As U.S. President-elect Donald Trump works out who will be a part of his administration, sources familiar with the situation say former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is a leading candidate to be the country’s next secretary of state.
Giuliani has experience as a federal prosecutor, but does not have the foreign policy experience typical of those who have held the post.
John Kerry chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before taking over the State Department. Condoleezza Rice was President George W. Bush’s national security advisor. Colin Powell was also a national security advisor and also held senior military posts. Madeleine Albright was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
But Giuliani was a fierce supporter of Trump’s campaign and the two men have long known each other.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another top Trump supporter, told Fox News on Monday that Giuliani might prefer being attorney general or leading the Department of Homeland Security, but that it would be “fabulous” if he were named secretary of state.
“I have no information, but if Rudy wants it, he’ll get it,” he said.
Gingrich added that Giuliani would bring necessary reform to the State Department. The other candidate reportedly being considered is former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, who served in that post under Bush and also spent years in two different senior State Department roles.
Trump is meeting Tuesday with Vice President-elect Mike Pence to continue reviewing potential appointees.
Gingrich mentioned Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions along with Giuliani as Trump’s closest surrogates, and suggested that with a background in the Justice Department Sessions would be “great” as the next attorney general.
Trump has already named Republican party chairman Reince Priebus as his chief of staff, a position typically in charge of managing operations at the White House and forging the president’s agenda.
But his choice of Stephen Bannon as his top strategist has drawn criticism from rights groups, Democrats and some Republicans. Bannon is celebrated by white nationalists and prior to joining Trump’s campaign ran the far-right website Breitbart.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said picking Bannon shows Trump “remains committed to the hateful and divisive vision that defined his campaign.”
“After winning the presidency but losing the popular vote, President-elect Trump must try to bring Americans together — not continue to fan the flames of division and bigotry,” she said.
John Weaver, a long-time Republican strategist, wrote on Twitter: “The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office. Be very vigilant America.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said his group opposes the Bannon appointment because he and “alt-right are so hostile to core American values.”
In Bannon’s defense, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway called him a “brilliant tactician” and noted that Bannon served as a U.S. naval officer and has a graduate degree from Harvard University.
Speaking to reporters Monday on Capitol Hill, Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy also defended Trump’s choice, saying he “has a right to select who he thinks is best.”
Trump laid out some of his initial priorities for when he assumes power on January 20, saying that he will keep his campaign pledges to deport 2 million to 3 million undocumented immigrants in the country who have criminal records, and build a wall along the country’s southern border with Mexico to halt the stream of migrants into the United States.
He made it clear he plans, as he said during the campaign, to pursue a right-wing agenda, naming Supreme Court justices who are against abortion and favor gun rights. But he said he was “fine” with another Supreme Court decision opposed by many conservatives, one that legalized same-sex marriage.
VOA’s Tina Trinh contributed to this report from New York.