Trump showcases Cabinet picks on ‘thank you’ tour

President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday night touted his selection of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) as U.S. ambassador to China, promising that the country would start “playing by the rules.”

At a “thank you” rally in Des Moines, Trump noted that Branstad has made six trade missions to China and has strong relationships with officials from the country. The Iowa Republican is a longtime friend of Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

{mosads}“The man I have chosen as our ambassador to China is the man who knows China and likes China, better to like China if you’re going to be over there, do we agree?” Trump said. “And knows how to deliver results.” 

Branstad, who’s the longest-serving governor in U.S. history, was invited to the stage by Trump and offered brief remarks thanking the president-elect for the role.

Trump regularly railed against China on the campaign trail, and on Thursday night slammed the country for enabling theft of intellectual property, devaluing currency and not helping take on North Korea.

“Other than that they’ve been wonderful, right?” he joked.

“We’re going to have mutual respect, and China’s going to benefit, and we’re going to benefit, and Terry’s going to lead the way,” Trump told the crowd. 

Trump’s “thank you” tour has served as a platform for him to roll out and talk up Cabinet picks and other appointments as his administration takes shape with less than two months until he takes office. 

At his second post-election rally in Fayetteville, N.C., earlier this week, Trump touted retired Gen. James Mattis, whom he plans to nominate for Defense secretary, as he flexed his national security chops.

Trump echoed at Thursday’s rally that he will rebuild and strengthen America’s “depleted” military, giving “Mad Dog” Mattis another shout-out.

Trump also announced Thursday that he’s tapping Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In Iowa, he vowed to cancel all regulations and provide clean air and water to all Americans with Pruitt’s help.

“We’re going to protect the family farm and end the EPA intrusion into your lives,” Trump said. 

He also teased an upcoming formal announcement for the head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Trump said a decision will come next week on the post, which he said has been elevated in recent years from a mostly political position to one of more consequence.

Trump plans to tap retired Gen. John Kelly, who will be the third general slated for an administration job, to lead the DHS, a high-level transition source confirmed to The Hill.

The president-elect has drawn scrutiny for the wealth of some of his Cabinet picks. Critics have condemned his choices of former Wall Street executive Steven Mnuchin for Treasury secretary and billionaire Wilbur Ross for Commerce secretary. He also picked the millionaire head of a major fast food chain, Andrew Puzder, for Labor secretary Thursday. 

But Trump defended selecting the wealthy instead of picking those of “modest means.”

“I want people that made a fortune, because now they’re negotiating for you,” Trump said Thursday.

The next stop on Trump’s tour is Grand Rapids, Mich., on Friday evening.

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