Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani pulled out of the secretary of state sweepstakes late last month, President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team said Friday, as Trump has widened his search to select the nation’s top diplomat.
“Rudy Giuliani is an extraordinarily talented and patriotic American. I will always be appreciative of his 24/7 dedication to our campaign after I won the primaries and for his extremely wise counsel,” Trump said in a written statement. “He is and continues to be a close personal friend, and as appropriate, I will call upon him for advice and can see an important place for him in the administration at a later date.”
The transition team said that he withdrew on Nov. 29, though aides had mentioned him as one of four contenders multiple times after that date.
Giuliani had previously publicly campaigned for the post, but on Friday he explained his decision to withdraw.
“The whole thing was becoming kind of very confusing and very difficult for the president-elect, and my desire to be in the Cabinet was great, but it wasn’t that great,” Giuliani said in a Fox News interview. “He had a lot of terrific candidates, and I thought I could play a better role being on the outside and continuing to be his close friend and adviser.”
Giuliani said secretary of state was the only position he had pursued and was not interested in others. “They’re down to the last two, three, four. So, it makes sense to just, you know, get out of the way,” he added.
Trump has considered a host of possibilities for secretary of state, historically a high-profile Cabinet position that is in the line of presidential succession. Giuliani’s chief rival at times was seen as former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who is still under consideration. Others who have interviewed include Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, retired Adm. James Stavridis, Sen. Bob Corker and former Ford CEO Alan Mulally.
A transition team aide put Romney, Tillerson and Corker as the front-runners for the job, adding that Giuliani’s self-promotion had hurt his case.
“Giuliani started doing interviews with himself, and that bothered people. You never want to be more controversial than the boss,” the aide said. “The issue with Trump is you need to close the deal when he’s in the mindset. He’s not in the Rudy mindset anymore.”
In the Fox News interview, Giuliani advised Trump not to pick Romney after the 2012 GOP presidential nominee disparaged Trump during the 2016 campaign.
“I thought Mitt went over the line in the things that he said about Donald Trump,” Giuliani said. “I mean, the president-elect is gonna make his decision. I will support that decision. But, you know, my advice would be: Mitt went just a little too far. You can make friends and make up, but … I would not see him as the candidate for the Cabinet.”
“I also think John Bolton has to be considered in that mix. John would probably be my choice,” he added, referring to the former U.N. ambassador. “I think John is terrific.”
Giuliani, 72, pulled himself out of the running for any position in the administration, the transition team said. Officially, the transition team is describing the decision as a result of Giuliani’s desire to return to his day job.
“Rudy would have been an outstanding member of the Cabinet in several roles, but I fully respect and understand his reasons for remaining in the private sector,” said President-elect Trump.
“This is not about me,” Giuliani said. “It is about what is best for the country and the new administration. Before I joined the campaign I was very involved and fulfilled by my work with my law firm and consulting firm, and I will continue that work with even more enthusiasm. From the vantage point of the private sector, I look forward to helping the president-elect in any way he deems necessary and appropriate.”
Giuliani’s allies cast the withdrawal as a gracious move by one of Trump’s most dedicated supporters.
Tony Carbonetti, a close Giuliani associate, said the only administration position that interested the former mayor was secretary of state.
“He didn’t want another job in the administration,” Carbonetti said. “I think when he realized it was becoming a distraction, he decided it was time to remove himself from consideration. I don’t think there was a lot more to it than that.”
“He told me several weeks ago [that] if he was offered the job, he was going to take it. He thought he’d do well at it,” said former New York police commissioner Bernie Kerik.
Romney’s emergence as a serious contender did not cause Giuliani to bow out, Carbonetti said: “That wasn’t the factor. When you’re going for a position like that, you want to go against everyone who is interested.”
“It’s pretty simple. They went in a different direction,” a Giuliani adviser said.
But several people close to the transition had expressed concern that Giuliani, who they said often seemed tired on the campaign trail, lacked the energy necessary for the rigors of a job that demands long hours of tedious discussions with foreign counterparts and thousands of miles of travel.
“It’s not what this office needs,” one transition source said of Giuliani.
Longtime associates of the former New York mayor, meanwhile, privately worried that Giuliani wasn’t his old self, and some wondered why he would even want to endure confirmation hearings that were likely to be highly contentious. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had vowed to block his nomination.
One close ally said that Giuliani had grown distant from a number of his old friends in New York politics, who struggled to understand why the former mayor had gone all-in for Trump. Others said they hardly recognized the man who delivered a hard-line speech at the Republican National Convention.
Trump’s incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus dismissed talk that Giuliani’s business ties were the reason for his withdrawal. Priebus said he “was vetted by our team for any possible conflicts and passed with flying colors.”
But others acknowledged that Giuliani’s paid work for foreign governments, which was under review by a growing team of lawyers at the firm Jones Day, had hurt his chances.
“Rudy’s just got so many complications” one transition aide said. “Probably about half the companies on Earth have paid him money for security advice.”
Fred Siegel, a Giuliani biographer who has known him for decades, said the former mayor was “enormously disappointed” about not getting the job.
“I think that Trump has got to, in a way, do something for Rudy because he came in so early and was so active and so loyal,” said another former Giuliani aide, who nonetheless questioned whether his onetime boss was up to the task of being America’s top diplomat.
“He’s a big boy,” said Kerik. “He is very close to the president-elect. I’m sure he’ll remain an adviser in a number of different capacities.”
Eliana Johnson contributed to this report.
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