Trump expected to pick investor Wilbur Ross as US commerce secretary

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WASHINGTON, Nov 29 (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is expected to name Wilbur Ross, a billionaire known for his investments in distressed industries, to head the Commerce Department, a Republican source familiar with the decision told Reuters on Tuesday.

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An announcement on Ross to lead the department, which pursues anti-dumping cases against cheap foreign imports, could come as early as Wednesday, NBC News said.

Ross declined to comment to Reuters on Tuesday.

Here's who Trump has appointed to senior leadership positions
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Here's who Trump has appointed to senior leadership positions

Reince Priebus, chief of staff

Obama administration counterparts: Rahm Emanuel, Pete Rouse, Bill Daley, Jack Lew, Denis McDonough (current)

Duties: oversee the Executive Office of the President, serve as the president's right-hand man

Priebus' former job: Chairman of the Republican National Committee

Bio: Priebus, 44, got his law degree from the University of Miami in 1998. He worked his way up through the ranks of the Republican Party, becoming the Wisconsin Party Chairman in 2007, then general counsel to the National Committee in 2009, and finally its chairman in 2011. Priebus helped launch Wisconsinites House Speaker Paul Ryan and Gov. Scott Walker to national prominence over the last several years. He has two young children with his wife, Sally.

Reactions: While Priebus' hire may comfort the Republican establishment, it may aggravate some of Trump's supporters who expect him to fulfill his promise to "drain the swamp" of Washington insiders in government.

Steve Bannon, chief strategist

Obama administration counterpart: Valerie Jarrett

Duties: serve as senior counselor to the president, shape the administration's political strategy

Bannon's former jobs: chairman of the alt-right news site Breitbart, CEO/chief strategist of the Trump campaign

Bio: Bannon, 62, graduated from Harvard Business School in 1983, and made much of his fortune as a Goldman Sachs banker and a longtime movie and TV producer. Since 2011, he has led Breitbart News, the far-right website espousing anti-establishment white nationalist positions, particularly on issues like immigration and trade. Bannon has two 21-year-old daughters, whose mother accused him of domestic abuse and anti-Semitic comments during their divorce proceedings in 1996. He pleaded not-guilty, and the charges were dropped. He has another ex-wife, as well.

Reactions: Bannon's appointment set off a firestorm of controversy, with critics pointing to what they considered racially charged, bigoted rhetoric used on Breitbart under Bannon's leadership.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, attorney general (pending Senate confirmation)

Obama administration counterparts: Mark Filip, Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch (current)

Duties: act as the country's chief law enforcement officer, represent the US in court cases, provide the Executive Branch with formal and informal legal counsel and advice

Sessions' former job: senator from Alabama

Bio: Sessions, 69, was born and raised in Alabama, got his law degree from the University of Alabama in 1973, and served in the Army Reserve for 13 years. President Ronald Reagan nominated him as a US attorney in 1981, then he was elected as Alabama's attorney general in 1994, and was first elected to the Senate in 1996. He is currently serving his fourth term. Sessions and his wife, Mary Blackshear, have three children and 10 grandkids.

Reactions: Sessions' consideration for a Cabinet position has revived allegations of racism that jeopardized his chance to become a federal district court judge in 1986, when a prosecutor testified Sessions called the NAACP and the ACLU "un-American." Incoming Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he is "very concerned" about Sessions' civil rights record, a sentiment other liberals echoed. Many conservatives, meanwhile, applauded Trump's choice, with Republican senators saying they'd vote to confirm him.

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, national security adviser

Obama administration counterparts: James Jones, Thomas Donilon, Susan Rice(current)

Duties: Provide the president's daily national security briefing; coordinate the administration's foreign policy, intelligence, and military efforts

Flynn's former jobs: director of the Defense Intelligence Agency

Bio: Flynn, 58, joined the Army as a second lieutenant in military intelligence when he graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 1981. Serving at home and abroad, Flynn worked his way up the ranks of the armed forces, eventually becoming the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012. The lieutenant general retired from the position in 2014. A registered Democrat, Flynn became an early supporter of Trump's, advising the president-elect on national security matters during the campaign. He and his wife, Lori, have two sons.

