The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App

Why Trump's key Cabinet pick may have to wait

The deliberations continue for Donald Trump over who should be his top Cabinet pick, secretary of state. An announcement may not come until next week.

One reason the secretary of state pick is still percolating is the transition team’s focus on the immediate future; they’re aiming to make an event in Indiana at Carrier Corporation in Indianapolis, and a separate first “Victory” rally in Cincinnati, drive media coverage. 

From the perspective of transition officials, the next most important slot to announce is defense secretary. 

Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis (ret.) is the clear front-runner. 

The transition team is awaiting confirmation from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he can move through the chamber a waiver of the law forbidding a retired general from serving as defense secretary within seven years of retirement. Mattis retired in May 2013. 

Among senior Trump transition officials, Mattis’ nomination is very nearly sealed. But there has been no official confirmation of the offer -- or acceptance.

Former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats met with Mr. Trump and transition officials today at Trump Tower. Coats is under serious consideration as director of national intelligence. Coats has a background in intelligence and defense matters and was President George W. Bush’s first ambassador to Germany. Coats is also close to fellow Indianan Vice President-elect Mike Pence, and that relationship could factor strongly in this decision.

As for reports that Sarah Palin was under consideration for veterans affairs secretary, her consideration is largely “theoretical,” not necessarily serious, transtion officials say. Palin has also been mentioned as a possible nominee as interior secretary. 

Rep. Jeff Miller, chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, is still the leading candidate for VA secretary.

Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, currently House Republican Conference Chair, is under very serious consideration for interior secretary. McMorris Rodgers met Mr. Trump in Bedminster, N.J., and has developed a close relationship with Ivanka Trump, working closely with her on Mr. Trump’s family leave proposals during the campaign and operating as Ivanka’s emissary to other women Republicans in Congress. 

Rodgers, whose district is in eastern Washington, has legislative experience on federal land, forestry and water management issues – crucial to Western senators. 

Mr. Trump’s transition team has consulted about the interior nomination. The conversations with Rodgers about this post have intensified in recent days.