Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has emerged as the favorite to serve as secretary of state in Donald Trump’s incoming administration, a senior Trump official said on Monday — another indication the president-elect is putting a prize on loyalty as he narrows down his Cabinet picks.
The official, who was not authorized to speak on the record and requested anonymity, said there was no real competition for the job and that it was Giuliani’s if he wanted it. But a second official cautioned that John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, remained in contention for the job.
Giuliani, 72, would be an out-of-box choice to lead the State Department. A former mayor, federal prosecutor and top Trump adviser, he lacks extensive foreign policy experience. Known for his hard-line law-and-order views and brusque manner, he would set a very different tone from previous holders of the job, including Trump’s ex-rival Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.
Bolton has years of federal government experience, but he has also raised eyebrows with some of his hawkish stances, including a 2015 op-ed in The New York Times in which he advocated bombing Iran to halt the country’s development of nuclear weapons.
A spokeswoman for Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his interest in the job. But the former mayor said Monday night at a gathering of CEOs sponsored by the Wall Street Journal that he “won’t be attorney general” in Trump’s administration — a job for which he’d long been seen as a top contender.
Asked about the secretary of state speculation, Giuliani said that Bolton “would be a very good choice.” But asked if there was anyone better, he replied with a mischievous smile: “Maybe me, I don’t know.”
His inauguration just 66 days away, however, Trump focused on building his team and speaking to foreign leaders. He remained sequestered in Trump Tower in New York.
Internal deliberations about staffing come a day after Trump made overtures to warring Republican circles by appointing Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus as his White House chief of staff.
Bannon, a former media executive led a website that appealed to the so-called “alt-right” — a movement often associated with efforts on the far right to preserve “white identity,” oppose multiculturalism and defend Western values.
President Barack Obama avoided any direct criticism of Trump’s personnel moves during an afternoon news conference, suggesting that the new president deserves “room to staff up.”
“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.”