Rudy Giuliani, former New York City mayor, and John Bolton, former ambassador to UN, have emerged as leading contenders for the position of president-elect Donald Trump’s top diplomat as his secretary of state.
Giuliani had earlier stated there was no one more qualified than him for the position of attorney general - he is a former prosecutor - but he has now said he wants to be the next secretary of state, a surprising choice if he gets the job.
As a prosecutor and mayor of New York City, which brought him international recognition during the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and the sobriquet America’s Mayor, Giuliani has held no foreign policy or security positions.
But auditioning publicly for the position at a dinner on Monday, he repeatedly said he wanted the job, and went on to state that the Trump administration’s first foreign policy goal would be destroy the Islamic State, also called ISIS.
“ISIS, short-term I believe, is the greatest danger and not because ISIS is in Iraq and in Syria, but because ISIS did something al Qaeda never did - ISIS was able to spread itself around the world,” Giuliani said.
Giuliani is part of Trump’s innermost circle, and frequently accompanied him on the campaign trail. He introduced Trump at rallies and speeches and kept the then nominee on message, focussed on the task at hand.
“If Rudy wants it, he'll get it (the secretary of state position),” Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who is also a member of the Trump inner circle, told a TV anchor. He was himself in the running for the post in the initial stages of speculation.
Bolton, the second strongest contender, is a conservative diplomat known for hawkish positions and remarks — he called for bombing Iran in 2015. He is also a strident critic of President Barack Obama.
Trump’s secretary of state will have the task, as envisioned by the president-elect, of steering the US towards a more muscular presence in the world based on an expanded military, but without embroiling it in conflicts.
Others in the race are Senate foreign relations committee chairman Bob Corker, former US ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, retired general Stanley McChrystal and, in some lists, Gingrich.
Trump will be going through the list, and others, with Mike Pence, the vice-president-elect who is heading the transition team, at Trump Tower on Tuesday but a announcement was not immediately expected.
Trump has already announced Reince Priebus and Steven Bannon as his chief of staff, the most powerful White Hous position controlling access to the president, and chief strategist and senior counsel.
But efforts are underway to fill the rest of the top positions such as secretaries of state, defence, treasury, interior and health, attorney general, director of homeland security and the national security adviser.
Senator Jeff Sessions, an early Trump supporter and an immigration hawk, is the leading contender for the post of defence secretary, along with retired general Michael Flynn and Stephen Hadley, a former national security adviser.
The race for treasury is led by long-time Trump friends Steven Mnuchin and Tom Barrack, and Sessions and Chris Christie are in contention for the post of attorney general, according to some lists.