NY businessman, veteran is Trump's pick for Army secretary

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  • Mar-a-Lago resort, where President-elect Donald Trump is holding meetings, in Palm Beach, Fla., Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

    Mar-a-Lago resort, where President-elect Donald Trump is holding meetings, in Palm Beach, Fla., Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, file photo, President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. Trump's closest advisers see Democrats' complaints that Moscow hacked their private emails this election season as a case of sour grapes. The pushback comes ahead of the Electoral College vote, Monday, Dec. 19, which is expected to make official Trump's election win. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

    FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, file photo, President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. Trump's closest advisers see Democrats' complaints that Moscow hacked their private emails this election season ... as a case of sour grapes. The pushback comes ahead of the Electoral College vote, Monday, Dec. 19, which is expected to make official Trump's election win. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) (The Associated Press)

  • Mar-a-Lago resort, where President-elect Donald Trump is holding meetings, in Palm Beach, Fla., Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

    Mar-a-Lago resort, where President-elect Donald Trump is holding meetings, in Palm Beach, Fla., Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (The Associated Press)

President-elect Donald Trump on Monday tapped another billionaire businessman for an administration job, naming Army veteran and fellow New Yorker Vincent Viola to be his secretary of the Army.

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Trump had meetings planned with a group of businessmen and former U.S. government officials as he sought to fill other posts, including that of U.S. trade representative. He met with Robert Lighthizer, a former deputy U.S. trade representative in the Reagan administration, an official said.

Viola, Trump's choice to be the civilian head of the Army, is a West Point graduate who joins a list of former military men already chosen for the Cabinet. Trump's picks for defense secretary, homeland security secretary, national security adviser and deputy national security adviser are retired military.

In a written statement, Trump praised Viola, the son of Italian immigrants, as "living proof of the American dream" and someone who has a lengthy history of engagement with national security issues.

Viola grew up in Brooklyn, the first member of his family to attend college. He was trained as an Airborne Ranger infantry officer and served in the 101st Airborne Division. A lawyer, he started multiple businesses and bought the Florida Panthers hockey team for $250 million in 2013.

Trump announced his choice for Army secretary from Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach, Florida, estate where he was spending the holidays with his family and working on the transition. It came as electors in all 50 states were meeting to formally elect him president, paving his way to take office on Jan. 20.

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Viola would join a circle of wealthy businessmen Trump has chosen for the administration, including fast food executive Andy Puzder to lead the Labor Department, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross for Commerce, financier Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary and Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn as his top economic adviser.

More open posts remain. Trump was also meeting Monday with Thad Allen, the retired Coast Guard commandant who oversaw the federal response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

R. Donahue Peebles, board chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, also had an appointment with Trump. Peebles is also founder, chairman and CEO of Peebles Corp., a real estate development and investment company.

J. Christopher Reyes, co-chairman of Reyes Holdings, a Chicago-based beer and food distributor, was also on Trump's meeting schedule for Monday, said Trump spokesman Jason Miller.

Meanwhile, Vice President-elect Mike Pence was holding transition meetings in New York, including a foreign policy discussion with Henry Kissinger, who was secretary of state under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

On Sunday, some of Trump's closest advisers pushed back against Democrats' complaints that Russia had hacked into their private emails this election season in a bid to sow discord among their supporters and sway the election toward Republicans.

"Let's assume it's true," Reince Priebus, Trump's incoming chief of staff, said of Russian interference in the election. "There's no evidence that shows that the outcome of the election was changed because of a couple dozen John Podesta emails that were out there."

The number of leaked emails by Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, was actually closer to tens of thousands. And it'd be difficult to prove exactly what influenced voters.

Democrats said the hack was a personal attack and a threat to democracy.

"The emails were weaponized," said Donna Brazile, interim chair of the Democratic National Committee. The committee's emails were also hacked and publicly exposed. "The release of stolen, hacked emails caused a lot of confusion and of course it disrupted our daily campaign life."

Trump has previously deemed "ridiculous" the intelligence community's finding of Russian involvement.

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AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace and Associated Press writer Anne Flaherty in Washington contributed to this report.

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