WASHINGTON - While members of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team debate who should serve as his secretary of state, Trump moved ahead Friday with two more appointments.
Kathleen Troia “KT” McFarland will serve as deputy national security adviser, and Donald F. McGahn will serve as assistant to the president and White House counsel.
Neither appointment requires Senate confirmation.
In a statement, Trump cited McFarland’s “tremendous experience and innate talent” and said McGahn “has a brilliant legal mind, excellent character and a deep understanding of constitutional law.”
Having faced criticism about the inexperience of his initial picks, Trump finds in McFarland, 65, someone who previously worked under three presidents, although none since Ronald Reagan.
McFarland also has worked as a national security analyst and a contributor to Fox News. She ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in New York in 2006.
McGahn, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, served as Trump’s attorney during the campaign and was one of the few members of the Republican establishment to embrace the outsider candidate.
McGahn was also a lead lawyer for a key group in the Koch brothers’ network — Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce — before joining the Trump campaign, according to Politico. He’s one of a growing number of people with ties to the Kochs to join Trump’s administration.
He also has long-standing ties to Trump. McGahn’s uncle worked for Trump for many years and helped Trump cut deals that paved the way for him to open his Atlantic City casinos.
Conflicts of interest
McGahn will have the task of untangling potential conflicts of interest that the New York businessman’s presidency may present.
Trump, who has never held public office, has real estate and leisure holdings all over the world, sparking concerns that his investments could color his decision-making in office. He has said that he will hand over day-to-day responsibilities of running his company to his children, but he has resisted calls to place his assets in a blind trust.
Trump also has expressed interest in finding a way to bypass a federal anti-nepotism law in order to give his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a formal White House role.
Along with providing guidance on ethics issues, the White House counsel’s office advises the president on the legality of proposed executive orders and legislation passed by Congress and vets potential administration appointees, including Supreme Court justices.
Secretary of state
For now, who should be Trump’s secretary of state remains an unanswered question until differences in the Trump transition team can be resolved.
Rivals within the team are divided between 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
In a Twitter post Thursday, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway expressed the sentiments of the faction opposed to Romney. Conway said she had received a “deluge” of concern from people who questioned the loyalty of Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who assailed Trump as a “phony” during the presidential campaign.
Messy confirmation fight
Those opposed to Giuliani as secretary of state contend his extensive business relationships with foreign interests would likely lead to a messy Senate confirmation fight. They also question whether the 72-year-old has the stamina to meet the demands of international travel the job requires.
The president-elect, who has developed a reputation for changing his mind, has praised both Romney and Giuliani. Trump apparently told aides that Romney “looks the part” of secretary of state and is said to have spoken glowingly of Giuliani in recent discussions with associates.
Others who have been said to be in the running for the position include retired general and former CIA Director David Petraeus and Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. And recent reports have said retired Marine Corps General John Kelly is under consideration.
No more announcements on administration jobs are expected until Monday, when Trump is set to meet with eight more prospective administration hires, transition spokesman Sean Spicer said. The group includes several business leaders, Pennsylvania Representative Lou Barletta, and David Clarke, the Wisconsin sheriff who is an aggressive opponent of the Black Lives Matter movement.
For now, Trump’s transition team indicated he was focused on the challenges of governing.
Since arriving at his Palm Beach estate Wednesday, they said, the president-elect has spoken to the prime ministers of Greece, Hungary and Sweden, along with the presidents of Panama and Slovenia.
He is expected to return to his New York City home on Sunday.
I am working hard, even on Thanksgiving, trying to get Carrier A.C. Company to stay in the U.S. (Indiana). MAKING PROGRESS - Will know soon!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2016
Accent on jobs
As Trump spent the Thanksgiving Day holiday Thursday with his family at his Florida resort, he took to Twitter to say he was working to fulfill a campaign promise to create and preserve jobs. The billionaire real estate mogul said he was “working hard...trying to get Carrier A.C. Company to stay in the U.S. MAKING PROGRESS - Will know soon!”
The air-conditioning manufacturer responded on Twitter by saying it has had “discussions with the incoming administration” but had “nothing to announce at this time.”
Carrier said earlier this year it would move 1,400 jobs from the Midwestern state of Indiana to Mexico within three years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.