WASHINGTON -- President-elect Donald Trump is kicking off a busy week with two cabinet announcements. His transition office revealed Monday that he'd chosen former rival-turned adviser Ben Carson as secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Trump said he was "thrilled" to nominate Carson, calling him a "distinguished national leader who overcame his troubled youth in the inner city of Detroit to become a renowned neurosurgeon."
Carson will be responsible for helping the new president carry out his plans for urban renewal. According to transition officials, that includes protecting African-American churches and defending religious liberty, improving education through school choice, increasing funding to police departments and protecting cities from illegal immigration.
"Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities," Trump said in a statement Monday.
"We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities," he continued. "Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a Presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up."
Also Monday, former vice president and environmental activist Al Gore met with Ivanka Trump, an adviser to her dad's transition team, to discuss climate change, which is Gore's signature issue. Gore also met with the president-elect.
"I had a lengthy and very productive session with the president-elect," Gore said. "It was a sincere search for areas of common ground. I had a meeting beforehand with Ivanka Trump. The bulk of the time was with the president-elect, Donald Trump. I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued, and I'm just going to leave it at that."
Trump is also meeting with North Dakota Congressman Kevin Crammer, South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney and Catherine Templeton, who is president of Brawley Templeton in South Carolina.
'Mad Dog' Mattis
On Tuesday, Trump is expected to announce the appointment of retired Gen. James Mattis as secretary of defense. Mattis is known to many by his nicknames 'Mad Dog' and 'Warrior Monk.'
"He speaks his mind. He's very colorful when he speaks; he's a dynamic leader that the troops just love. They're inspired by him,' said Steve Bucci, visiting fellow with The Heritage Foundation and former Army Special Forces officer.
In 2013, President Barack Obama relieved Gen. Mattis of his post at Central Command. The two reportedly disagreed on policy towards Iran. Mattis has called the Islamic Republic the single most enduring threat to stability in the Middle East, he's been critical of the Iran nuclear deal and he warns America must plan for the worst.
"He is not in this delusional position of the Obama administration that the Iranians are people we can really deal with -- they're not. They are our adversaries,' Bucci said.
He believes Mattis is the right man to rebuild the military and focus on defense instead of the types of social experimentation that's occurred under the current administration.
Meanwhile, this weekend Trump kept his Twitter account hot, promising a 35 percent tax at the border on companies that fire their employees to manufacture products overseas, then sell them back into the U.S. That promise followed Trump's ground-breaking phone conversation with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, making him the first American president or president-elect to speak with a Taiwanese leader since 1979.
"It's a little mystifying to me that President Obama can reach out to a murdering dictator in Cuba in the last year and be hailed as a hero for doing it and President-elect Donald Trump takes a courtesy call from the democratically elected leader in Taiwan and it's become something of a controversy," Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
Secretary of State Suspense Continues
Speaking of diplomacy, Trump is expanding his search for contenders to fill the position of secretary of state.
'This week he'll have additional interviews with other candidates,' Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway said Sunday.
That's in addition to the already long short list, which includes former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Gen. David Petraeus, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.
Meanwhile, Trump's 'Thank You America' tour continues this week with a rally in Des Moines, Iowa on Thursday. Then on Friday he'll be in Grand Rapids, Michigan.