is best known for his hard-line immigration views, has questioned whether terrorist suspects should benefit from the rights available in U.S. courts. Pompeo has said Muslim leaders are “potentially complicit” in attacks if they do not denounce violence carried out in the name of Islam.
Pompeo’s nomination to lead the CIA also opens the prospect of the U.S. resuming torture of detainees. Trump has backed harsh interrogation techniques that President Barack Obama and Congress have banned, saying the U.S. “should go tougher than waterboarding,” which simulates drowning. In 2014, Pompeo criticized Obama for “ending our interrogation program” and said intelligence officials “are not torturers, they are patriots.”
Sessions and Pompeo would both require Senate confirmation; Flynn would not.
In a separate matter Friday, it was announced that Trump had agreed to a $25 million settlement to resolve three lawsuits over Trump University, his former school for real estate investors. The lawsuits alleged the school misled students and failed to deliver on its promises in programs that cost up to $35,000.
Trump has denied the allegations and had said repeatedly he would not settle. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who announced the settlement, called it “a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.”
Trump tweeted to his 15 million followers Saturday that he only settled to better focus on leading the U.S.
On Friday night, Pence became the latest celebrity to attend the Broadway hit show “Hamilton” — but he was the first to get a direct message from a cast member from the stage.
Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr, the nation’s third vice president, recited a message from the stage: “We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights.” He went on: “We truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values, and work on behalf of all of us.”
Pence’s appearance at the show was tense from the outset, drawing cheers and boos as he arrived. Pence ducked out before Dixon finished but heard the full remarks in the hallway.
Trump is still weighing a range of candidates for other leading national security posts. Possibilities for secretary of state are said to Giuliani, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who met with Trump on Thursday.
Most of Trump’s nominees are expected to be confirmed relatively easily given the GOP majority in the Senate. However, potential roadblocks exist, particularly for Sessions, the first senator to endorse Trump and one of the chamber’s most conservative members.
His last Senate confirmation hearing, in 1986 for a federal judgeship, was derailed over allegations that he made racist comments, including calling a black assistant U.S. attorney “boy” in conversation. Sessions denied the accusation, but withdrew from consideration.