Reactions: Flynn has been criticized for being anti-Islamic, for his questionable business ties to Turkey's increasingly authoritarian president, for what some see as his overly positive views toward Russia, and for promoting conspiracy theories on Twitter during Trump's campaign. He was also accused of being too hawkish when he was DIA director, which is why a former Pentagon official alleged Flynn was forced out of the agency.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, CIA director (pending Senate confirmation)

Obama administration counterparts: Leon Panetta, Michael Morell (acting), David Petraeus, John Brennan (current)

Duty: oversee the Central Intelligence Agency

Pompeo's former job: US Representative for Kansas

Bio: Pompeo, 52, graduated first in his class from West Point in 1986, then served as a cavalry officer in the Army. After returning from active duty, Pompeo graduated from Harvard Law School in 1994, where he served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Pompeo moved to Kansas, where he founded and helmed aerospace and oil manufacturing companies. He has been the US Representative for Kansas's 4th congressional district since 2011. The tea-party-aligned House member originally supported Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in the GOP presidential primary, but eventually endorsed Trump once the business mogul secured the nomination. He and his wife, Susan, have a son, Nicholas.

Reactions: Several Republican lawmakers praised Pompeo's directness, expressing confidence in his ability to lead the CIA. Pompeo has been criticized for anti-Muslim remarkshe's made in the past — scrutiny that reemerged after Trump announced his appointment.

Gov. Nikki Haley, United Nations Ambassador (pending Senate confirmation)

Obama administration counterparts: Susan Rice, Rosemary DiCarlo, Samantha Power(current)

Duty: Advance US interests at the United Nations.

Haley's former job: Governor of South Carolina

Bio: Haley, 44, was born to Indian immigrant parents in South Carolina, where she graduated from Clemson University with a degree in accounting in 1994. She worked at Exotica International, an upscale women's clothing firm her mother, Raj Randhawa, founded that became a multi-million dollar business (which the family retired in 2008). Haley ousted an incumbent for a South Carolina House of Representatives seat in 2004, and was reelected for two more terms. The state then elected her its first female governor in 2010, and doubled down in the 2014 election. Haley and her husband Michael, a captain in the Army National Guard, have two teenage children.

Reactions: Some diplomats criticized Haley for her lack of experience on the world stage since she has never held a position in the federal government. Democratic senators said she would get a "thorough" confirmation hearing, but that they would give her fair consideration.

Betsy DeVos, secretary of education (pending Senate confirmation)

Obama administration counterparts: Arne Duncan, John King, Jr. (current)

Duties: Lead the US Department of Education, manage federal financial aid policies, ensure equal access to education.

DeVos' former job: chair of the nonprofit American Federation for Children

Bio: DeVos, 58, graduated from Calvin College in 1979, held various leadership positions in the Michigan Republican Party before becoming its chairwoman from 1996 to 2000. President George W. Bush appointed her to the board of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2004, which she served on until 2010. DeVos has also served on various charity and company boards that she and her husband, Dick, an heir to the Amway fortune, founded, including the Windquest Group, which invests in clean energy and manufacturing. In 2009, she became the chair of the American Federation for Children, a nonprofit that aims to expand the use of school vouchers allowing students to use public funds to attend private schools. The DeVos' have four children and five grandchildren.

Reactions: While proponents of school vouchers have predictably lauded Trump's pick, its opponents have lambasted DeVos, arguing that the programs weaken public schools and fund private schools at taxpayers' expense. Teachers' unions have similarly criticized her for not understanding the public school landscape since she sent her children to private schools.


Ross, 78, a staunch supporter of Trump and an economic adviser, has helped shape the Trump campaign's views on trade policy, blaming the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico and the 2001 entry of China into the World Trade Organization for causing massive U.S. factory job losses.

"I think there's a big difference between the impact of trade agreements on corporate America and the impact on Mr. and Mrs. America," Ross told CNBC in an interview earlier this year. "Corporate America has adjusted to them by investing lots of capital offshore."

Ross, whose net worth was pegged by Forbes at about $2.9 billion, heads the private equity firm, W.L. Ross & Co in New York.

