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Key Positions Remain To Be Filled In Trump's Cabinet

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Advisers to President-elect Trump are conducting a public debate over his choice for secretary of state. Trump is said to be interested in Mitt Romney for the job. His adviser, Kellyanne Conway, seems much less interested and said so on ABC's "This Week."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS WEEK")

KELLYANNE CONWAY: He went out of his way to hurt Donald Trump. He gave two speeches that I can recall in this calendar year, and they were both about Donald Trump.

INSKEEP: Mollie Hemingway, senior editor of The Federalist, is following this story, and she's in our studios. Good morning. Thanks for coming by.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY: Great to be here with you.

INSKEEP: What's going on here?

HEMINGWAY: Well, it would be extreme to hear this from any other president-elect adviser, but for Donald Trump, this is quite typical for his advisers to try and sway his opinion by going on television shows.

INSKEEP: You think they're trying to sway his opinion because he watches a lot of TV and this is the way to get to Donald Trump.

HEMINGWAY: Absolutely. And he has clearly expressed an interest in Mitt Romney, and they are concerned about that.

INSKEEP: I'm just - just trying to get used to this because Kellyanne Conway is a close adviser to Donald Trump. We would presume that she can say things in private. In fact, she says she's been able to say things in private. Why say it on television also?

HEMINGWAY: I think she wants to get people's - to affect people's opinion as well. And she understands that President-elect Trump is very much - he finds Mitt Romney very appealing, and she is very concerned about that. She's concerned about his loyalty, and she really wants to just get as many people on board with her as possible.

INSKEEP: As far as you can tell, is it true what Kellyanne Conway says, that there are a lot of early Trump supporters who care about this and who don't like Mitt Romney and don't want him as secretary of state?

HEMINGWAY: I think people don't quite understand President-elect Trump's fascination with Mitt Romney, and they really do remember the mean and insulting things he said about Trump during the primary. Of course, those were very similar to what Trump said about Romney during the primary and before that as well. And they are concerned, yes.

INSKEEP: Is there a case to be made for party unity here because there are a lot of establishment Republicans who would like this choice?

HEMINGWAY: Well, party unity is important, but state is such an important position, and foreign policy was a key part of Trump's victory. And so they are worried that this is not the place to seek unity, that that - that there are many other Cabinet positions where that would be better.

INSKEEP: Well, I understand you've explored this question of how do you run the State Department and how do you run the State Department with a former rival or opponent at the top of the State Department.

HEMINGWAY: Yeah, Americans really love the idea of a team of rivals in a president - in a presidential cabinet. And Doris Kearns Goodwin's book on Lincoln's team of rivals was apparently very influential in President Obama keeping President Bush's secretary of defense at the Pentagon and in putting Hillary Clinton in at State.

But in having these people who didn't share his foreign policy vision, who didn't share his views on the war in Iraq, the continued occupation, the size and scope of defense spending, whether to be involved in other security theaters, this really affected negatively his ability to achieve his foreign policy vision. So while unity is important, there is also a risk, particularly at Defense and State Department.

INSKEEP: Is it clear to you that President-elect Trump has a coherent foreign policy vision for what he specifically wants the State Department to do?

HEMINGWAY: I think this is actually one of the many under-covered things about his campaign. He wants to project American strength. He wants to hurt American enemies, and he wants to do that without messy foreign entanglements. And I think that many Americans, and many Republicans surprisingly, found this very appealing. They do not like the current foreign policy posture, but they also weren't that fond of President George W. Bush's as well. They are really seeking change in this regard. So many conservative voters out in America are optimistic about what Trump can do here. Many foreign policy establishment types are much more nervous, and they are less likely to approve of him trying to make some serious changes.

INSKEEP: Mollie, thanks for coming by.

HEMINGWAY: Thanks.

INSKEEP: Mollie Hemingway is senior editor for The Federalist. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.