Speculation mounts over top administration posts

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," November 25, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. CHRIS COLLINS, R-N.Y.: We can see him with some unusual choices. And even if they are slightly controversial, they are the ones he is going to rely on and we have to certainly understand that he needs to surround himself with people whose advice he can act upon.


DOUG MCKELWAY, GUEST ANCHOR: That's early Trump supporter congressman Chris Collins of New York on the latest picks right now, one of whom deputy national security advisor you know very well. Here she is.


K.T. MCFARLAND: Whether it's China or Russia, Iran, North Korea, radical Islam, they -- all -- a new president always gets tested, but all these countries are lining up to test this new president.


MCKELWAY: And here is Mr. Trump's statement about the hire of K.T. McFarland, quote, "I'm proud that K.T. has once again decided to serve our country and join my national security team. She has tremendous experience and innate talent that will complement the fantastic team which we are assembling, which is crucial because nothing is more important than keeping our people safe."

And another pick, Don McGahn as White House chief council. Here's Trump's statement about Mr. McGahn, quote, "Don has a brilliant legal mind, excellent character, and a deep understanding of constitutional law. He will play a critical role in our administration and I am grateful that he is willing to serve our country at such a high level capacity."

Let's bring in our panel now, Lisa Boothe, columnist with the Washington Examiner; Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent for the Washington Post; and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Charles, comments on the picks today?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: K.T., as we all know, is a superb choice. She goes all the way back to Nixon and Kissinger administration, Reagan as well. She is very experienced. She has written. She has thought. And I think she will be a really good balance to that team.

McGahn I don't know, but I think his challenge is going to be, will he be the one to tell Donald Trump that he has to divest himself of some of these investments, or perhaps even all of them if he wants to have an administration that will be within the law or certainly within ethics we would expect. That's going to be a tough choice because Trump is a unique president-elect, will be a unique president with all of his holdings in the world. That's going to be a really difficult issue. And he will rely on McGahn to give him the legal advice.

MCKELWAY: Karen, had you suggested moments ago during the break that he is not a yes man, McGahn.

KAREN TUMULTY, WASHINGTON POST: Hi is not. Interestingly enough, I was talking today to Bob Bauer who had been Barack Obama's White House counsel. And he pointed out that McGahn is an ardent libertarian which makes him suspicious of expansive executive power. And when he was at the Federal Election Commission, he was a real disrupter. So Bob Bauer said, you know, this is a guy in this office who is not going to be a yes man.

MCKELWAY: He is a Naval Academy graduate, a former FEC chairman, Federal Elections Commission, where he held according to his biography at the law firm of Jones Day where he works that he led a revolution in campaign finance. The left Center for Media and Democracy sees it very differently, noting that "McGahn played a lead role transforming the FEC into a toothless watchdog," Lisa, that's their expression.

LISA BOOTHE, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I guess it would depend on your vantage point.


BOOTHE: He has surrounded himself with a lot of independent thinkers, people that are known as mavericks. If you look at someone like Senator Sessions, he hasn't been afraid to buck the Republican Party. Someone like General Flynn has also been known as a maverick, one of these independent thinkers who aren't necessarily yes men or woman.

But I think what is important as a Republican is you look at the fact that Donald Trump, right now we're looking at a really united Republican party. And with some of the various picks that he has made so far I think show good faith effort in trying to unite the Republican party. You have got someone like Nikki Haley who was very critical of him throughout the general election or some of the general election and definitely throughout the primary race who is brought into the fold as, you know, his U.N. ambassador pick. That's a positive sign for the Republican party, bringing in some of these diverse voices from the Republican party in trying to unite moving forward, building that important coalition that he is going to need to get things done.

MCKELWAY: I want to change subjects to internal rivalry between Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, at least there are backers seem to be duking it out behind the scenes. What do you make of this, Charles? I'm hearing some speculation that Romney may not be the top choice now that Giuliani is rising to the surface and they're looking for this apology from Romney. Is that true? What do you make of it?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think there has been a furious counterattack by loyalists who were with Trump from the beginning when it was rather unfashionable, and Romney, of course, was the lead attacker, the lead critic of Trump in the late primaries, general election. So I understand why they feel there is a matter of loyalty.

You know, Trump is going to have to choose. If it's loyalty, he is not going to choose Mitt Romney. If it's choosing who would be the best man for the job, I think probably if you had an independent panel they might, you know, marginally prefer a Mitt Romney simply because he has less baggage than Giuliani. And as Trump himself has said, he looks the part. He looks like he was born to be secretary of state. I don't know whether that means he would be a good one or not.

But I do think we should keep our eye on a third possibility that would resolve the issue by not resolving it, and that would be David Petraeus, who to the world represents America at its strongest and most decisive. He is the guy who saved the Iraq war and is a man who has written and thought deeply about the new kind of warfare that we're involved in, and that I think would be a spectacular choice.

MCKELWAY: Karen, this loyalty is really rising to the surface now. I had a family room are Bush administration senior advisor telling me about a rivalry within the State Department during the Bush years, and there were two distinct camps there. The rivalry so intense there that one camp would send out leaks to the media trying to block information from the other camp, a rivalry that was so intense that it escaped the attention of the president itself. This is a serious matter.

TUMULTY: But the question would be were Mitt Romney to get the job whether he would then staff the State Department bureaucracy with people who were loyal to him or whether the White House would want to have their own people in these jobs. The idea though that he is going to somehow back down from the criticism that we heard him making of Donald Trump throughout this presidential campaign, I don't think it's going to happen. I mean, this is a guy who titled his 2012 campaign book "No Apology." So I think with Mitt Romney, you're going to have it take Mitt Romney as you get him.

MCKELWAY: And there is this question I raised it with Ed Henry earlier, Lisa, that if he were to make the apology and not get the job it would be very embarrassing with him.

BOOTHE: Absolutely. He staked a lot of ground in going after Donald Trump throughout the election, giving that big speech which was more than any other important figure like him did as far as, you know, pointing out his flaws as a candidate.

But, again, it's back to the coalition building and my perspective. And so I think if you tap someone like Governor Mitt Romney, you know, that helped heal the Republican party, helps build that coalition, because if you look at the Senate, Republicans are probably going to end up with 52 Republicans in the Senate. Donald Trump doesn't have, you know, big margins there. So he is going to need to bring the party together. And I really think we have seen him take good faith efforts to try to unite the party, whether it's giving the nod to Paul Ryan to run again as speaker of the house or tapping some of these different individuals, even someone, as I mentioned, before like Nikki Haley who has been critical or Governor Mitt Romney who has definitely been probably his biggest critic, I think that would go a long way in uniting the party.

MCKELWAY: Charles, lastly, one observer noted to me that Donald Trump has this way of throwing shiny object over here and the media will go running over there, and then he might surprise with you entirely different pick. John Bolton, for example, comes to mind.

KRAUTHAMMER: Right, although he came to the floor early. He has faded. He was also furiously attacked, not because he was anti-Trump but because he is a so-called neocon, a word that is thrown around Washington without any meaning but has baggage from the decisions made in the Bush years. But I think the one person who might come out of the cold or might come out as a shiny surprise would be Petraeus.

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