Questions cloud Giuliani push

Questions cloud Giuliani push
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One of the top contenders to be President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpRussian sanctions will boomerang States, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash A Presidents Day perspective on the nature of a free press MORE’s secretary of State would enter the position with less experience than any predecessor in decades, raising anxiety among some foreign policy experts.

Rudy Giuliani, the outspoken former mayor of New York, was one of Trump’s most loyal allies during his campaign. He’s said to be at the top of Trump’s list for Foggy Bottom but has virtually no foreign policy experience.


Questions about his ties as a private citizen to foreign entities is another potential problem.

Giuliani would fit within Trump's promise to place relative outsiders at senior posts throughout government. And his experience running the city of New York and as a federal prosecutor could bode well for his capacity to manage large institutions such as the State Department.

His views on Muslim extremism and his pugilistic brand of politics could also be seen as pluses by Trump and Stephen Bannon, the former Breitbart News executive set to be a senior adviser to the new GOP president.

While mayor, Giuliani capitalized on the United Nations’ location in Manhattan as an occasional political foil.

He needled diplomats about their street parking privileges and in 1995 had Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, ejected from the Lincoln Center during a concert celebrating the U.N.’s 50th anniversary. Giuliani has characterized the Arafat incident as a stand against the Palestinian violence against Israelis.

Yet this anti-statesman approach has won Giuliani barbs from members of both parties, and many Democrats would be almost certain to pull out all the stops to block his confirmation.

Critics argue he could be in over his head.

“You’re going to take a president with no experience and you’re going to have a secretary of State with no experience and you’re going to have a coherent foreign policy? I don’t think so,” said Dennis Jett, a former diplomat who is now an international affairs professor at Pennsylvania State University.

It’s not entirely clear that Giuliani, who met with the president-elect at Trump Tower multiple times this week, is the top contender for the State Department job.

He does seem almost certain to get a prized position, however.

Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, said Thursday on “CBS This Morning” that Giuliani is “a leading contender for any number of positions.”

“He's incredibly loyal to Donald Trump. He was very important during the campaign,” she added.

Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton is also rumored to be a top contender for the State Department post, in what would be a more traditional pick. Yet Bolton is no less controversial than Giuliani, given a history of bellicose rhetoric and a famously gruff demeanor.

Giuliani has never displayed a deep love of international affairs, as can be typical of top U.S. diplomats, nor has he risen through the ranks of federal government.

“I have friends all over the world,” Giuliani told The New York Times in an interview published this week. “When you become the mayor, you become interested in foreign policy. When I left, my major work was legal and security around the world.”

As mayor of New York during 9/11, his political life has been profoundly affected by Islamic extremists, and he appears ready to adopt a muscular approach toward Muslim nations. Along with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who is reportedly a top contender for national security adviser, Giuliani, could dramatically refocus the U.S.’s engagement with countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

“ISIS, short-term, I believe, is our greatest danger,” Giuliani said during an appearance at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council on Monday, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “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’s leadership abilities are a trait that could help him at the State Department and in international gatherings.

“His public persona is one thing and that will be disquieting to many,” said Ronald Neumann, a longtime diplomat who now leads the American Academy of Diplomacy.

“But he also has some serious organizational experience. And after that, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

“Knowing substance is important, but no secretary of State is going to know the substance of every place we have an issue, let alone every place we’re going to have an issue on our watch,” he added.

If confirmed, Giuliani would head to work helping to recruit dozens of senior and mid-level State Department officials who would be responsible for the day-to-day work of diplomacy.

Those selections could be more influential than anything Giuliani himself does.

Giuliani’s confirmation, however, would be far from guaranteed.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Pelosi names first-ever House whistleblower ombudsman director The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (R-Ky.) has promised to “do whatever I can to stop” Giuliani or Bolton from become secretary of State, criticizing their hawkish views and support for the war in Iraq.

Giuliani has also faced intense scrutiny for consulting work he did after leaving the mayor’s office in New York.

Among other clients, Giuliani’s firm has represented Wall Street banks, major pharmaceutical companies, the government of Qatar and TransCanada, which is building the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that had been under review at the State Department.

The most controversial, however, is easily an Iranian opposition organization that had previously sided with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and was listed as a terrorist group while it paid Giuliani to give supportive speeches. The organization, known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or the M.E.K., was taken off of the State Department’s terror list in 2012 after an intense lobbying campaign that included advertisements on the sides of buses in downtown Washington.

Trump could lose just two Republican votes for his nominees, assuming Democrats join forces in opposition and a Republican wins a runoff election in Louisiana. If Paul is one opponent, the margin slims to just one.

But Paul promises he’s not alone.

“Several” Senate Republicans would be similarly “uncomfortable” with either a Giuliani or Bolton nomination, the Kentucky lawmaker said.