NEW YORK (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump is taking on a somber task Thursday that became all too familiar to his predecessor — supporting survivors after an outbreak of violence, this time families and victims from last week’s attack at Ohio State University.
Trump is flying to Columbus, Ohio, to meet with several people who were slashed by Ohio State student Abdul Razak Ali Artan. Artan, 18, first rammed a campus crowd with his car before getting out with a knife and stabbing students before being fatally shot by police.
As Trump left for Ohio, there was word that he is expected to pick fast-food executive Andrew Puzder to lead the Labor Department. That’s according to a Republican official and a person close to Trump’s transition, both speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to disclose the information before the official announcement.
Puzder heads CKE Restaurants Holdings, the parent of Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s and other chains. The Californian was one of Trump’s earliest campaign financiers, and his selection would bring another wealthy business person and elite donor into the president-elect’s Cabinet.
The Ohio trip could be a politically potent moment for Trump, who made a hard-line immigration stance the center of his campaign. Following the attack, Trump tweeted that Artan, a legal Somali immigrant, should not have been in the country. And last week, in nearby Cincinnati, Trump said lax immigration policies enacted by “stupid politicians” led to the “violent atrocity” at Ohio State.
“We will do everything in our power to keep the scourge of terrorism out of our country. People are pouring in from regions of the Middle East. We have no idea who they are, where they are, what they’re thinking. And we’re going to stop that dead cold flat,” Trump told that Ohio crowd. “You just take a good look at what just happened in your state.”
Trump will then head to Iowa for the next stop on his tour meant to salute supporters who gave him the White House. He is to appear in Des Moines with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, whom he is planning to appoint as U.S. ambassador to China. On Friday, the president-elect is to make an appearance in Louisiana to boost the Republican Senate candidate ahead of that state’s runoff before holding a rally in Michigan.
Late Wednesday, Trump picked a new fight in the Midwest, taking on the president of a union local in Indiana.
Chuck Jones, president of United Steelworkers Local 1999, had been critical of Trump’s declaration that he saved more than 1,000 jobs from leaving a Carrier plant in Indianapolis. Trump went after Jones on Twitter, saying the union leader had done “a terrible job” representing workers and should “spend more time working-less time talking.”
Six weeks before taking office, the president-elect spent a busy 24 hours at Trump Tower in New York on Wednesday as more of his Cabinet choices were revealed.
He has selected retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security, according to people close to the transition; he officially picked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a climate-change denier whose policies have helped fossil fuel companies, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and he named the former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, Linda McMahon, to head the Small Business Administration.
He also may have breathed new life into the candidacy of a secretary of state contender. Trump said he planned to name his choice for the key Cabinet post next week and insisted that former rival Mitt Romney still had a chance. Trump, who has met twice with the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, denied he was stringing Romney along to make him pay for earlier remarks that Trump was unfit to be president.
Three sources close to the selection process said late Wednesday that Romney’s stock was on the rise again after a period in which the celebrity businessman had cooled on the candidacy of the former Massachusetts governor. Trump has changed his mind repeatedly throughout the process and has expanded the pool of contenders beyond the previously identified final four of Romney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker and former CIA Director David Petraeus.
Trump’s apparent choice of Kelly for Homeland Security came just hours after the president-elect appeared to open the door to letting immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children remain in the country. He gave off other contradictory signals when he chose Pruitt to head the EPA just hours after he and his daughter Ivanka met with actor Leonardo DiCaprio, a strong advocate of fighting climate change. Terry Tamminen, the CEO of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, said he and DiCaprio presented Trump with a “framework” on how focusing on renewable, clean energy could create millions of job.
Pruitt, whose selection demoralized some environmentalists and Democrats, came not long after Trump also met with former Vice President Al Gore, who is an environmental activist, and said he had “an open mind” about honoring the Paris climate accords.
Associated Press writers Julie Pace, Julie Bykowicz and Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed.