President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East 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.