Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE and his transition team sent clear signals on Thursday that they’re willing to consider Trump’s harshest critics and former political rivals as part of his administration.
It’s a surprise twist for the fiercely competitive presidential-elect, whose transition team and early appointments have so far been dominated by his inner circle and longtime loyalists.
Trump and Cruz feuded bitterly in the final stretch of the GOP primaries, with Trump suggesting the Texan’s father might have had something to do with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Trump this weekend will meet with 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is reportedly under consideration for secretary of State despite embarking on a one-man mission to block Trump from the White House at any cost.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), a Trump critic who supported Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley — TikTok, Snapchat seek to distance themselves from Facebook Rubio calls for federal investigation into Amazon employee benefits Senate GOP campaign arm outraises Democratic counterpart in September MORE (R-Fla.) in the Republican presidential primary, is also reportedly under consideration for secretary of State. The two met at Trump Tower on Thursday.
It’s possible that none of the three former Trump critics will end up in his administration.
Trump confidant Rudy Giuliani is believed to be the favorite for State, and the president-elect has still not tapped a former rival for a top position.
But the invitations and meetings send the unmistakable signal that Trump is willing to look beyond his inner circle.
Republican National Committee (RNC) strategist Sean Spicer said Thursday that Trump has no interest in settling old scores. He is ready, Spicer said, to move on from the bitter politics of the campaign to governing, even if it means reaching out to his foes.
“He will look at Republicans, Democrats, independents, people who voted for him, people who voted against him,” Spicer said. “As long as they are committed to bringing change to Washington and making this country better, then they can be part of this team.”
“His 100 percent commitment is to have the best staff administration to enact change, and it doesn’t matter to him what your political party was or where you stood in the primary,” Spicer continued. “If you are the best person for that job, then he wants you as part of this team.”
The burgeoning roster is stunning considering the vitriol the potential candidates exchanged with then-candidate Trump.
During the GOP primary, Trump dubbed Cruz “Lyin’ Ted” and tweeted an unflattering picture of his wife, Heidi Cruz.
Cruz finally blew his top at Trump before bowing out of the primary, calling him an “utterly amoral” narcissist and a “pathological liar” who has bragged about battling venereal disease.
That seemed a distant memory on Thursday.
“We had very good and productive conversation about how we can work together to deliver on the promises made to the American people,” Cruz said on Fox and Friends.
“I’m eager and committed to working with president-elect Trump, working with the new administration to get it done.”
Trump leveled attacks against Romney as a “choker” for losing the 2012 election to President Obama.
Romney, meanwhile, took up the mantle of the Never Trump movement, calling the president-elect a “phony” and a “fraud” and accusing him of “misogyny.”
“His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University,” Romney said in a high-profile speech in March. “He's playing members of the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat.”
Haley swiped at Trump in the GOP’s State of the Union response earlier this year and linked his rhetoric to the 2015 shooting at a black church in Charleston, S.C.
Trump’s supporters, like American Principles Project president Frank Cannon, who is advising the transition team, says the directive to reach out to former rivals is likely coming from the top.
“I think it’s directed by Trump himself. I don’t think the natural reaction of people on the transition team would be to say 'let’s promote the same people who’ve been so critical,'” Cannon said.
“I think that it’s explained by the idea that success is the characteristic that he prides himself most on,” Cannon said. “He’s willing to do the things that are necessary to succeed operationally and to bring the party together. We saw that first with his pick of Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Pence to deliver address on 'educational freedom' in Virginia Obama looks to give new momentum to McAuliffe MORE for vice president.”
Trump’s critics are not sold, noting that he’s set to install former Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon, who has been accused of racism and anti-Semitism, as his chief strategist.
“We have to stop defining ‘normal’ further down into the abyss,” said Andrew Weinstein, a former spokesman for then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. “An incoming president does not deserve credit for consulting with his own party's leaders, and doing so does not make his proposed policies and appointments any less dangerous or extreme.”
“President-elect Trump should be judged by his actions, not his handshakes, and his actions so far — including the Bannon appointment — have not been reassuring,” Weinstein said.
Trump’s critics also note that those who were closest to him over the last two years — Giuliani, Spicer, Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits McCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Overnight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability MORE (R-Ala.), and son-in-law Jared Kushner — are still in line to be rewarded with top positions.
Many are nervous that Trump's confidants will be given key roles irrespective of their qualifications, by virtue of their loyalty to Trump.
Bannon, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus have already been tapped for top spots.
Others are troubled by early reports of a transition that has at times seemed chaotic and lacking direction or an understanding of how the federal government works.
“I would be very encouraged to see Donald Trump appoint qualified and responsible people to senior positions in his administration and all Americans should be grateful to those whose take on that burden,” said Oren Cass, who served as domestic policy adviser to Romney in 2012. “I see no reason to be encouraged by the transition process to date, which has been characterized by chaos, in-fighting and poor judgment.”