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Trump is nearly finished filling his biggest jobs

President-elect Donald Trump is meeting with candidates for

President-elect Donald Trump is meeting with candidates for positions in his administration at his Mar-a-Lago Resort in Palm Beach, Florida, this week. Dec. 19, 2016 Photo Credit: Getty Images / Joe Raedle

Trump countdown: 24 days

President-elect Donald Trump’s transition is two-thirds over and approaching the home stretch.

After a Christmas holiday break, his staff is set to resume meetings Tuesday to complete the work of filling top jobs and step up preparations for his inauguration on Jan. 20.

Still to be named are secretaries for Veterans Affairs and Agriculture, director of national intelligence and U.S. trade representative. Trump will meet with prospects at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Newsday’s Emily Ngo reports.

Richard Himelfarb, a Hofstra University associate professor of political science, said the final openings give Trump a chance to diversify his team and name a “few more women, a few more minority appointments so he can stave off these charges that the Cabinet doesn’t look like America.”

How much that matters to him remains to be seen. The team chosen so far is almost all white, mostly male and, on average, exceptionally wealthy.

The take-away: Judgment days

Trump will have an opportunity to put his stamp on the nation’s justice system for years to come, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

As The Washington Post reported Monday, Trump will have more than 100 slots to fill in the lower courts, along with the Supreme Court seat that was held by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Many of the vacancies are a result of standoffs between the Republican-controlled Senate and President Barack Obama on candidate confirmations.

Obama: I could have won

Obama said in an interview with former adviser David Axelrod that if he had been allowed to run for a third term on his hope-and-change vision, he would have been re-elected.

“I think I could’ve mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it,” Obama said. He suggested Hillary Clinton failed to connect with Americans who feel left out of economic recovery to show “We care about these communities, that we’re bleeding for these communities.”

Unsurprisingly, Trump didn’t let Obama’s comments go unchallenged. “President Obama said that he thinks he would have won against me. He should say that but I say NO WAY! — jobs leaving, ISIS, OCare, etc.,” Trump tweeted.

The Trump bump

Obama is still president, but Trump claimed credit is due the president-elect for a sunny mood and booming economy.

“The world was gloomy before I won — there was no hope. Now the market is up nearly 10% and Christmas spending is over a trillion dollars!” he tweeted.

He wants the best words

Stephen Miller, a 31-year-old senior policy adviser, has been tasked by Trump with writing his inaugural address.

Miller wrote most of Trump’s major prepared speeches in 2016, including his Republican National Convention address. Politico said Miller plans to frame Trump’s first-term agenda in nationalistic terms.

Meanwhile the crowd for his Jan. 20 inauguration is expected to fall way short of Obama's in 2008, as of now. 

Kissinger could play Russia role

Henry Kissinger could be positioning himself to be an adviser or intermediary in Trump’s plan to develop a friendlier relationship with Russia, according to Politico.

The 93-year-old Kissinger, who was secretary of state in the Nixon administration, has met with Trump and offered flattering remarks about the president-elect. Kissinger’s relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin began in the 1990s and they have met frequently.

What else is happening

  • Senate Democrats complain Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, reneged on a pledge he made in a questionnaire to provide three years of tax returns, CNN reports. Defenders say the Exxon Mobil CEO agreed only to provide information from the returns.
  • The White House is encouraging researchers to copy and save government data on Obamacare out of fear that Trump might have it deleted, Politico reports.
  • Conflict-of-interest measures designed for the 21st century don't exactly match Trump's branding activities, NPR reports.
  • Trump failed as a businessman to make headway in China, which on the campaign trail he referred to as one of America's enemies.
  • Using Twitter will be an exciting part of the Trump presidency, his spokesman says.
  • The UN gets criticized for a lot, but Trump may be the first to suggest there’s too much of a party atmosphere. He tweeted Monday: “The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!”
  • Trump waxed defensive again about his controversial "charity" foundation. Message here
  • The huge wealth of Trump appointees is making for some complicated confirmation vetting, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall).
  • Big contributors to the president-elect's campaign are enjoying prime access, Politico reports.

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