Sunday 30 April 2017

Trump: Berlin truck attack was 'an attack on humanity and it's got to be stopped'

Donald Trump Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters
Donald Trump Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Jonathan Lemire

US President-elect Donald Trump has said the deadly truck attack on a Christmas market in Germany was "an attack on humanity and it's got to be stopped".

The president-elect spoke to reporters briefly before a meeting with retired General Michael Flynn, his incoming White House national security adviser.

Asked whether the attack was prompting him to re-evaluate his call during the campaign for temporarily banning Muslim immigration into the United States, Mr Trump said: "I've been proven to be right."

Twelve people were killed and 48 injured when a truck ploughed into a popular Berlin market on Monday evening in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group. German officials have launched a Europe-wide manhunt for a "violent and armed" Tunisian man suspected in the attack.

Mr Trump is spending the final days of 2016 at his palatial private estate in South Florida, meeting advisers and completing plans for his cabinet and White House staff.

While Mr Trump has assembled his Cabinet at a quick pace, the process to fill out top White House jobs has been slowed by resistance among some advisers.

Police stand near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
Police stand near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
Police work near the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
A truck is seen near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
Police secures the area at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
A truck is seen near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Paramedics work at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Paramedics work at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
A truck is seen near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Police and emergency workers are at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Police work at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Some of Mr Trump's earliest advisers have expressed concern to the president-elect himself that they are getting boxed out in favour of those more closely aligned with incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus, who has chaired the Republican National Committee.

Mr Trump will not be bringing his first campaign chief, Corey Lewandowski, into a White House job, but the combative operative will not be far away.

Mr Lewandowski said he would not be joining the administration but announced plans to start a political consulting firm with offices just a block from the White House, raising the likelihood that he will remain an influential player in Mr Trump's orbit.

The president-elect's transition team has said announcements on White House staffing could come as early as Wednesday.

Mr Trump started his day by boasting anew about his November 8 election victory, tweeting that his win in the electoral college was more difficult to pull off than winning the popular vote would have been if he had tried.

Democrat Hillary Clinton won at least 2.6 million more votes than Mr Trump, an apparent sore point for the president-elect.

"I would have done even better in the election, if that is possible, if the winner was based on popular vote - but would campaign differently," he tweeted.

Mr Trump met on Tuesday 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.

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

Mr 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 do not need treatment for mental health problems.

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

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

With just a handful of cabinet posts to fill, Mr Trump is facing some criticism for a lack of diversity in his senior team, which currently includes no Hispanics.

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