Giuliani emerges as favorite for Trump's secretary of state

Rudy Giuliani was a top Trump adviser in the campaign.
Rudy Giuliani was a top Trump adviser in the campaign.
Published Nov. 15, 2016

WASHINGTON — Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani emerged Monday as a leading candidate to be secretary of state, according to people familiar with the deliberations in the 26th-floor office in Trump Tower where President-elect Donald Trump was ensconced throughout the day. That would make Giuliani, a contentious former prosecutor, the president's emissary to a turbulent world.

The intense jockeying inside Trump's transition suggested that several of his highest-profile campaign advisers were locked in a competition to lead the new administration's foreign policy, national security and crime-fighting agencies.

Trump is also considering naming Giuliani or Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to be the nation's next attorney general, the New York Times reported, citing people familiar with the discussions who asked not to be identified. But Giuliani said Monday night at a Wall Street Journal election forum that he would not be going to the Justice Department. And if Sessions, a relentless critic of illegal immigration, is nominated for attorney general, he can expect opponents to bring up the fact that he was once rejected for a federal judgeship after testimony that he had made racist comments.

Giuliani seems more eager to be the nation's top diplomat, the New York Times reported, though John Bolton, a fierce foreign policy hawk who served as ambassador to the United Nations and undersecretary of state under George W. Bush, is also under consideration. Richard Grenell, who was Bolton's spokesman at the U.N., is being considered as ambassador there.

People with knowledge of the process described a series of chaotic discussions and said Trump might also choose Giuliani or Sessions to lead the Department of Homeland Security, though neither has expressed interest in that job.

Even as Trump worked to fill his administration, his team had yet to begin the real work of transitioning to the helm of the government, because they had not completed the necessary paperwork.

White House officials said Monday that Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who was in charge of Trump's transition team until Friday, had signed the necessary memorandum of understanding that ensured confidentiality. But Christie was dismissed Friday and replaced by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, invalidating the agreement and leaving the transition process in a state of suspended animation.

At a news conference before leaving on a weeklong trip to Greece, Germany and Peru, President Barack Obama appeared to be doing his best to give Trump space as he begins forming his administration. He also continued his efforts to persuade Trump to preserve his legacy, pointedly reminding him that repealing the Affordable Care Act could be politically unpopular and that ripping up global agreements like the Iran nuclear deal or the Paris climate accord would be difficult.

"It's important for us to let him make his decisions," Obama said. "The American people will judge over the course of the next couple of years whether they like what they see."

Also Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump spoke over the phone to discuss future efforts to improve the U.S.-Russian ties, the Kremlin and Trump's office said.

The Kremlin said that Putin congratulated Trump on his victory and expressed Russia's readiness to "establish a partner-like dialogue with the new administration on the basis of equality, mutual respect and non-interference in domestic relations."

Trump's office said that Putin called him to "offer his congratulations on winning a historic election."

"During the call, the two leaders discussed a range of issues including the threats and challenges facing the United States and Russia, strategic economic issues and the historical U.S.-Russia relationship that dates back over 200 years," it said.

In its readout of the phone call, the Kremlin added that both Putin and Trump agreed that the U.S.-Russian ties are in "extremely unsatisfactory" condition now.

If Trump taps Grenell as U.S. 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 U.S. spokesman at the U.N. under President George W. Bush.

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 told the Associated Press on Monday, adding that she was planning to seek the Michigan GOP chairmanship again.

Information from the Washington Post and the Associated Press was used in this report.