Ross' connections to Trump date back to 1990, when as a turnaround expert for Rothschild and Co he worked on behalf of bondholders to help engineer a restructuring of hundreds of millions of dollars in debt owed on Trump's Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

In 2002, by then in charge of his own private equity firm, Ross formed International Steel Group to consolidate several bankrupt steelmakers, including Bethlehem Steel, Acme Steel and LTV Steel. He sold the company in a $4.5 billion deal two years later to Mittal Steel.

Ross retains a stake in what is now part of the world's largest steel company, Arcelor Mittal, and sits on its board of directors.


His various business interests, which also include automotive components and textiles, could make avoiding conflicts of interest a complicated prospect as the head of an agency with broad influence over trade cases and U.S. industrial policies.

Arcelor Mittal has benefited from several recent anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties imposed by the Commerce Department against a wide range of steel products from China, South Korea, Japan, Britain, Turkey and other countries. Those have helped lift domestic steel prices, boosting the company's bottom line.

Ross may also face questions from lawmakers over the January 2006 Sago coal mine disaster in West Virginia that killed 12 miners in an explosion and collapse. Owned by a subsidiary of one of his companies, International Coal Group, the mine had been cited for more than 200 safety violations

International Coal was sold for $3.4 billion in 2011 to No. 2 U.S. coal miner Arch Coal, which filed for bankruptcy protection in January amid plummeting coal prices.

He could be questioned as well over a $2.3 million fine his firm agreed to pay in August to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle accusations it did not properly disclose some fees that it charged investors.

