Trump hosts candidates for key Veterans Affairs post

AP News
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Posted: Dec 20, 2016 6:15 PM
Trump hosts candidates for key Veterans Affairs post

PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump met Tuesday met with candidates for his unfilled Cabinet positions, including prospective hires to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, a beleaguered agency that the Republican businessman has vowed to overhaul.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence met with members of his incoming national security team a day after acts of violence rocked the world.

At Mar-a-Lago, Trump's palatial Florida estate, the president-elect met with Luis Quinonez, who runs a company with military and health care ties and is said to be under consideration for VA secretary. He also interviewed Toby Cosgrove, the CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, who was a top contender to replace Eric Shinseki when he resigned at the VA in 2014. Cosgrove later withdrew from consideration.

Trump repeatedly pledged during the campaign to fix the woes at the department and said he would "take care of great veterans." But he also came under scrutiny for being slow in paying out money raised for veterans groups and for suggesting that "strong" veterans don't need treatment for mental health problems.

Others said to be considered for the post include former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, Florida Rep. Jeff Miller and Pete Hegseth, an Army veteran and former CEO of Concerned Veterans for America.

Trump is also considering Jovita Carranza, who worked in President George W. Bush's administration, as his choice for U.S. trade representative. She served as deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration under Bush.

With just a handful of Cabinet posts to fill, Trump is facing some criticism for a lack of diversity in his senior team, which currently includes no Hispanics. The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials said Tuesday that it was "deeply concerned" at the lack of Hispanics considered for top jobs. Carranza was a member of Trump's Hispanic advisory council during the campaign.

Pence, meanwhile, met in Washington with former Texas state official Susan Combs, who served both as state agriculture commissioner and comptroller. Trump also needs to fill the Agriculture Cabinet slot. Transition officials did not immediately confirm if Combs is up for that post.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump was back on Twitter after Bill Clinton told a suburban New York City newspaper this month that Trump "doesn't know much. One thing he does know is how to get angry, white men to vote for him."

The Bedford-Pound Ridge Record Review also reported that Clinton claimed that Trump called him after his election victory over Hillary Clinton.

"Wrong, he called me (with a very nice congratulations)," Trump tweeted. The president-elect added that Clinton is the one who "'doesn't know much'... especially how to get people, even with an unlimited budget, out to vote in the vital swing states (and more)." The Clinton campaign, he said, "focused on the wrong states."

Clinton later responded on Twitter, writing, "Here's one thing @realDonaldTrump and I can agree on — I called him after the election."

The tweets come after a rattling day of violence around the world — with Trump appearing to jump ahead of investigators to blame Islamic terrorists for deadly incidents in Turkey and Germany and vowing anew to eradicate their regional and global networks.

Pence met with retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, the incoming national security adviser; retired Gen. John Kelly, Trump's nominee for head of Homeland Security; retired Gen. James Mattis, the pick for defense secretary; and Rex Tillerson, the head of Exxon Mobil and the intended nominee for secretary of state. Aides said the meeting was planned before the acts of violence, though they would be discussed.

Flynn was also slated to meet with Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Wednesday. The president-elect is planning on staying at his lush Palm Beach resort through the holidays.

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Associated Press writers Darlene Superville in Palm Beach and Julie Pace and Laurie Kellman in Washington contributed to this report.

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