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Trump reaches out to former foes as he builds his administration

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets with president-elect Donald Trump in New York on Thursday.


Loyalist Newt Gingrich is bowing out, campaign nemesis Mitt Romney is coming to town and son-in-law Jared Kushner's influence is growing.

It's all part of the intrigue swirling around Donald Trump as he makes an awkward pivot from campaign bully to U.S. president in the building of his administration.

Related: 'God help us': The many ways Republican stalwarts word their anti-Trump positions

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Read more: Mitt Romney leads GOP into open war on front-runner Donald Trump

More than a dozen people made the pilgrimage Thursday to see him at the Trump Tower in New York, including allies and some sworn enemies.

It's all about rewarding loyalists and mending fences now as Mr. Trump works through the politically sensitive task of putting together his administration.

A senior Trump official told media late Thursday that retired lieutenant-general Michael Flynn has been offered the position of national security adviser. Mr. Flynn has been a strong proponent of taking a tougher approach globally against the Islamic State and has been a loyal Trump adviser for months.

Mr. Trump appears to have filled two more key jobs in his new administration, including the top intelligence and law enforcement posts. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is pegged to become U.S. Attorney General, while Mike Pompeo, a U.S. Representative from Kansas, will be named director of the Central Intelligence Agency, according to various media reports.

Both come from the right-wing of the Republican Party. Mr. Sessions, 69, was an early backer of Mr. Trump in the race for the White House. Mr. Pompeo, 52, a lawyer and former U.S. Army officer, has been a vocal critic President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran and was prominent in the party's Tea Party movement.

Both picks must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before they can take up their jobs.

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Perhaps the oddest bit of speculation to date is that Jared Kushner – the husband of Mr. Trump's daughter Ivanka – could become a top White House adviser, formal or informal, after becoming one of Mr. Trump's closest advisers on the campaign trail.

The prospect has sparked concerns of potential conflicts of interest and nepotism, and could put Mr. Kushner in an awkward spot.

He is not only married to a senior executive in the Trump business empire, but also would likely have to place his own business interests in a blind trust.

If he takes a formal White House job, Mr. Kushner would agree to stop receiving income from his holdings – which include real estate and the New York Observer newspaper group – and would forego a White House salary, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Trump faces numerous potential conflicts of his own. The billionaire real estate mogul and reality-TV star's holdings include hotels, condos, clubs and product licensing deals. He is also being audited by the Internal Revenue Service, owes hundreds of millions of dollars to foreign banks and leases real estate from the U.S. government.

Mr. Trump has previously said he would put his business empire into a trust, managed by his children, Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka.

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A delicate balancing act is also becoming apparent as Mr. Trump consults on the makeup of his administration. For example, he's reaching out to Republicans who opposed his candidacy. Among Thursday's crop of visitors to the Trump Tower was South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who is being touted by some as a possible secretary of state. She once said that Mr. Trump represented "everything a governor doesn't want in a president," but has softened her stance since he won the election.

And on Saturday, Mr. Trump is scheduled to meet businessman and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who ran and lost to U.S. President Barack Obama in 2012. During the Republican primaries, Mr. Romney became the voice of the party's establishment wing, calling Mr. Trump a fraud and questioning his business acumen. Mr. Trump, in turn, dismissed Mr. Romney as a "choke artist" for failing to defeat Mr. Obama.

Now Mr. Romney's name is being floated for secretary of state, the top U.S. diplomat.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who ran against Mr. Trump for the Republican nomination, is also being touted for a cabinet post. Among other barbs, Mr. Cruz called Mr. Trump a "train wreck" and a "snivelling coward" during the primaries.

Mr. Trump is working to mend fences with the rest of the world, too. On Thursday, he held his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Like many of those now visiting Trump Tower, Mr. Abe has felt the sharp sting of Mr. Trump's populist attacks. During the campaign, Mr. Trump challenged the underpinnings of U.S.-Japan relations in the post-Second World War era by suggesting that the world's third-largest economy should acquire its own nuclear weapons. Mr. Trump also vowed to kill the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a massive trade pact that the U.S. has sold to Asian countries as a counterweight to China's expanding clout in the region, and one that Mr. Abe has fought hard to get ratified in Japan. "This is the first time we're seeing Mr. Trump as the diplomat-in-chief," said Sheila Smith, a Japan expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

It wasn't an easy meeting for Mr. Abe, who made the hastily arranged stopover in New York on his way to a trip to an Asia-Pacific leaders' summit in Peru. Ms. Smith said the Japanese were "shocked" by Mr. Trump's victory because he "took aim at the core" of the Japan-U.S. alliance.

"Abe has a lot at stake here, both on defence and trade. It won't all be worked out on [Thursday]," she said.

Also on the Trump Tower guest list was Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, a staunch Trump supporter who is being touted as Attorney-General, the administration's top law-enforcement official.

Meanwhile, former House speaker Mr. Gingrich officially declared himself out of the running for a cabinet post on Thursday.

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About the Author
National Business Correspondent

Barrie McKenna is correspondent and columnist in The Globe and Mail's Ottawa bureau. From 1997 until 2010, he covered Washington from The Globe's bureau in the U.S. capital. During his U.S. posting, he traveled widely, filing stories from more than 30 states. Mr. McKenna has also been a frequent visitor to Japan and South Korea on reporting assignments. More


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