BEDMINSTER, United States: US President-elect Donald Trump said Saturday he saw “tremendous talent” in a stream of cabinet hopefuls – including former critic Mitt Romney – invited to his golf club for talks, but did not reveal any new nominations.
“You’ll hear some things tomorrow,” the 70-year-old Republican billionaire president-in-waiting told reporters after a marathon day of meetings at his golf retreat in New Jersey, a 90-minute drive outside Manhattan.
Trump is building his new administration after his shock November 8 election win over Democrat Hillary Clinton, with an eye on his inauguration on January 20.
Romney, the failed Republican presidential candidate in 2012, is reportedly in the running to be Trump’s secretary of state, even though the two men traded harsh barbs throughout the White House campaign.
Other high-level candidates who trekked out to Trump’s golf resort included retired general James Mattis, a potential Pentagon chief his team called a “’real deal’ and “American hero,” and Michelle Rhee, the controversial former head of schools in the US capital.
Trump – with Vice President-elect Mike Pence at his side – said his meetings had gone “really efficiently. Tremendous talent. We’re seeing tremendous talent.”
This included talks with Romney, who emerged from the session saying nothing about whether he was offered the job or was interested in it.
“We 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,” Romney said.
“We discussed those areas and exchanged our views on those topics.”
Trump’s team described a “substantive and in-depth conversation about world affairs, national security and the future of America.”
“It was an extremely positive and productive conversation,” a statement added.
During their discussions with Rhee, Trump and Pence discussed “the possibility for increasing competition through charter and choice schools. They also brought the idea of merit pay for teachers going above and beyond in their classrooms into the conversation,” a statement read.
The huge, exclusive Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster is one of the president-elect’s favorite sanctuaries, where he likes to spend weekends and where he prepared for campaign debates against Clinton.
Trump saw several business leaders including Lew Eisenberg, Andrew Puzder, Betsy DeVos and Todd Ricketts, the owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
When asked if the cabinet was being formed, Trump replied: “Yes. Partially. We’re doing this again tomorrow.”
Romney appears to be on the shortlist for the State Department, along with former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Romney would bring a more orthodox Republican worldview to foreign policy.
He described Russia in 2012 as the main American geopolitical threat – a sharp contrast to Trump, who has exchanged compliments with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During Trump’s campaign, Romney described him as a “fraud,” rebuking the tycoon for proposals such as banning the entry of all foreign Muslims.