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Donald Trump

Rudy Giuliani is favourite for Trump’s secretary of state after he waves off attorney-general’s job

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2016, 12:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2016, 10:23pm

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani emerged as the favourite to serve as secretary of state in Donald Trump’s US incoming administration, a senior Trump official said as the President-elect narrowed down his Cabinet picks.

The official said there was no real competition for the job and that it was Giuliani’s if he wanted it. The official was not authorised to speak on the record and requested anonymity.

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Giuliani, a top Trump adviser, said Monday night at a Washington event sponsored by the Wall Street Journal that he “won’t be attorney general” in Trump’s administration – a job for which the former federal prosecutor had been seen as the top contender even before Trump’s election.

Giuliani said he thought John Bolton, the hawkish former US ambassador to the United Nations, “would be a very good choice” for secretary of state. But asked if there was anyone better, he replied with a mischievous smile: “Maybe me, I don’t know.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Giuliani suggested several times during the event that he would be interested in the job, saying he shared foreign policy views with Trump, who he said sees the destruction of Islamic State as the top priority.

Giuliani went on to say the Trump administration would work to reset relations with Russia and China.

Giuliani said Trump would prefer to engage with Beijing on economic issues such as trade. But shortly after taking office, Trump plans to label China a “currency manipulator”, a move that is likely to aggravate Sino-US relations, economic analysts have said.

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The former New York mayor said Obama had turned Russia into an adversary and Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t respect the president. Trump and Putin spoke on the telephone on Monday and pledged to work together on a number of issues.

At the same time, Trump is also said to be considering tapping Richard Grenell as US ambassador to the United Nations. He would be the first openly gay person to fill a cabinet-level foreign policy post. Grenell, known in part for aggressive criticism of rivals on Twitter, previously served as US spokesman at the UN under president George W. Bush.

The moves, among dozens under consideration from his transition team, follow an intense and extended backlash from Trump’s decision on Sunday to appoint Steve Bannon, a man celebrated by the white nationalist movement, to serve as his chief strategist and senior adviser.

Trump was also weighing whether to select Michigan GOP chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, a niece of chief Trump critic and 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney. She would be the second woman ever to lead the Republican National Committee — and the first in four decades.

“I’ll be interested in whatever Mr Trump wants,” McDaniel said on Monday, adding that she was planning to seek the Michigan GOP chairmanship again.

Appointing McDaniel to run the GOP’s political arm could be an effort to help the party heal the anger after a campaign in which Trump demeaned women. The appointment of Grenell, who has openly supported same-sex marriage, could begin to ease concerns by the gay community about Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s opposition to same-sex marriage during his time as Indiana governor.

The personnel moves under consideration were confirmed by people with direct knowledge of Trump’s thinking who were not authorised to publicly disclose private discussions. They stressed that the decisions were not final.

Regardless of who ends up in the top diplomatic positions of secretary of state and UN ambassador, the current administration has been trying to calm US allies.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Monday that the US could be relied upon to uphold mutual defence treaties with its allies - although the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal now looks unlikely.

On the campaign trail, Trump suggested some of America’s treaty allies are not pulling their weight and that Washington may not feel bound to defend them.

Rice sought to play down concerns.

“It is manifestly in the United States’ interests for these alliances to endure and to be a source of confidence to our partners and for them to understand that they don’t need to come from under the US umbrella,” she said.

While stressing that she did not want to speak for or speculate about Trump’s foreign policy, she sought to reassure key US allies in Nato and the Pacific Rim that they will not be abandoned.

“The weight of this office, and the weight of American global leadership, and the responsibilities that it entails, and the history that we share, the interests that endure, make it reasonable for our allies and partners to expect that the United States will uphold its obligations,” she said.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse