Giuliani up for secretary of state as Trump, Pence meet
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani has emerged as a “serious” contender to become the next US secretary of state, a top aide to President-elect Donald Trump said Tuesday, amid reports of intense infighting over key posts in the new administration.
Trump — the 70-year-old Republican billionaire who takes office in just nine weeks — was to meet with Vice President-elect Mike Pence later Tuesday in New York to discuss the next round of cabinet appointments.
Giuliani, a member of Trump’s inner circle, had been considered a leading candidate for attorney general, but at a public forum in Washington on Monday, he said he would not be heading the Justice Department.
“His name has been mentioned in a serious way in connection with secretary of state, a job that he’s qualified for and a job that he would do exceedingly well,” Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, said Tuesday on Fox News.
The 72-year-old Giuliani was mayor of New York on 9/11, and his decisive leadership after the World Trade Center’s twin towers were toppled in the September 2001 attacks made him a national hero.
A crime-fighting former prosecutor who cleaned up New York and lifted its fortunes, Giuliani made a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 but withdrew after learning he had prostate cancer.
Former UN ambassador John Bolton, a neo-conservative hawk and former undersecretary of state, also was reported to be in the running for the top diplomatic post.
“John would be a very good choice,” Giuliani said at the forum sponsored by The Wall Street Journal.
Asked if there were anybody better, Giuliani quipped: “Maybe me, I don’t know.”
Bolton made no mention of his chances in an interview Tuesday with Fox News but seemed like he was auditioning for it, weighing in heavily on US relations with Moscow the day after Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I think one of the reasons that Putin is very casual about expanding Russian influence, taking advantage of America in Eastern Europe and the Middle East is that he sees, quite correctly, Barack Obama as an exceedingly weak leader,” he said.
“I think Trump is going to be the opposite.”
Bolton was a controversial choice for UN envoy in 2005, having once said if the UN headquarters lost 10 floors, “it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”
– First appointments –
Also in the mix for a top job is Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, an early Trump supporter who is reported to be under consideration possibly for attorney general, secretary of defense or head of the Department of Homeland Security.
Sessions has been a fierce advocate for restrictions on immigration, but was once rejected for a federal judgeship after officials testified he made racist remarks, The New York Times reported.
Trump’s first appointments included anti-establishment firebrand Steve Bannon as chief strategist, a pick who has come under fire from Democrats and other critics who see the onetime Breitbart chief as a darling of white supremacists.
The appointments process has been tumultuous by all accounts. One source cited by CNN described the intense lobbying as a “knife fight.”
Trump and Pence will “be reviewing a number of names” for cabinet positions, Jason Miller, a transition communications adviser, told reporters gathered at Trump Tower.
Miller gave few details on the new people under consideration.
“You can’t believe everything you read. I don’t want to play the speculation game as far as names,” Miller said.
He added: “There will be non-traditional names, a number of people who have had wide-ranging success in a number of different fields… People will be excited when they see the type of leaders the president-elect brings into this administration.”
Trump appears to be torn between a campaign promise to shake up Washington and the need to build a cabinet with political experience and connections with Congress.
On Sunday, he named Reince Priebus, a mainstream Republican operative who backed Trump as chairman of the Republican National Committee, as his White House chief of staff.
Also expected to find a spot on Trump’s governing team is retired general Michael Flynn, a possible national security advisor pick.
– Security clearance for Trump kids? –
Separately, Pence said that he plans to complete his term as Indiana governor even as he helps with the transition of power in Washington, the Indianapolis Star reported.
Pence made the remarks at a cabinet meeting in Indianapolis, an event at which he welcomed the new state governor, who takes over on January 9, 11 days before Pence takes office in Washington, the newspaper reported.
CBS and CNN also reported that the transition team is seeking top security clearances for Trump’s adult children.
Trump however did not request that this step be taken, and the Trump children have not started filling out paperwork for such clearances, a transition official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“That’s not something I’m expecting right now,” the official said.