President-elect Donald Trump and Mitt Romney met Saturday at the billionaire’s golf club in New Jersey, putting a year of conflict aside for a smiling handshake — though they did not indicate what, if any, role the 2012 GOP hopeful might play in the new administration.
Trump flashed a thumbs-up and said the sit down “went great.” Romney said the two had a “far reaching conversation with regards to the various theaters in the world where there are interests of the United States of real significance.”
The amiable tone was a marked contrast to a rancorous year, in which Romney attacked Trump as a “con man” and a “phony.” But the two have started to mend fences since the Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Romney was only one of a parade of officials pouring through Trump’s door as the president-elect tries to fill more members of his administration. He met Saturday with education activists Michelle Rhee and Betsy DeVos, as well as retired Gen. James Mattis, considered a contender to lead the Pentagon.
Emerging from the white-pillared clubhouse on the rolling green golf course late in the day, Trump said: “we’re seeing tremendous talent. People that, like I say, we will ‘Make America Great Again.’ These are really great people. These are really, really talented people.”
Asked about appointments, Trump said: “You’ll hear some things tomorrow.”
Trump’s Sunday schedule in Bedminster includes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
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.
Hosting the stream of visitors wasn’t Trump’s first public act of the day. First, there was Twitter.
He 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!”
Dixon tweeted back: “Conversation is not harassment sir. And I appreciate @Mike_Pence for stopping to listen.”
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!”
Trump then turned to the meetings, perhaps about posts in his administration.
Trump’s announcement on Friday of Sessions, Pompeo and Flynn formed 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.
Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Mark Kennedy, Errin Whack, Jonathan Lemire, Jill Colvin, Stephen Braun, Robert Burns and Jack Gillum and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.
Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC and Jonathan Lemire at http://twitter.com/JonLemire
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