Trump's Cabinet: Major policy hawks in the running

Names being floated for top posts - Giuliani, Bolton, Sessions - are all viewed as hardliners

Mr Giuliani is a leading candidate for secretary of state in the Trump administration.
Mr Giuliani is a leading candidate for secretary of state in the Trump administration.PHOTO: NYTIMES

Speculation is intensifying in Washington over President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet choices, with latest reports saying former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani is a leading candidate for secretary of state.

Other names being floated for the role of the United States' top diplomat include former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is seen as a contender for secretary of defence or homeland security. All three are major policy hawks.

When asked about prospective candidates for the secretary of state position at an event on Monday, Mr Giuliani mentioned Mr Bolton. Asked if there was anyone better, he replied with a mischievous smile: "Maybe me, I don't know."

Mr Giuliani, 72, a former prosecutor, was also seen as a potential attorney-general, but he ruled that out. During his time as mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001, he used draconian methods to clean up the crime-ridden city, and was criticised for attacks on freedom of speech.

In the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the city, Mr Giuliani drew praise for coordinating the response.

He has little foreign policy experience but at the Monday event, he said that defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was the President-elect's top foreign policy priority. And on Russia's global influence, he said: "Russia thinks it is a military competitor; it really isn't.

"It is our unwillingness under Obama to even threaten the use of our military that makes Russia so powerful."

The other man in the running for secretary of state is Mr Bolton, 67, who held high-level positions in three different Republican administrations from 1998 to 2006, and is now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He is known for his great attention to detail. "His advice to me was to read every e-mail," recalled a Washington analyst who once worked for him.

Mr Bolton once advocated that the United States bomb Iran. He supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq by then President George W. Bush, and still stands by it even after the war has been discredited for wrongly assuming Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Analysts have described him to The Straits Times as "arrogant and chauvinistic" on the US' global role.

In a commentary last Saturday on the news site Triblive, Mr Bolton wrote: "Eight years of Barack Obama's policies have left the United States in worldwide jeopardy on many fronts."

Among the "gravest challenges" facing the US, he listed radical Islamist terrorism; nuclear proliferation primarily by Iran and North Korea; Russia's President Vladimir Putin "on the prowl"; and China's "belligerent assertion of territorial claims in the South and East China Seas, its extensive military build-up, and its disdain for international commitments in trade and other fields".

Senator Sessions, said to be in the running for homeland security chief or secretary of defence, was the first senator to back Mr Trump's candidacy, and became one of the tycoon's most trusted advisers. On Monday, the website Politico quoted him as saying that he "would be pleased to consider" a Cabinet post in the Trump administration.

The 69-year-old has in the past been accused of being racist, which he has vehemently denied.

Senator Sessions is known as a hardliner on immigration. Over a decade ago, he advocated a reinforced wall or fence on the southern border with Mexico to keep out unwanted migrants - an idea that became one of Mr Trump's flagship campaign promises.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2016, with the headline 'Trump's Cabinet: Major policy hawks in the running'. Subscribe