FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — President-elect Donald Trump formally introduced his pick for defense secretary Tuesday, as he brought his “thank you” tour to Fayetteville, North Carolina.
“In order to succeed in our defense policy, we must have the right person to lead in our Defense Department,” he said, reading from a Teleprompter. “This is why I am proud to formally announce today my intention to nominate General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as the next secretary of defense for the United States of America.”
Trump appeared disciplined — much unlike past campaign rallies when he broke from his talking points to makes news — and stayed mostly on script during his rally.
After Trump introduced Mattis, the retired Marine general thanked the audience and Trump in brief remarks sandwiched in between comments from the president-elect.
“Thank you President-elect for the confidence that you’ve shown in me … I look forward to being the civilian leader, so long as the Congress gives me the waiver and the Senate votes.”
“What a great guy, he’s going to incredible,” Trump said after Mattis stepped off stage.
Mattis will need Congress to pass a waiver in order to comply with rules regarding former military officials leading the Department of Defense. Congress has only granted a waiver for such a case once before, in 1950, with President Harry S. Truman’s appointment of Gen. George Marshall.
“He’ll get that waiver, right?” Trump said to the crowd. “Oh, if he didn’t get that waiver there are going to be a lot of angry people.”
The rally was a chance for Trump to visit a battleground state that was key to his upset election win last month. He spent much of the speech — delivered in the hometown of Fort Bragg — pledging to preside over a strong military that would engage in fewer overseas conflicts. Trump spotlighted the veterans in attendance, promising to end the defense sequester budget cuts, and highlighting nearby military installations.
Before he made it to the venue, however, Trump’s plane had to make an unscheduled landing in Raleigh, North Carolina, due to cold, rainy weather at the Fayetteville airport.
“So the weather was really bad, really bad, and they said these are great people in North Carolina, they won’t mind, sir, if you canceled and made it another time,” Trump said at the rally. “So I said, ‘You got to be kidding.’ So we’ve been driving for two hours … but there was no way we weren’t showing up tonight, that I can tell you.”
Trump also spotlighted the veterans in attendance, promising to end the defense sequester budget cuts, and highlighting nearby military installations.
“These patriots have shed their blood to defend our country,” Trump said. “Our debt to them is eternal and everlasting … we salute their sacrifice and we salute the flag they fought to protect.”
He alluded to his comments last week where he suggested people who burn the US flag should be jailed or lose their citizenship. But he did not appear to go as far Tuesday.
“We love our flag and we don’t like it when we see people ripping up our flag and burning our flag. We don’t like it. We’ll see what we’re going to do about that, OK?”
Republican North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory was among those in the audience — in the wake of conceding his bid for reelection to Democrat Attorney General Roy Cooper on Monday, pledging to help with transition efforts after nearly a month of demanding a recount.
Trump concluded his speech by making his pitch to Americans to join his movement by saying he’d be a president for all people.
“When Americans are unified, there is nothing we cannot do. Nothing. No task is too great, no dream too large, no goal beyond our reach,” Trump said at the end of his speech. “My message tonight is for all Americans from all parties, all beliefs, all walks of life, it’s a message for everyone. No matter your age, your income, your background. I’m asking you to join us in this great, great adventurous world we’re living in.”
Trump’s post-election rallies have a similar tone and format to the prominent campaign rallies he hosted in the Republican presidential primary — filled with vocal and passionate supporters and also regularly surrounded and interrupted by protests.
While some of Trump’s later events featured a teleprompter and scripted remarks, the Republican presidential nominee often engaged in unscripted moments to weigh in on news of the day and interact with audience members. In the final days of the campaign, Trump did several rallies in different states each day.
Trump is also set to visit Iowa and Michigan for additional stops on his tour later this week.