Donald Trump through the years
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Donald Trump through the years
Real estate developer Donald Trump annouces intentions to build a $100 million dollar Regency Hotel. (Photo by John Pedin/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 02: Donald Trump with Alfred Eisenpreis, New York City Economic Development Administrator. Sketch of new 1,400 room Renovation project of Commodore Hotel. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - 1980: Donald Trump and Ivana Trump attend Roy Cohn's birthday party in February 1980 in New York City. (Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 26: Donald Trump stands behind architect's model of City Hall Plaza. (Photo by Frank Russo/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Donna Mills and Donald Trump during 1983 Annual American Image Awards at Sheraton Center in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Portrait of real estate mogul Donald John Trump (b.1946), smiling slightly and facing to his right, 1983. New York. (Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images)
New York real estate magnates Steve Ross, right, and Donald Trump, left, announce agreement, Thursday, August 1, 1985 in New York, to merge the Houston Gamblers and the New Jersey Generals United States Football League teams. Ross heads a group of investors that last week agreed to buy the troubled Houston franchise. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)
Real estate magnate Donald Trump poses in front of one of three Sikorsky helicopters at New York Port Authority's West 30 Street Heliport on March 22, 1988. (AP Photo/Wilbur Funches)
Ivana Trump and Donald Trump during Mike Tyson vs Michael Spinks Fight at Trump Plaza - June 27, 1988 at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Donald Trump and his wife, Ivana, pose outside the Federal Courthouse after she was sworn in as a United States citizen, May 1988. (AP Photo)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 4: Billionaire Donald Trump and his wife Ivana arrive 04 December 1989 at a social engagement in New York. (Photo credit should read SWERZEY/AFP/Getty Images)
Shown in photo is Donald Trump, Nov. 20, 1990. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Billionaire developer Donald Trump, right, waits with his brother Robert for the start of a Casino Control Commission meeting in Atlantic City, N.J., March 29, 1990. Trump was seeking final approval for the Taj Mahal Casino Resort, one of the world's largest casino complexes. (AP Photo)
Developer Donald Trump, center, is flanked by super middleweight champion Thomas Hearns, left, of Detroit, and Michael Olajide of Canada at a news conference in New York Thursday, Feb. 15, 1990. The three announced the super middleweight title bout at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort at Atlantic city, N. J on April 28.(AP Photo/Timothy Clary)
Real estate magnate Donald Trump and his girlfriend Marla Maples are seen at the Holyfield-Foreman fight at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, N.J., April 19, 1991. (AP Photo)
Donald Trump and Daughter Ivanka Trump during Maybelline Presents 1991 Look of the Year at Plaza Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 7: Donald Trump touches 07 April 1993 Marla Maples stomach to confirm published reports that the actress is pregnant with his child. The two arrived for Maples appearance in the Broadway musical 'The Will Rogers Follies'. (Photo credit should read HAI DO/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 21: US business tycoon Donald Trump(C) enters the PLaza Hotel in New York past supporters 21 December 1994. Hundreds of supporters showed up at a news conference where Trump denied a New York newspaper report that the Sultan of Brunei had bid 300 million USD to buy the Manhattan hotel. (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE--This is a 1994 file photo of Donald Trump. Trump said Wednesday, Oct. 23, 1996 he has bought the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen beauty pageants from ITT. ``It's a done deal,'' Trump said in a telephone interview. ``It's a very, very great entertainment format. It gets very high ratings, it's doing very well and we'll make it even better.'' Trump declined to say how much he paid. Asked if a New York Post source was correct in saying the deal was worth tens of millions of dollars, Trump replied, ``Why not? (AP Photo/Jim Cooper)
FLUSHING MEADOWS, UNITED STATES: Donald Trump and his girlfriend Celina Midelfar watch Conchita Martinez and Amanda Coetzer 07 September at US Open in Flushing Meadows, NY. AFP PHOTO Timothy CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Christine Whitman during Opening of New Warner Bros. Store in Trump Plaza Casino at Trump Plaza Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
In this June 7, 1995 file photograph, Donald Trump is seen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange after taking his flagship Trump Plaza Casino public in New York City. Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., based in Atlantic City, New Jersey, filed for Chapter 11 protection on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009, in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New Jersey. Trump and his daughter Ivanka resigned from the company's board Friday, Feb. 13, 2009, after growing frustrated with bondholders. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens,File)
Celine Dion, husband Rene, Donald Trump & Ivanka Trump (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)
Entrepreneur Donald Trump watches an undercard fight as an unidentified companion whispers into his ear before the start of the Mike Tyson versus Francois Botha bout at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, Saturday, Jan. 16, 1999. (AP Photo/Eric Draper)
Developer Donald Trump holds an umbrella as he walks Saturday, Nov. 9, 2002, to the 11th green of the Ocean Trail Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Trump plans to turn the beleagured golf club into a world class course. Trump intends to close on the golf club by December and hopes to begin improvements by January. He could reopen the course, 20 miles south of Los Angeles, as early as June. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Entrepreneur Donald Trump (L) and Rev. Al Sharpton speak at a ribbon cutting ceremony for Sharpton's National Action Network Convention April 5, 2002 in New York City. The group aims to further the development of civil rights. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and his girlfriend Melania Knauss attend the Marc Bouwer/Peta Fall/Winter 2002 Collection show February 14, 2002 during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City. (Photo by George De Sota/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 06: WBC Kampf im Schwergewicht 2003, New York/Madison Square Garden; Vitali KLITSCHKO/UKR - Kirk JOHNSON/CAN; Donald TRUMP als Zuschauer (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10: Donald Trump stands on the sidelines before the start of the AFC divisional playoffs between the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans on January 10, 2004 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Temperatures have reached as low as 7 degrees in the Foxboro area. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
US tycoon Donald Trump arrives to speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington, on February 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 10: Donald Trump speaks during the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the 2015 NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits on April 10, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. The annual NRA meeting and exhibit runs through Sunday. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: Real estate mogul and billionaire Donald Trump attends Golf legend Jack Nicklaus' Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda March 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. Trump announed on March 18 that he has launched a presidential exploratory committee. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - MAY 16: Businessman Donald Trump speaks to guests gathered for the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center on May 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The event sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa gave several Republican presidential hopefuls an opportunity to strengthen their support among Iowa Republicans ahead of the 2016 Iowa caucus. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Developer Donald Trump displays a copy of his net worth during his announcement that he will seek the Republican nomination for president, Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump gives a thumbs up before boarding his campaign plane to depart from Laredo, Texas, Thursday, July 23, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
AYR, SCOTLAND - JULY 30: Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump visits his Scottish golf course Turnberry with his children Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump on July 30, 2015 in Ayr, Scotland. Donald Trump answered questions from the media at a press conference. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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