President-elect Donald Trump is offering former military intelligence chief Michael Flynn the position of national security adviser, elevating a fierce critic of current US foreign policy into a crucial White House role.
Flynn’s selection amounts to Trump’s first signal to allies and adversaries about the course he could take in office. It’s unclear whether Flynn, a retired army General, has accepted the job, though a senior transition official confirmed on Thursday that the president-elect has made the offer. The official was not authorised to discuss the offer publicly and insisted on anonymity.
Flynn was a fierce critic of President Barack Obama’s military and foreign policy long before he began advising Trump on national security issues during the presidential campaign. While the position of national security adviser doesn’t require Senate confirmation, Flynn would work in the West Wing and have frequent access to the president.
Flynn, who turns 58 next month, had built a reputation as an astute intelligence professional and straight talker when he became the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012. After retiring two years later, he made clear he took issue with the Obama administration’s approach to global affairs and fighting Islamic State militants.
Flynn has called for Washington to work more closely with Moscow, echoing similar statements from Trump. But his warmth toward Russia has worried some national security experts.
Flynn travelled last year to Moscow, where he joined Russian President Vladimir Putin and other officials in a celebration of RT, a television channel funded by the Russian government. He later explained that he had been paid for taking part in the event, but brushed aside concerns that he was aiding a Russian propaganda effort.
Trump is a foreign policy novice and his early moves on national security are being closely watched both in the US and overseas. He’s said to be considering a range of officials with varying degrees of experience to lead the State Department and Pentagon.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (left) speaks along side Michael Flynn during a campaign town hall meeting in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (Reuters File Photo)
The president-elect held his first face-to-face meeting with a world leader since winning the presidential election, huddling privately Thursday with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. While Trump made no comments following the meeting, Abe said the president-elect was “a leader in whom I can have great confidence”.
Trump also consulted with former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and sat down with South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, a potential contender to lead the State Department.
In Washington, vice president-elect Mike Pence met with Republican leaders in Congress. He then spent time with House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the newly-elected leader of the Senate Democrats, seeking to convey respect as Democrats prepare for Republican rule of both chambers and the White House for the first time in a decade.
“We look forward to finding ways that we can find common ground and move the country forward,” Pence said outside Schumer’s Senate office.
In a separate gesture of reconciliation with establishment Republicans, Trump planned to meet with 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who lambasted Trump as a “con man” and a “fraud” in a stinging speech in March. Trump responded by repeatedly referring to Romney as a “loser”.
The two began mending fences after Trump’s victory when Romney called with congratulations. They are to meet this weekend, a transition official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorised to discuss Trump’s schedule publicly. Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said they were still “working on” the meeting.
Trump’s actions Thursday aimed to show that he could soften his rhetoric, offer pragmatism in the White House and reaffirm longstanding American alliances. Since his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton last week, Trump has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and nearly three dozen other world leaders by telephone.
Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, also visited the Trump Tower and called the billionaire businessman “a true friend of Israel”. He specifically cited as another “friend” Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon, whose selection as a top White House adviser has created a backlash among Democrats. Bannon’s news website has peddled conspiracy theories, white nationalism and anti-Semitism.
“We look forward to working with the Trump administration, with all the members of the Trump administration, including Steve Bannon, in making the US-Israel alliance stronger than ever,” Dermer said.
Trump, a reality television star, business mogul and political newcomer, also rolled out new teams that will interact with the State Department, Pentagon, Justice Department and other national security agencies as part of the government transition before his Jan. 20 inauguration.
Coordination had been on hold until Trump’s team submitted documents including a list of transition team members who will coordinate with specific federal agencies, plus certification that they meet a code of conduct barring conflicts of interest.
White House spokesperson Brandi Hoffine said the minimum paperwork was finished Thursday, meaning agencies could start providing briefings and written materials to Trump’s team.
Conway said she expected announcements of Cabinet choices to come “before or right after Thanksgiving,” telling reporters Trump was “loving” the transition. “He’s a transactional guy. He’s somebody who’s used to delivering results and producing.”