In the midst of his Cabinet deliberations, President-elect Donald Trump flew to Ohio Thursday to meet with victims and families after the latest U.S. outbreak of violence, a somber duty that became all too familiar to his predecessor.
In Columbus, he also had words of tribute for astronaut and senator John Glenn of Ohio — "indeed an American hero" — who died Thursday at 95. Then he was off to Iowa for the latest stop on his victory tour to states that helped him win the presidency.
In the middle of it all, Trump also made his latest Cabinet announcement, picking fast-food executive Andrew Puzder to lead the Labor Department. Puzder heads CKE Restaurants Holdings, the parent of Carl's Jr., Hardee's and other chains. The Californian was one of Trump's earliest campaign financiers, and his selection brings yet another wealthy business person and elite donor into his administration-in-the-making.
Trump flew to Columbus to meet with several people who were slashed by Ohio State student Abdul Razak Ali Artan. Artan, 18, first rammed a campus crowd with his car before getting out with a knife and stabbing students before being fatally shot by police. The president-elect spent about 30 minutes with some of the victims and their families.
"These are great people, amazing people," said Trump, who also paid tribute to the first responders who tended to the victims and shot the attacker. "The families have come through this so well."
Trump met with the families privately and aides did not immediately provide an accounting of what was discussed. But, in his brief statement to reporters, he took on the role of comforter-in-chief, avoiding the inflammatory rhetoric that has marked his response to other attacks.
Following the Ohio incident, Trump had tweeted that Artan, a legal Somali immigrant, should not have been in the country. And last week, in nearby Cincinnati, Trump said lax immigration policies enacted by "stupid politicians" led to the "violent atrocity."
On his newest Cabinet selection, Trump said in a statement that as labor secretary Puzder will "save small businesses from the crushing burdens of unnecessary regulations that are stunting job growth and suppressing wages." But his choice, cheered by some business groups, drew the ire of workers' rights organizations and labor unions.
Said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry.: "Throughout his career, Andrew Puzder has shown he does not believe in the dignity of all work and has used his position to line his own pockets at the expense of workers."
As he made selection, Trump was feuding with a union.
Chuck Jones, president of United Steelworkers Local 1999 in Indiana, had been critical of Trump's declaration that he saved more than 1,000 jobs from leaving a Carrier plant in Indianapolis. Trump went after Jones on Twitter, saying the union leader had done "a terrible job" representing workers and should "spend more time working-less time talking."
After his stop in Ohio, Trump headed to Iowa for the next stop on his tour meant to salute supporters who gave him the White House. He was to appear in Des Moines with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, whom he is planning to appoint as U.S. ambassador to China. On Friday, the president-elect is to make an appearance in Louisiana to boost the Republican Senate candidate ahead of that state's runoff before holding a rally in Michigan.
His busy week has included unveiling a number of new Cabinet choices.
He has selected retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security, according to people close to the transition; he officially picked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a climate-change denier whose policies have helped fossil fuel companies, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and he named the former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, Linda McMahon, to head the Small Business Administration.
He also may have breathed new life into the candidacy of a secretary of state contender. Trump said he planned to name his choice for the key Cabinet post next week and insisted that former rival Mitt Romney still had a chance. Three sources close to the selection process said late Wednesday that Romney's stock was on the rise again after a period in which the celebrity businessman had cooled on the candidacy of the former Massachusetts governor.
Pruitt, whose selection demoralized some environmentalists and Democrats, came not long after Trump met with former Vice President Al Gore, who is an environmental activist, and said he had "an open mind" about honoring the Paris climate accords.