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Trump's Transition Team Split on Secretary of State Choice

By VOA News November 25, 2016

Disagreements among members of President-elect Donald Trump's transition team about who should serve as his secretary of state have left the future national security role open until those differences can be resolved.

Rivals within the transition team are divided between 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

In a Twitter post Thursday, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway expressed the sentiments of the faction opposed to Romney.

Conway said she had received a "deluge" of concern from people who questioned the loyalty of Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who assailed Trump as a "phony" during the presidential campaign.

Messy confirmation fight

Those opposed to Giuliani as secretary of state contend his extensive business relationships with foreign interests would most likely lead to a messy Senate confirmation fight. They also question whether the 72-year-old has the stamina to meet the demands of international travel the job requires.

The president-elect, who has developed a reputation for changing his mind, has praised both Romney and Giuliani. Trump apparently told aides that Romney "looks the part" of secretary of state and is said to have spoken glowingly of Giuliani in recent discussions with associates.

Others who have been said to be in the running for the position include former CIA Director David Petraeus and Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. And recent reports have said retired Marine Corps General John Kelly is under consideration.

On Friday, Trump appointed Kathleen Troia "KT" McFarland to serve as deputy national security adviser and Donald F. McGahn to serve as assistant to the president and White House counsel. Neither position requires Senate confirmation.

Experience factor

In a statement, Trump cited McFarland's "tremendous experience and innate talent" and said McGahn "has a brilliant legal mind, excellent character and a deep understanding of constitutional law."

Having faced criticism about the inexperience of his initial picks, Trump finds in McFarland someone who previously worked under three presidents, although none since Ronald Reagan. McGahn, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, served as Trump's attorney during the campaign and was one of the few members of the Republican establishment to embrace the outsider candidate.

McGahn will have the task of untangling potential conflicts of interest that the New York businessman's presidency may present. Trump, who has never held public office, has real estate and leisure holdings all over the world, sparking concerns that his investments could color his decision-making in office. He has said that he will hand over day-to-day responsibilities of running his company to his children, but he has resisted calls to place his assets in a blind trust.

Trump also has expressed interest in finding a way to bypass a federal anti-nepotism law in order to give his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a formal White House role.

Along with providing guidance on ethics issues, the White House counsel's office advises the president on the legality of proposed executive orders and legislation passed by Congress and vets potential administration appointees, including Supreme Court justices.

That's it until Monday

No more announcements on administration jobs are expected until Monday. On that day, Trump is set to meet with eight more prospective administration hires, transition spokesman Sean Spicer said. The group includes several business leaders, Pennsylvania Representative Lou Barletta, and David Clarke, the Wisconsin sheriff who is an aggressive opponent of the Black Lives Matter movement.

For now, Trump's transition team indicated he was focused on the challenges of governing.

Since arriving at his Palm Beach estate Wednesday, they said, the president-elect has spoken to the prime ministers of Greece, Hungary and Sweden, along with the presidents of Panama and Slovenia.

He is expected to return to his New York City home on Sunday.

As Trump spent the Thanksgiving Day holiday Thursday with his family at his Florida resort, he took to Twitter to say he was working to fulfill a campaign promise to create and preserve jobs. The billionaire real estate mogul said he was "working hard ... trying to get Carrier A.C. Company to stay in the U.S. MAKING PROGRESS - Will know soon!"

The air conditioner manufacturer responded on Twitter by saying it has had "discussions with the incoming administration" but had "nothing to announce at this time."

Carrier said earlier this year it would move 1,400 jobs from the Midwestern state of Indiana to Mexico within three years.

Some information for this report came from AP and Reuters.

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