Americas

US President-elect Donald Trump (G), General James Mattis (C) and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence (D) in Bedminster, New Jersey, November 19, 2016
Retired four-star Marine general Jamse Mattis to head Department of Defense

US President-elect Donald Trump promised to “keep America safe” by cracking down on immigration from the Middle East and focussing his foreign policy on “stability.”

Speaking to thousands of supporters in Cincinnati, Ohio as part of what his staff have billed as a “Thank you” tour of the American Midwest, Trump seemed to reiterate key campaign promises about Muslim immigration and a wall on the Mexican border.

“The job of the president is to keep America safe, and that will always be my highest priority,” Trump said.

“We will do everything in our power to keep the scourge of terrorism out of our country. People are pouring in from regions of the Middle East. We have no idea who they are, where they come from, what they’re thinking. And we’re going to stop that dead, cold, flat,” he said.

“People coming into the country have to have the potential to love us, not to hate us,” he said.

He added: “We will stop looking to topple regimes. Our goal is stability, not chaos, because we want to rebuild our country. It’s time.”

Trump also used the address to take a stance against hatreds: “We condemn bigotry and prejudice in all of its forms,” he said. “We denounce all of the hatred and we forcefully reject the language of exclusion and separation. We have no choice. We have to, and it’s better.”

At the same event, Trump also announced the tough-talking retired general James Mattis to be his defense secretary.

"We are going to appoint 'Mad Dog' Mattis as our secretary of defense," Trump told cheering supporters in Cincinnati, referring by nickname to the four-star Marine general who headed the US Central Command, with authority over troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"He's our best. They say he's the closest thing to (World War II) general George Patton that we have," Trump said, apparently divulging his pick days ahead of schedule as his transition team had already said there would be no more cabinet announcements this week.

US President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with retired United States Marine Corps General James Mattis after their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, in Bedminster, New Jersey ( Drew Angerer (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File) )

Mattis will require both Senate confirmation and a special waiver of a law that bans uniformed military officers from serving as secretary of defense for seven years after leaving active duty.

At least one Democrat, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, already signaled she will oppose the waiver.

"Civilian control of our military is a fundamental principle of American democracy," the senator tweeted from New York.

Trump's surrounding himself with military figures -- he has picked retired general Michael Flynn to be his national security advisor and is considering retired general David Petraeus for secretary of state -- has unnerved some observers who point to America's long tradition of civilian government.

- 'No choice' but unify -

At the start of his address, Trump launched lofty appeals to unite what he called a "very divided nation" and reject "bigotry and prejudice in all of its forms."

The US Bank Arena in the Ohio city has a capacity of more than 17,000 but just about half the seats were empty before President-elect Donald Trump spoke ( TIMOTHY A. CLARY (AFP) )

Americans will "come together -- we have no choice, we have to," he added.

On the economy, "Americans will be the captains of their own destiny once again," he promised.

He even vowed to try to work with Democrats to end gridlock in Congress.

But the Manhattan property mogul, who defeated Hillary Clinton last month to win the White House, dramatically returned to the abrasive tone that marked his controversial and ultimately victorious campaign.

He savaged the nation's "extremely dishonest" press, slammed illegal immigration and the country's refugee program, mocked his critics and vowed to "drain the swamp" in establishment-heavy Washington.

"I love you Ohio!" the populist political novice said to a loud cheer from a crowd that filled roughly half the US Bank Arena, which has a capacity of around 17,000. Trump lamented the roadblocks surrounding the venue, which he said had depressed attendance.

The tone was decidedly more boastful than his afternoon appearance in neighboring Indiana, where he visited a company and claimed credit for saving American jobs.

The president-elect, who made guaranteeing jobs for blue-collar US workers a key campaign plank, strode triumphantly through an Indiana factory that makes Carrier air conditioners, trumpeting a deal to keep 1,100 manufacturing positions from moving to Mexico.

He then starkly warned other US firms that they will face "consequences" if they relocate abroad.

"The era of economic surrender is over," Trump assured. "We're going to fight for every last American job. It is time to remove the rust from the rust belt and usher in a new industrial revolution."

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