President-elect Donald Trump filled out more of his incoming administration Wednesday, announcing at a Manhattan fundraiser that Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is his pick for U.S. ambassador to China amid reports that retired Marine Gen. John K. Kelly is his choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security.
The transition team also said Trump will nominate former World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon as leader of the Small Business Administration, and multiple news reports said Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is expected to be picked as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Trump has not yet decided on his secretary of state, according to transition spokesmen, but the president-elect commended Mitt Romney in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show linked to his naming as Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, was critical of Trump during his campaign. “We had some tremendous difficulty together, and now I think we’ve come a long way,” Trump said.
Trump shared his intentions to name Branstad as ambassador to China at a transition fundraising breakfast in Manhattan attended by about 850 supporters, his spokesman Jason Miller said.
Branstad’s relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping spans three decades and began when Xi visited Iowa on an agricultural research trip in the mid-1980s.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang at a Beijing briefing called Branstad an “old friend” of the country, according to Reuters.
Miller told reporters that Branstad is “someone who has a lot of experience and a great grasp of trade issues, agriculture issues, a tremendous understanding of China and Chinese people.”
Trump also was planning to announce Kelly, a four-star general who led the U.S. Southern Command, as his appointee for secretary of homeland security, according to several news reports.
Kelly’s son was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2010.
Senior adviser Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday evening would not confirm or deny Kelly’s pending appointment as head of homeland security, saying it’s Trump’s decision when to make the announcement and Kelly is “obviously” qualified for the job.
Pruitt’s potential appointment was denounced by some elected officials. He has taken legal action against President Barack Obama’s climate change policies.
Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said, “Mr. Pruitt’s record is not only that of being a climate change denier, but also someone who has worked closely with the fossil fuel industry to make this country more dependent, not less, on fossil fuels.”
New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said Pruitt “consistently failed to uphold his responsibility to protect our nation’s air and water, instead acting as an agent of the oil and gas industry.”
Asked about criticism of Pruitt, Conway said, “In the Trump Tower, we’re very accustomed to the naysayers and the critics” and added that she looks forward to the confirmation hearings.
Trump in a statement said McMahon would be trusted to revitalize small businesses in the United States — a campaign pledge of his, calling her “one of the country’s top female executives advising businesses around the globe.”
Trump’s meetings Wednesday at Trump Tower included one with Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, formerly White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama. Emanuel told reporters he and Trump discussed immigration, including young immigrants without legal documents, brought to the country by their parents.
Trump’s team said Tuesday that the son of incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn is no longer involved in the transition. Michael Flynn Jr. promoted fake news stories on social media, including a “Pizzagate” conspiracy that led to a man to allegedly firing a rifle inside a Washington, D.C., restaurant because of a fake news story about Hillary Clinton.