Trump expands inner circle with new security official, envoy

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump tapped an experienced hand from the George W. Bush era and a longtime Trump Organization official to become members of his inner circle when he assumes office next month.

Thomas Bossert will become an assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. A statement from Trump’s transition team said Bossert will advise the president on issues related to homeland security, counterterrorism and cybersecurity, and coordinate the Cabinet’s process for making and executing policy in those areas.

The president-elect also appointed one of his main advisers on U.S.-Israel relations during the campaign and transition as special representative for international negotiations. Jason Greenblatt has worked for the Trump Organization for over two decades and currently serves as its executive vice president and chief legal officer.

The homeland security position notably “is being elevated and restored to its independent status alongside the national security adviser,” the statement said. Policymakers have long debated whether such national security jobs should operate independently from the White House.

Bossert will work closely with Trump’s pick for national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Bossert is currently president of the risk management consulting firm CDS Consulting. He previously served as deputy assistant to the president for homeland security under Bush.

Donald Trump’s West Wing is shaping up to have multiple power centers. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and senior adviser Steve Bannon will work as “equal partners,” according to Trump, and counselor Kellyanne Conway is also expected to have autonomy. Trump’s influential son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will have a direct line to the president as well.

Trump has long stoked rivalries among his staff in business and during his presidential campaign. But some critics fear doing so in the White House could sow confusion and slow decision-making.

Discussing the appointment of Greenblatt, Trump said he “has a history of negotiating substantial, complex transactions on my behalf,” and has the expertise to “bring parties together and build consensus on difficult and sensitive topics.”

Trump recently named his other top adviser on Israel, David Friedman, as his pick for U.S. ambassador to Israel.

The billionaire-turned-president-elect is spending the holidays at his Florida resort, where he’s held a steady stream of meetings with senior staffers, advisers and business executives. A number of key posts in his administration remain; his transition team says he will fill those positions in the coming days.

Meanwhile the president-elect continued the debate over whether he would have won an election against President Barack Obama.

Trump posted on Twitter Tuesday, “President Obama campaigned hard (and personally) in very important swing states, and lost. The voters wanted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Trump was referring to Obama’s own presidential runs, or the campaigning the president did in 2016 on Hillary Clinton’s behalf. Obama swept most key swing states in his two bids for the White House, but Clinton fell short, losing to Trump.

A dispute erupted a day earlier between Obama and Trump, spurred by Obama’s hypothetical musings that had he run again, he would have been victorious. Obama suggested he still holds enough sway over the coalition of voters that elected him twice to get them to vote for him once again.

Trump’s response: “NO WAY!”

Later Tuesday, Trump thanked himself for a surge in a key gauge of consumer confidence. He wrote on Twitter that The Conference Board had reported that its consumer confidence index had climbed to 113.7 in December.

Trump noted that’s the highest the index has climbed in more than 15 years, then added, “Thanks Donald!”

 

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.