Trump picks former wrestling exec Linda McMahon to lead Small Business Administration

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NEW YORK — President-elect Donald Trump picked Linda McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, to serve as the administrator of the Small Business Administration, a Cabinet-level position, his transition announced Wednesday.

“Linda has a tremendous background and is widely recognized as one of the country’s top female executives advising businesses around the globe,” Trump said in a statement. “She helped grow WWE from a modest 13-person operation to a publicly traded global enterprise with more than 800 employees in offices worldwide.”

He continued, “Linda is going to be a phenomenal leader and champion for small businesses and unleash America’s entrepreneurial spirit all across the country.”

McMahon is the co-founder and former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, the professional wrestling organization. She stepped down from her duties at WWE in 2009 and ran two failed bids for the U.S. Senate from her home state in Connecticut in 2010 and 2012. She’s also a sought-after Republican donor.

In a statement, McMahon says she’s honored to join an economic team that will “promote our country’s small businesses and help them grow and thrive.”

She’s donated $6 million in August and September to Rebuilding America Now, a Super PAC that supported Trump’s presidential bid.

McMahon will have to be approved by the Senate before she becomes the administrator of the SBA. However, Sen. Dick Blumenthal, D-Conn., who ran against McMahon in 2010, told CNN that he’d likely vote for her. He called her a reasonable voice in Trump’s economic team.

McMahon wasn’t always a fan. During the Republican primary, she told Yahoo’s Katie Couric that she was offended by Trump’s comments about women, calling them “deplorable.”

“He’s not helping, certainly, to put women in the best light,” McMahon said. “Maybe he regrets them, maybe he doesn’t. I realize he punches hard when he punches back, but that’s just over the top.”

But after the primaries, McMahon told the Associated Press that even though Trump wasn’t her first choice for the nomination, she became a strong supporter of the business mogul.

“Once you’re his friend, he is loyal to the end,” she said. “He’s an incredibly loyal, loyal friend.”

In other Trump transition news:

— Trump is expected to nominate Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, a source close to Pruitt has told The Associated Press. Pruitt has been a booster of the fossil fuel industry and an outspoken critic of what he derides as the EPA’s “activist agenda.” The 48-year-old Republican also denies the overwhelming scientific evidence that the Earth is warming and that man-made carbon emissions are to blame. Representing his state, Pruitt has repeatedly sued the EPA to roll back environmental regulations and public health protections, including opposing the Clean Power Plan that seeks to limit planet-warming carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. He also filed court briefs in support of the Keystone XL Pipeline project blocked by the Obama administration.

— Trump wants Iowa’s Republican governor to be the next U.S. ambassador to China — and it looks like Terry Branstad is ready to accept the job in Beijing. That’s the word from a senior official on Trump’s transition team. The official wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss Trump’s personnel moves and spoke on condition of anonymity. Trump and Branstad are expected to be in Iowa on Thursday. They met Tuesday in New York at Trump Tower.

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