Donald Trump’s short list for secretary of state is getting longer.
Two new candidates are retired Adm. James G. Stavridis and Rex W. Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil. Both are expected to meet with Trump this week, according to sources familiar with the transition. At one point during the summer, Stavridis was mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick for Hillary Clinton.
The president-elect, who teased that “almost all” of his remaining Cabinet choices will be named this week, will interview more secretary of state candidates, senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said Sunday.
“It is true that he’s broadened the search,” Conway said during a press briefing inside Trump Tower, confirming earlier comments from Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
Trump’s transition team last week identified former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker and former CIA Director David Petraeus as the top four contenders.
“That list is expanding because at the moment, there are no — there is not a finite list of finalists only because he will interview with additional candidates early this week,” Conway said, later clarifying that the short list of candidates stands at “more than four.”
“But who knows how many finalists there will be,” she said. “It’s a big decision, and nobody should rush through it.”
The widening search for secretary of state suggests none of the initial final four candidates has stood out to Trump as the clear choice. Romney has been mocked by Conway and others, Giuliani has been bogged down by reports of foreign entanglements, senators have expressed support for Corker but Trump hasn’t been as vocal, and tapping Petraeus would be treated as hypocritical, given how aggressively the president-elect went after Democratic nomineeClinton on the trail for her handling of classified information as secretary of state.
Conway downplayed the expansion, though, remarking that all that has changed since Trump narrowed his list to four is “a lot of qualified people.”
“There’s many qualified people who have expressed an interest in serving,” she said. “I think one thing that really strikes us — and this is not unique to this president, who is unique — but there are a number of people that we may not have thought wanted to leave their very lucrative private industry positions to go and serve the government, and they are coming forth now and expressing interest, and it’s exciting, frankly, to at least get their counsel.”
Pence had hinted earlier Sunday in an interview with host Chuck Todd on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that the secretary of state list would grow.
“With regard to secretary of state, we’ve been winnowing the list, but it might grow a little bit,” he said. “I think to talk to the president-elect is to know he’s simply looking for the best men and women to advance the agenda that we know will make America great again.”
Asked what it is about the current field that has prompted Trump to broaden his search, Pence argued that expanding the short list isn’t a reflection of the field.
“I think everyone that he’s talked to and has been talked about, whether it be Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney or General Petraeus or Senator Corker, John Bolton and others, bring extraordinary background and qualities to this,” Pence said.
“But I think you’re going to see the president-elect continue that process, to ensure that as he has a vision for really reengaging the world with an America-first agenda, advancing America’s interests in the world economically and diplomatically that he’s going to make sure that he has the right person in that role just like he is in every role.”
POLITICO reported Friday that Trump’s team would be closely monitoring Petraeus’ interview with ABC’s “This Week” to see how he would handle concerns over his possible nomination.
The retired general and former CIA director was candid in his Sunday interview, acknowledging that it was a mistake to share classified information with his biographer and admitting to lying, albeit unknowingly at the time, he said, to the FBI.
“I made a mistake. I have, again, acknowledged it,” Petraeus said. “Folks will have to factor that in and determine whether that is indeed disqualifying or not.”
As for whether Petraeus is even nominated to head the State Department, Pence said Trump will “factor the totality of General Petraeus’ career in making that decision.”
Conway, who has voiced her opposition to Romney, stressed that America’s chief diplomat “is an incredibly important position for any president to fill” and said Trump is “very fortunate to have interest among serious men and women” who understand their primary role “would be to implement and adhere to the president-elect’s America-first foreign policy — if you will, his view of the world.”
“So, he continues to — he continues to talk to different people,” Conway said.
Reince Priebus, Trump’s incoming chief of staff, said while “things are moving fast,” the choice for secretary of state “is just taking a little bit longer, and I think it’s just fine.”
“Everything doesn’t have to happen all at once, but he’s taking his time, making a smart decision. And we’ll see where that goes,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another vocal Romney critic, praised Trump for his patience, crediting him specifically for not rushing to choose Romney or hastily opposing him, either.
But Gingrich noted that as tough and deliberately aggressive as he has been against choosing Romney, “I’ve gotten no blowback from anybody, including Reince.”
“There’s a sense of you’re allowed to have your own opinion. This is like ‘The Apprentice,’” he said. “When we get to a decision, we ought to all be on the same team. But until that decision’s made, you know, it’s a fair conversation.”
Gingrich insisted he will support Trump’s decision, even if it’s Romney, but stressed that the real estate mogul needs “to build a real team.”
“He can’t possibly do it by himself, and he’s showing that he understands that,” Gingrich said.
The vocal anti-Romney campaign could ultimately prove fruitful, though. As Gingrich said, Trump generally gives more weight to what people tell him in person, but “on occasion, it helps to reinforce that on TV.”
Alex Isenstadt contributed to this report.
Powered by WPeMatico