As President-elect Donald Trump weighs his choice for secretary of state, he is facing competing schools of thought in his close circle of advisers over the wisdom of selecting Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani or someone else for the key position.
Advocates for GOP former presidential nominee Romney, who has international renown from his time running the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games, say his selection would send a signal of reassurance to the country and show flexibility in Trump’s choices for his administration. Some are worried that Giuliani, whose global business interests have drawn scrutiny, could have trouble getting confirmed.
But some Trump loyalists like Newt Gingrich say picking Romney would be a big mistake, given his sharp public criticism of Trump.
There are voices in the Trump circle suggesting he look at other candidates, such as retired Gen. David Petraeus, who said Wednesday he would be open to a job in the Trump administration. Petraeus is highly regarded by leaders in both parties on Capitol Hill, but his 2015 guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information could complicate an appointment.
The competing views came to light in ABC News interviews and conversations with multiple officials in the Trump transition, who have spoken on condition of anonymity. Public comments from several Trump associates close to the process have also suggested divides.
“No decision has been made yet on that position, and ultimately that decision will be up to the president-elect. He’s looking at a number of very highly qualified potential choices there,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller told reporters Wednesday.
Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee have been outspoken advocates for Giuliani and are Romney skeptics.
“I think there are huge advantages to Rudy Giuliani. Frankly, I think that if you want someone who is going to go out and be a very tough negotiator for America and represent American interest in the way that Trump campaigned, I think that probably Rudy is a better pick and has the right temperament,” Gingrich told reporters at Trump Tower in New York City earlier this week.
“Nice to have meeting -- but no admin spot; Mitt said Trump was con man; phony. That’s insult to Trump voters,” Huckabee tweeted after Trump’s meeting with Romney last weekend. He later deleted the message from his account.
“The only thing that would surprise me more than Donald Trump offering the position would be that Mitt Romney would take it. If he does, I have to question why would he do it, because, I mean, if you don’t believe that the person who offered you a position is a person that you can trust, you think is a fraud, a con man, you have to think, ‘Boy, his ambition is so great that he would take a position from someone for whom he holds utter contempt,’” Huckabee said on Fox News Wednesday. “I can’t imagine that makes sense.”
A representative for Romney did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment on whether he would accept a post in the Trump administration or if he had been offered a job.
Miller said several options remain on the table as Trump retreats to his Florida estate for Thanksgiving.
“What’s really going to drive the president-elect is the judgment and decision-making strength that he looks at with potential applicants to any position, whether it’s this or any other Cabinet-level-type position,” he said. “I think they’ll be looking for things like chemistry, experience, a similar vision in what the president-elect and vice-president-elect are trying to do with this administration, and ultimately whoever the president-elect does pick will be somebody of absolute top caliber.”