Trump taps campaign attorney Donald McGahn for White House counsel

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Donald McGahn, lawyer and Trump advisor, exits the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City on June 9. Trump confirmed Friday that he has chosen McGahn to serve as White House counsel.  Photo by Brendan McDermid/ Reuters

Donald McGahn, lawyer and Trump advisor, exits the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City on June 9. Trump confirmed Friday that he has chosen McGahn to serve as White House counsel. Photo by Brendan McDermid/ Reuters

President-elect Donald Trump is connecting with foreign leaders and considering new Cabinet-prospects Friday as he gathers with family for the long Thanksgiving weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

As the incoming president looked ahead, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein made progress on her push to force recounts in three Midwestern battleground states that fueled Trump’s stunning victory.

Stein announced on her website that she has raised enough money to fund recounts in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and was pursuing additional funding to do the same in Michigan. A local Green Party official said she would file the Wisconsin recount request on Friday.

While the recounts are unlikely to change the election result, they could complicate Trump’s calls for national unity as he tries to move past what may have been the nastiest presidential contest in the modern era.

There were signs of discord even within the president-elect’s small inner circle as Trump weighed his choices for secretary of state. The options for the nation’s chief diplomat include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who lacks foreign policy experience, but was intensely loyal to Trump, and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who aggressively opposed Trump’s candidacy but is largely regarded as more qualified.

Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway publicly highlighted the controversy, tweeting on Thursday that she had been “receiving a deluge of social media & private concerns re: Romney Some Trump loyalists warn against Romney as sec of state.”

In a second Twitter post from her verified account, Conway referred to former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, both Cabinet officers in previous Republican administrations, as men who “flew around the world less, counseled POTUS (president of the United States) close to home more. And were loyal. Good checklist.”

Trump made two new staff appointments on Friday, though neither was a Cabinet-level pick.

He tapped Fox News analyst Kathleen Troia “KT” McFarland to serve as deputy national security adviser and campaign attorney Donald McGahn as White House counsel. In a statement, Trump cited McFarland’s “tremendous experience and innate talent” and said McGhan “has a brilliant legal mind, excellent character and a deep understanding of constitutional law.”

McFarland served in various posts under former Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. McGhan, a veteran Republican election attorney, served as Trump’s attorney during the campaign.

Neither position requires Senate confirmation.

The president-elect also has meetings scheduled with eight prospective administration hires scheduled for Monday, a group that includes a handful of business leaders along with David Clarke, the Wisconsin sheriff who is an aggressive opponent of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence also have meetings scheduled on Monday in New York with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., former Security and Exchange Commission commissioner Paul Atkins, World Wide Technology chairman David Steward and General Growth Properties CEO Sandeep Mathrani.

Beyond secretary of state, two possible appointments loom: that of retired neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate Ben Carson as secretary of housing and urban development and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross Jr. as commerce secretary.

The most recent Trump Cabinet-level picks to be announced were South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and charter school advocate Betsy DeVos to lead the Education Department.

Trump is also continuing to connect with foreign dignitaries, according to spokesman Sean Spicer. Since arriving at his Palm Beach estate on Wednesday, the president-elect has spoken to the prime ministers of Greece, Hungary and Sweden, along with the presidents of Panama and Slovenia.

Trump, according to his Twitter feed, is also pressing an Indiana-based air conditioning company not to send jobs to Mexico over the Thanksgiving holiday.

During the presidential campaign he often cited Carrier’s decision last February to relocate some 1,400 jobs to its plant in Mexico as an example of jobs leaving the country — and how he as president would slap a tax on any units manufactured in Mexico and sold in the U.S.

“I am working hard, even on Thanksgiving, trying to get Carrier A.C. Company to stay in the U.S.,” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “MAKING PROGRESS – Will know soon!”

The company confirmed it had discussed the move with the incoming administration but said that there was nothing to announce.

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