BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Appearing jovial and relaxed, Donald Trump plunged back into election politics Friday, a full month after he won the presidency, enthusiastically prodding Louisiana Republicans to turn out for Saturday’s Senate runoff election and protect the party’s 52-48 margin in Washington.
Addressing a large crowd at an airport hangar, at one point he tossed his trademark “Make America Great Again” hat to a supporter. He noted that he’d been named Time’s “Person of the Year” and asked the crowd if the magazine should go back to its former “Man of the Year.”
Gauging the boisterous response, he declared the answer was yes.
In private, people close to Trump said he was expected to name yet another Goldman Sachs executive to his White House team. The president-elect’s National Economic Council is to be led by Gary Cohn, president and chief operating officer of the Wall Street bank, which Trump repeatedly complained during the election campaign would control Hillary Clinton if she won.
Major decisions remain for Trump, most importantly his choice for secretary of state. The deliberations have become a source of tension within his transition team, with chief of staff Reince Priebus said to be backing Mitt Romney while other advisers oppose the idea of selecting the 2012 GOP nominee given his fierce criticism of Trump during the campaign.
Trump announced that Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who was an early favorite, was no longer under consideration.
On a busy Friday, Trump also spoke by telephone with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who broke with protocol during the campaign to publicly endorse Hillary Clinton and said afterward she would not maintain “a diplomatic silence in the face of attitudes of racism, sexism, misogyny or intolerance of any kind.”
Sturgeon’s office said she used Friday’s call to emphasize the “values Scotland and the United States share.” Trump’s transition team described the conversation as a “short congratulatory call.”
In Louisiana, Trump campaigned for Republican John Kennedy, the first stop on a day that was also taking his post-election victory tour to Grand Rapids in Michigan. Trump won both states on Nov. 8.
While candidate Trump was often at odds with the establishment wing of his party, the incoming president has been broadly supported by GOP leaders since the election. And he is trying to consolidate any lingering factions, most immediately in Louisiana, where a victory by Kennedy would cement the party’s four-vote advantage in the new Senate.
“We need John in Washington,” Trump said, speaking in front of a lectern that urged voters to “Geaux Vote. Vote GOP.” Trump said he needed Kennedy to help him enact his agenda.
Kennedy, the state treasurer, faces off Saturday against Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Democrat, for the seat of retiring Republican Sen. David Vitter. Neither won a majority in the November primary, leading to the runoff. Polls have shown Kennedy with a comfortable lead.
Come January, Trump told the crowd, “The American people will be in charge. Your voice, your desires, your hopes, your aspirations will never again fall on deaf ears.”
He rattled through some of the major themes of his campaign, vowing to renegotiate faulty trade deals, repair roads and bridges and “build a wall” to guard against unlawful immigration.
“We have people coming into our country by the thousands, thousands and thousands of people and now I don’t have to campaign so I don’t have to say Hillary’s going to increase it by 550 percent,” Trump said. “No, I don’t have to say it anymore. Isn’t it nice?”
Trump’s day also included a meeting at his New York City tower with House Speaker Paul Ryan to discuss policy priorities.
“We are really excited about getting to work and hitting the ground running in 2017,” Ryan said after the morning meeting.
Before Trump’s dark blue private jet touched down in Louisiana, he was taking more steps to fill administration positions. Washington state Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers emerged as a leading candidate to head the Interior Department, according to a person involved in the transition.
Meanwhile, there apparently is a split over the next head of the Republican National Committee. Current chairman Priebus is heading to the White House to be chief of staff.
Priebus is said to support Michigan Republican Party chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel for the post, though other senior officials are backing Nick Ayers, an aide to Vice President-elect Mike Pence. McDaniel was to speak at Trump’s rally in Grand Rapids, leading to speculation an announcement could come soon.
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