President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpProject Veritas surveilled government officials to expose anti-Trump sentiments: report Cheney: Fox News has 'a particular obligation' to refute election fraud claims The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? MORE defended himself on Thursday for picking a number of wealthy people to serve in his Cabinet.

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“One newspaper criticized me, ‘Why can’t we have people of modest means?’ " Trump said at a "thank you" rally in Des Moines, Iowa. “Because I want people that made a fortune. Because now they’re negotiating with you.”

The president-elect also likened wealthy Cabinet members to top athletes.

Trump, whose campaign was built on railing against elites, has received criticism for tapping a number of extremely wealthy people for positions in his Cabinet. NBC News reported on Wednesday that the nascent administration already has a combined wealth of $14.5 billion.

“These people are giving up fortunes of income in order to make a dollar a year, and they’re so proud to do it," Trump said.