Trump mulls top diplomat pick, plans victory tour
DONALD Trump stepped up his contentious search for a secretary of state before he ditches cabinet interviews later this week to lead a victory tour kicking off in the swing state of Ohio.
The billionaire’s nominee for the job will be America’s public face to the rest of the world, the person who will succeed John Kerry, head up a department of 70,000 staff and lead the largest diplomatic operation in the world.
The prospective candidates touted most frequently have been erstwhile Mr Trump critic and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, celebrated general yet scandal-clad former CIA director David Petraeus, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Aides say Mr Trump is ahead of schedule in unveiling picks, mostly recently fierce Obamacare critic Congressman and former surgeon Tom Price as health secretary and Elaine Chao as transportation secretary.
But all eyes are on a trio of key posts that remain to be decided: the secretaries of defence, state and treasury, for which US media reported that Mr Trump was expected to name former Goldman Sachs investment banker Steven Munchin.
The Wall Street Journal also reported, citing a transition official, that Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor known for taking over ailing industrial firms and selling them for a big profit, would be named as commerce secretary.
For the top diplomat brief, Mr Trump held talks with Senator Corker, considered a safe pick without the baggage of Mr Petraeus and unfettered by Mr Romney’s history of disloyalty to the billionaire.
Mr Corker, 64, said after the meeting that he thought Mr Trump had narrowed the choice “to a very small group of people” and it was important that the president-elect selects somebody on the same wave length. He said Mr Trump did not discuss a timeline for announcing his pick.
Mr Romney, 69, a favourite among establishment Republicans, dined with Mr Trump on November 29 for a second face-to-face meeting in 10 days but some among the inner circle are horrified at the prospect of rewarding with such a plum job an outspoken critic who castigated the real estate tycoon during the campaign as a “fraud” and a “conman”.
His distrust of Russia – at odds with a president-elect who has spoken admiringly of Vladimir Putin – would also reassure establishment Americans.
Mr Petraeus, who met the president-elect at Trump Tower in New York, has by far the most foreign policy experience of the lot.
“Very impressed!” tweeted Mr Trump just minutes after the meeting. The 64-year-old scholar-warrior commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, was credited with masterminding the Iraq surge and became head of the CIA in 2011.
Mr Giuliani, who campaigned tirelessly for Mr Trump, has been another contender, but scrutiny over business dealings has raised questions that could disqualify him and his penchant for rhetoric may sit uneasily with becoming chief diplomat.
With senior cabinet nominations still pending, Mr Trump and vice president-elect Mike Pence are scheduled to lead a post-election rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, tomorrow.
Mr Trump was the first Republican nominee to win the state since 2004.