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No discussion of Cabinet job in Trump meeting, Heidi Heitkamp says

NEW YORK--Sen. Heidi Heitkamp discussed a range of topics with President-elect Donald Trump, but there was no talk of whether she may be under consideration for a Cabinet position, she said.

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NEW YORK-Sen. Heidi Heitkamp discussed a range of topics with President-elect Donald Trump, but there was no talk of whether she may be under consideration for a Cabinet position, she said.

Heitkamp, North Dakota's sole Democrat in Congress, met with the Republican businessman Friday afternoon in Trump Tower in New York. The hour-long discussion was spent on topics affecting North Dakota and the nation, including the coal industry, human trafficking, keeping jobs in the U.S. and the energy sector. They also touched on the Dakota Access Pipeline and "challenges law enforcement" face as they handle protests near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

"I think the president-elect wanted to better understand what my thinking was, what my priorities were," she told the Herald after the meeting, adding she was very grateful for the chance to meet him. "He's a very busy person. To spend an hour just really hashing around a lot of issues, I so appreciated the opportunity to really talk about things that are so important to North Dakota."

One moment she saw as a highlight was when she met Ivanka Trump. Heitkamp and Donald Trump's daughter discussed efforts to fight human trafficking, an issue Heitkamp has worked on since she was first elected to the Senate in 2012.

"(Ivanka Trump) wants to follow up, and that's great," Heitkamp said. "We can talk about some ideas internationally on what can happen to prevent childhood trafficking and sex trafficking and labor trafficking."


What did not come up in the meeting was whether Heitkamp was under consideration for a Cabinet post, she said. The announcement of the meeting Thursday was followed by speculation Donald Trump is considering the senator for a Cabinet position, possibly secretary of energy or interior.

If Heitkamp accepted a Cabinet post and vacated her seat in the Senate, North Dakota's governor would have 95 days to call a special election. Her seat will be on the 2018 ballot in a state that overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump. He received roughly 63 percent of the North Dakota vote over Democrat Hillary Clinton's 27 percent.

Heitkamp narrowly defeated U.S. Rep. Rick Berg, who gave up his House seat to run for Senate in 2012.

Heitkamp said she did not go into the meeting thinking she would be told she was under consideration for any position in the Trump administration, adding these are not decisions made after one meeting.

"I will tell you this: I go to work every day thinking about what I'm going to do for the people of North Dakota and particularly about what I'm going to do about rural America," she said. "That has been a passion. It's the driving force as to why I took this job as a U.S. senator, because I thought those issues were being ignored.

"I'm not going to go into any kind of speculation," she added. "I think that to the extent that for four years we are going to be working with the Trump administration, we had very good discussion on how we can work together."

She agreed the meeting showed Trump is willing to reach across the aisle and listen to concerns from both Democrats and Republicans, despite his criticism of Clinton and President Barack Obama's policies during the 2016 presidential campaign.

"I don't think this is a person who sees party label," she said. "I think that he is someone that thinks about philosophy and if you have shared goals, and that's good."


Donald Trump's media contacts did not reply to a Herald request for comment regarding his meeting with Heitkamp.

Ride with the Naked Cowboy

Before her meeting with the president-elect, Heitkamp unexpectedly caught an elevator ride with Robert John Burck, better known as the Naked Cowboy. Decked out in cowboy hat and boots, as well as an American flag jacket, Burck entered the elevator moments before Heitkamp.

Heitkamp has been to New York and seen the Naked Cowboy on the streets, but she had never been that close to him.

"I just blindly get in elevators because we are all human beings," she said as she laughed about her meeting with the Time Square street performer. "He clearly wanted to give me a hard time, and it was all in great fun."

A video of the encounter was posted by C-SPAN on Twitter. In her own tweet, Heitkamp said, "Cowboys are my people-even if they aren't from ND."

"I've never been that close to him, nor do I ever want to be that close to him," she laughed, adding he was not like any cowboy she had seen in North Dakota.

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