President-elect Donald Trump defended his wealthy choices for Cabinet and top administrative posts, telling Iowa supporters Thursday they were "some of the most successful people in the world."
"One newspaper criticized me: 'Why can't they have people of modest means?'" Trump said at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, the third stop on his "thank you" tour of battleground states. "Because I want people who made a fortune, because now they are negotiating for you.
"It's no different than a great baseball player or a great golfer."
Trump's tour took him to North Carolina on Tuesday and to Ohio last week. He will address supporters in Louisiana and Michigan on Friday.
The president-elect has come under attack for his plans to nominate billionaires, corporate executives and Wall Street financiers to key advisory Cabinet positions.
They include former Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary and investor Wilbur Ross to head the Commerce Department.
Trump said Wednesday he would nominate former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon to lead the Small Business Administration. The nominees must be confirmed by the Senate.
Trump beat back the criticism Thursday, saying: "They're so proud to do it.
"These people have given up fortunes . . . to make a dollar a year."
He declared his choices were no longer "political appointments" — taking a veiled slap at Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in saying he would announce his choice for the post, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, next week.
"We have a man . . . who is going to do a phenomenal job called Homeland Security," he told the crowd as he discussed his agenda on illegal immigration. "Used to be a political appointment.
"Now, it's like the most important appointment.
"He and his people are going to keep you safe. They're going to keep you safe. Not going to be games.
"These are no longer political appointments. These are talented people, smart people. Where they have to be, they're tough people.
"Is it okay to have some tough people?" Trump asked. "Because the enemy is tough, right?"
Trump also reiterated his longstanding pledge to get stronger on China, saying Beijing has not "played by the rules," and "I know it is time that they are going to start."
"They have got to," Trump added. "We're all in this thing together. They've got play by the rules."
The president-elect then introduced Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa, his choice for U.S. ambassador to China.
He called Branstad, who has had six trade missions to Beijing during his 23 years in the Statehouse, was "the man who knows China and likes China."
"He knows how to deliver results," Trump added. "And he will deliver results."
In his brief remarks, Branstad, 70, who also must be confirmed, said only: "It has been a great honor and privilege to serve the people of this state, and thanks to our great new president.
"I am very proud to serve America in this very important role."
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