NEW YORK — The government should cancel its multibillion-dollar order for new Air Force One presidential planes, Donald Trump declared Tuesday, serving notice he’s ready to jump in and start making decisions six weeks before his inauguration.
Costs for the two Boeing 747s are “totally out of control,” Trump told reporters in the lobby of his New York skyscraper.
The government has contracted with Boeing to build the planes, which would go into service around 2024. That means Trump wouldn’t fly on the aircraft, which carry U.S. presidents around the globe, unless he pursued and won a second term. But the Air Force has pressed for a faster schedule, saying the current version is becoming too expensive to repair and keep in good flying shape.
The contract for the planes was to be about $3 billion, but costs have been reported to be rising. Trump tweeted early Tuesday, “Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!”
Later, he said the costs are ridiculous: “I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.”
The price of Boeing stock dipped after his comments but not drastically. Trump had tweeted in 2013 that he owned Boeing stock, but a spokesman said Tuesday he sold all of his stocks in June.
Asked for comment about Trump’s statements, Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher said, “We are going to have to get back to you after we figure out what’s going on.”
Trump now uses his own plane, a Boeing 757, which he has outfitted with white leather and gold, a large flat-screen television and a bedroom. But as president it is expected that he would travel aboard the Air Force jet, which is equipped with special safety, defensive and communications equipment. Air Force One also has seating for reporters; Trump generally does not allow the press on his own plane.
Later Tuesday, Trump will be using his 757 to travel to the second stop of his “thank you” tour, in North Carolina, less than a week after his return to rallies at an Ohio appearance that felt more like a raucous campaign stop than a traditional speech by a president-to-be.
At that Cincinnati stop, Trump disparaged the media as “dishonest,” inspired loud “Build the wall” chants, took swipes at fellow Republicans and stunned his own aides with his surprise announcement from the stage that he was appointing retired Gen. James Mattis as secretary of defense.
Mattis’ selection was being formally announced Tuesday, and he is to appear with Trump at the evening event in Fayetteville.
Later this week there will be rallies in Iowa and Michigan as Trump barnstorms the country to salute his supporters who delivered victories in the battleground states he needed to capture the White House. And on Saturday, Trump will attend the 117th annual Army-Navy football game, spending half the game on Navy’s side of the stadium and the other half on Army’s side. The game between the two military academies often draws the commander in chief; both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush have attended in recent years.
Before leaving for North Carolina Tuesday, Trump was slated to hold a number of meetings in New York, including with Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon; Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who is meeting about a diplomatic post, and radio host Laura Ingraham who is being considered for press secretary.
Those interviews come a day after Trump chose retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson to be secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, raising fresh concerns about the lack of experience some of Trump’s Cabinet picks have with agencies they’re now being chosen to lead.
Carson, who opposed Trump in the Republican primaries, has no background in government or running a large bureaucracy.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Trump’s choice to be ambassador to the United Nations, has no foreign policy experience. Steve Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs partner and Hollywood executive, is Trump’s man to lead the Treasury Department but has never worked in government. And Mattis, a widely praised battlefield commander, spent decades in the Marines but now is tapped to run the nation’s largest government agency, the Defense Department, with 740,000 civilian employees in addition to 1.3 million service personnel.
Carson would oversee a budget of nearly $50 billion that provides rental assistance for more than 5 million households. Demand for that assistance is high in part because housing costs are rising faster than incomes. HUD also promotes home ownership with the Federal Housing Administration underwriting about 1 in 6 mortgages issued in the U.S. The agency is charged with enforcing federal fair housing laws, too.
Reach Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire
AP Writer Joseph Pisani contributed
A special thank you to our friends at WRAL for helping out with this post.