After Sunday’s public outing of a clear internal struggle within Team Trump regarding the Secretary of State nomination, the President-elect stepped up his search for a potential nominee.
On Monday, Donald Trump’s focus seems to have shifted to retired General and former CIA head David Petraeus who the President-elect repeatedly praised during the campaign. Petraeus was sentenced to two years probation and fined $100,000 last year for the unauthorized removal and retention of classified information.
The former general also admitted that he shared classified information with his biographer with whom he was having an affair. The scandal resulted in Petraeus’s ouster from the CIA in 2012.
Trump is meeting with the former CIA chief in Trump Tower amid some very public infighting among Trump’s close advisers about who to pick for the post. The floating of Mitt Romney as a potential nominee for Secretary of State has fueled an extraordinary public lobbying campaign against the former Massachusetts governor. The President-elect is scheduled to again meet with Romney on Tuesday.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former campaign manager and current senior adviser, appeared on multiple Sunday news shows and tweeted on the potential Romney pick saying that “It’s just breathtaking in scope and intensity: of the blowback that she is seeing, going so far as to say that most Trump supporters see a Romney pick as a “betrayal.”
“In the last four years, I mean, has he been around the globe doing something on behalf of the U.S. of which we’re unaware? Did he go and intervene in Syria where they’re having a massive humanitarian crisis?” she said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’
Conway’s statement was striking not just in the fact that she was publicly going against the President-elect, but also substantively in that she is serving a President-elect who has no diplomatic or foreign policy experience and who is not interested in learning about it either. It is also striking in light of the fact that Conway seems to be supportive of Trump’s pick for U.N. Ambassador, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who has widely been labeled ‘a foreign policy novice.’
While the President-elect is inclined to pick Petraeus, who has also been floated as a potential Secretary of Defense, he reportedly is concerned with having two generals leading the State Department and the Pentagon. General James Mattis has been under consideration to lead the Department of Defense.
The former CIA chief’s prior mishandling of classified documents — and the fact that he is still on probation for his criminal conviction — is unlikely to be an obstacle to him being offered a top post in Trump’s Cabinet. The future Commander in Chief repeatedly mentioned the prosecution of the former general comparing it to the lack of legal action against Hillary Clinton.
“Just based on his public statements, I think [Trump] sees Petraeus as a good man who made a mistake, who did a fraction of what other people have done and received a lot more punishment,” said a source who has advised the transition team.
In all, Petraeus and Romney are the obvious choices in terms of experience and gravitas when it comes to unifying the party. The hardliners inside Camp Trump favor former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, while ideological conservatives are more inclined toward John Bolton, the former Ambassador to the U.N.