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Donald Trump eyes final candidates for top jobs

President-elect Donald Trump speaks to reporters at Mar-a-Lago in

President-elect Donald Trump speaks to reporters at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla.,  on Dec. 21, 2016. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / JIM WATSON

President-elect Donald Trump is nearly finished choosing nominees for his Cabinet and the top tier of his administration, and four posts await appointments as he wraps up the year and begins final preparations for his inauguration.

The positions of secretary of veterans affairs, secretary of agriculture, director of national intelligence and U.S. trade representative all require Senate confirmation.

Trump is set to continue meeting with candidates this week at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, though transition aides have said he has no timeline for announcing his choices.

“The focus is making sure that the president-elect picks the person he wants to go with and that he’s comfortable that he’s picking the absolute most highly qualified, best person at each of the positions,” transition spokesman Jason Miller said last week.

Among Trump’s scheduled interviews is Elsa Murano, a former president of Texas A&M University who is under consideration for agriculture secretary, incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said last week.

Murano was undersecretary of food safety in former President George W. Bush’s Department of Agriculture.

Other contenders reportedly include Sid Miller, agriculture commissioner for Texas; and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota).

Richard Himelfarb, a Hofstra University associate professor of political science, said Trump has run “a relatively smooth transition and is making progress on par with his predecessors.”

The final openings provide Trump with opportunities 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.” But ultimately, the public is more concerned about whether his administration can improve the economy, Himelfarb said Monday.

For veterans affairs chief, Trump reportedly is considering Toby Cosgrove, chief executive of the nonprofit Cleveland Clinic network; former vice presidential candidate and ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin; and four-star Navy Adm. Michelle Howard.

Some veterans groups, including AMVETS, have called on Trump to retain Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald. But transition adviser JuanPablo Andrade said Monday that Trump intends to “revamp the entire administration” so it in no way resembles President Barack Obama’s.

For U.S. trade representative, the nation’s chief trade negotiator, finalists include Robert Lighthizer, who served as a deputy trade representative under President Ronald Reagan, and Dan DiMicco, a former chief executive of steel company Nucor, according to news reports.

Retired U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, a former CIA director who resigned after the discovery of an extramarital affair, is reportedly under consideration for director of national intelligence.


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