Trump ponders Cabinet appointments, threatens Cuba deal

NEW YORK — While conducting another round of job interviews — including a highly public battle for secretary of State — President-elect Donald Trump again threatened Monday to terminate emerging diplomatic relations with Cuba if it does not somehow reform.

"If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal," Trump tweeted two days after the death of former Cuba leader Fidel Castro.

Interviews at Trump Tower on Monday include one with retired general and ex-CIA director David Petraeus, a potential pick in the secretary of State contest.

On Tuesday, Trump is scheduled to meet with another State Department possibility — Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — as well as a second interview with another contender, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

"It's going to be a busy week," Vice President-elect and transition chairman Mike Pence told reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower en route to meetings in the transition office. "Get ready. Buckle up."

The Obama administration has engaged in a series of diplomatic moves with the Cuban regime, from agreement to commercial flights to the opening of embassy offices in each nation's capital.

Trump, who made a similar claim regarding Cuba during the presidential campaign, has not specified how he might roll back these initiatives.

The president-elect's latest moves came a day after he used Twitter to expound unproven conspiracy theories about alleged voter fraud, suggesting that is the reason he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by more than 2 million votes in the latest tallies.

After a series of tweets criticizing Clinton and aides for participating in a vote recount in Wisconsin, Trump said in another post: "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."

He provided no evidence for that assertion, popular among conspiracy theorists.

Trump also claimed voter fraud in the states of Virginia, New Hampshire, and California, again without evidence.

Tom Rath, a veteran Republican from New Hampshire (and a John Kasich supporter) responded to Trump on Twitter: "This will probably cost me my spot in the Cabinet but there was no fraud, serious or other, in this election in NH. There just wasn't."

Clinton officials and Democrats mocked Trump's complaints.

"We are getting attacked for participating in a recount that we didn't ask for by the man who won election but thinks there was massive fraud," said a tweet from Clinton campaign general counsel Marc Elias:

Meanwhile, Trump continued to look for potential staff and Cabinet appointments by inviting people to Trump Tower.

The most prominent announced guest — Petraeus — pleaded guilty in connection with a case involving the disclosure of classified information to his mistress/biographer.  The retired general resigned from the CIA in 2012 after amid news that he was having an affair with Paula Broadwell, an Army officer and his biographer.

During the subsequent FBI investigation, Petraeus lied to the FBI agents investigating the potential leak of information to Broadwell. Petraeus also had to pay a $40,000 fine.

During the campaign, Trump excoriated Clinton, a former secretary of State, over classified material found on her private e-mail server.

Petraeus is now involved in a secretary of State search that has become remarkably divided and public.

Trump has already interviewed Romney for the position, and plans to do so again on Tuesday. But several Trump backers, including campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, have questioned whether Romney should be given such a lofty position after his intense criticism of Trump during the campaign.

Another prominent Trump backer, ex-New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, had made clear he also wants the State Department slot.

Trump also plans to speak Monday with Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who is being mentioned for a homeland security slot.

John Allison, a former chief executive of BB&T Corp, who has been mentioned as a possible secretary of the Treasury, is also expected to visit Trump Tower.

Other Monday interviews on the schedule:

• Fran Townsend, a former homeland security and counter-terrorism adviser to President George W. Bush.

• Paul Atkins, a former member of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

• Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma.

• Sandeep Mathrani, chief executive of General Growth Properties.

• Kathleen White of Texas Public Policy Foundation.

• David Steward,  chairman of World Wide Technology.


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