President-elect Donald Trump, huddling at his New Jersey golf resort with an eclectic procession of potential appointees for his administration, is determined to tackle the repeal of President Obama's signature health-care legislation as soon as he's inaugurated, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Sunday.
"Decisions have been made by the president-elect that he wants to focus out of the gate on repealing Obamacare and beginning the process of replacing Obamacare with the kind of free-market solutions that he campaigned on," Pence said in an interview on Fox News Sunday.
That is likely to set up an immediate showdown with congressional Democrats. "They're going to regret the day they try to repeal" the Affordable Care Act, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer countered on ABC's This Week. "So when we oppose Trump on values or this presidency takes a dark divisive turn, we're going to do it tooth and nail."
Meanwhile, Trump continued to confer privately at his Bedminster golf club with a dozen visitors amid furious speculation about whom he might appoint to such critical jobs as heading the State and Defense departments. Among those who met with Trump Sunday were retired Marine Corps general John Kelly, conservative Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as well New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The president-elect also met with Hollywood power broker Ari Emanuel, who happens to be the brother of Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago and a former White House chief of staff for President Obama.
"King of Hollywood," Trump said, pointing at Ari Emanuel, when he arrived. When he escorted Emanuel out after their meeting, Trump said, "Great guy; great friend of mine." It wasn't immediately what role he might have in mind for Emanuel.
On a cold and blustery day, reporters watched visitors arrive and depart from the resort clubhouse and tried to dissect Trump's brief comments about whether more key appointments could be announced in short order. "We're going to have a great day," Trump told them. "Great people coming. You'll see. Great people."
On Monday, spokesman Jason Miller confirmed, Trump will meet with former Texas governor Rick Perry, a one-time rival for the Republican nomination who has been mentioned as a possibility to head the Agriculture or Veterans Affairs departments, or even the Pentagon. The meeting was first reported by Bloomberg News.
Trump early Sunday posted a tweet praising another possible Defense secretary, retired Marine general James Mattis, "as very impressive." "A true General's General!" Trump wrote after meeting with him on Saturday.
Mattis' appointment to lead the Pentagon would require Congress to waive a federal law that requires the Defense secretary to have been out of uniform for at least seven years. Mattis retired from the Marines in 2013.
Another former general, Jack Keane, a former Army vice chief of staff who met with Pence last week, said on Sunday he had withdrawn his name from consideration for personal reasons. His wife, Theresa, died last June.
Trump met Saturday with Mitt Romney, the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee and a fierce critic of Trump during the campaign. "He is under active consideration to be secretary of State ... along with some other distinguished Americans," Pence said Sunday.
Some Democrats were skeptical.
"A total head fake," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on CNN's State of the Union. "I think this is Donald Trump still being the entertainer, still running a show where he wants to build suspense and he alone knows who the contestant will be the winner."
With just two months to go before the inauguration, Trump on Friday had announced he would nominate Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo for CIA director. For his White House staff, jobs that don't require Senate confirmation, he has named retired general Michael Flynn as national security adviser, Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon as chief strategist and Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus as chief of staff.
In an interview Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press, Priebus refused to rule out the establishment of a registry for Muslims, an idea endorsed by Trump in November 2015 that has raised alarm from civil libertarians and others. "Look, I'm not going to rule out anything," Priebus said. "We're not going to have a registry based on a religion (but) there are some people that are radicalized and there are some people that have to be prevented from coming into this country."
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