In US GOP divided over choice for state department

While Giuliani has been very public about his intentions — angering Trump at times with his statements — Romney has been more reserved

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US President-elect Donald Trump "won his battle in spite of media attacks," Kamza's mayor Xhelal Mziu told AFP play

US President-elect Donald Trump "won his battle in spite of media attacks," Kamza's mayor Xhelal Mziu told AFP

(Getty/AFP/File)
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Rival factions of Republicans are locked in an increasingly caustic and public battle to influence President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of state, leaving a prominent hole in an otherwise quickly formed national security team that is unlikely to be filled until next week at the earliest.

The debate inside Trump’s wide circle of formal and informal advisers — pitting supporters of one leading contender, Mitt Romney, against those of another, Rudy Giuliani — has led to the kind of dramatic airing of differences that characterized Trump’s unconventional and often squabbling campaign team.

And it traces the outlines of the enduring split in the Republican Party between establishment figures who scoffed at Trump’s chances of victory and the grass-roots insurgents who backed him as a disrupter of the Washington power structure.

The most publicly vocal faction has been the group opposed to Romney, which has questioned whether he would be loyal after his searing criticism of Trump during the campaign. But Trump himself has told aides that he believes Romney “looks the part” and would make a fine secretary of state, a senior Trump official said Thursday. Trump, who is always difficult to read and is capable of changing his mind at any minute, has also praised Giuliani in recent conversations with acquaintances.

Even Thanksgiving did not provide a reprieve from the extraordinary public efforts to cast doubt on Romney. Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said on Twitter that she had received “a deluge” of concern from people warning against picking Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts governor.

Those raising concerns about Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and an early and loyal supporter of Trump, have said they fear that his tangle of foreign business ties could lead to a damaging confirmation battle. They also worry that Giuliani lacks the vigor for the globe-trotting job.

Both Romney and Giuliani have made their interest in the role known to Trump. But while Giuliani has been very public about his intentions — angering Trump at times with his statements — Romney has been more reserved.

The split over the two men has opened the door for other candidates. One potential pick Trump and his team have entertained is Gen. John Kelly of the Marines, a former head of the U.S. Southern Command. Others are David H. Petraeus, the retired general and former CIA director, and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., according to two people involved in the process.

Asked about Trump’s deliberations, a spokesman, Jason Miller, said in an email Thursday, “The president-elect is meeting with a number of well-qualified potential selections for this important position who share his America First foreign policy — some of whom have been made public and others who have not — and the president-elect will make public his decision when he has finalized it.”

Romney would represent a departure from the hard-liners Trump has already picked for his national security team. Aides like Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, have expressed doubts about Romney’s loyalty given his denunciation of Trump as a “phony” and a “fraud.” Bannon and others have told colleagues they fear that a State Department under Romney could turn into something of a rogue agency.

Asked to explain her Twitter post about Romney, Conway said that while she trusted Trump’s judgment, she found it notable that the most outrage directed at Trump from the party’s grass-roots “is not against something he said but something he may do.” In another post, she said that being “loyal” was an important characteristic for a secretary of state.

Others hoping to catch Trump’s ear have taken their message to a place they know he is likely to absorb it: cable news. Joe Scarborough, the MSNBC host, who has spoken with Trump about his concerns that Giuliani would not be confirmed by the Senate, has taken to making those arguments on a daily basis on his morning show, which he knows Trump watches.

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