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Sunday 25 February 2018

President-elect Donald Trump hosts Japanese PM at skyscraper

Donald Trump's team say he's ready for the presidency (AP)
Donald Trump's team say he's ready for the presidency (AP)
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani - who is understood to be a contender for the US secretary of state job - laughs as he arrives at Trump Tower (AP)

Donald Trump sought to reassure nervous leaders around the globe with his most public foray into foreign policy since the election, welcoming Japan's prime minister to Trump Tower on Thursday.

On Capitol Hill, his incoming vice president aimed to project unity at home.

Mr Trump planned a face-to-face meeting late on Thursday with Shinzo Abe, his first with a world leader since last week's vote, after consulting with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and sitting down with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a potential contender to lead the State Department.

In Washington, Vice President-elect Mike Pence huddled with Republican leaders in Congress.

He then met 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," Mr Pence said outside Mr Schumer's Senate office.

In a separate gesture of reconciliation with establishment Republicans, Mr 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 last March. Mr Trump responded by repeatedly referring to Mr Romney as a "loser".

The two began mending fences after Mr Trump's victory when Mr Romney called with congratulations. They are to meet this weekend, a transition official said. Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said they were still "working on" the meeting.

Mr Trump's actions on Thursday aimed to show leaders both in the US and overseas that he could soften his rhetoric, offer pragmatism in the White House and reaffirm long-standing American alliances.

Since his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton last week, Mr Trump has spoken with Russian president Vladimir Putin, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and nearly three dozen other world leaders by telephone. But Mr Abe's visit to Mr Trump's Manhattan high-rise was his first in-person meeting with a foreign leader since the end of the campaign.

Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the United States, also visited the skyscraper and called Mr Trump "a true friend of Israel".

He specifically cited as another "friend" Trump campaign chief executive Steve Bannon, whose selection as a top White House adviser has created a backlash among Democrats. Mr 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," Mr Dermer said.

Mr 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. The move is part of the government transition before Mr Trump's January 20 inauguration.

One potential Cabinet member, Eva Moskowitz, said had taken herself out of the running to become education secretary. Ms Moskowitz, a Democrat and advocate for charter schools, met with Mr Trump this week, stoking speculation that she might inject a bit of bipartisanship in the new administration.

Ms Moskowitz, who voted for Mrs Clinton, suggested there were "positive signs" that Mr Trump might govern differently than he campaigned, but she wrote in a letter to parents that many of her students, who are overwhelmingly black and Latino, would feel that "they are the target of the hatred that drove Trump's campaign".

Ms Conway said she expected initial announcements of Cabinet choices to come "before or right after Thanksgiving", telling reporters Mr Trump he was "loving" the transition.

"He's a transactional guy. He's somebody who's used to delivering results and producing."

Mr Trump's calendar has been packed with meetings.

During his meeting with Mr Kissinger, who led the State Department under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, the two discussed relations with China, Russia, Iran and the European Union. Other meetings have included Ms Haley, the daughter of Indian-born parents, who would bring diversity to a Trump administration, Florida Governor Rick Scott and Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling.

As he left Trump Tower, Mr Hensarling, who leads the House Financial Services Committee, said he and the president-elect had discussed tax and trade policies - and he left open the possibility of joining the administration.

"I stand ready to help the president in any capacity possible," he said. "I've got a great position in public policy today. If he wants to talk to me obviously about serving somewhere else, we'll look at serving somewhere else."


Press Association

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