RomneyWatch™: Giuliani reportedly out of running for State job, Tillerson moving up the list; Update: Rudy withdraws

posted at 4:01 pm on December 9, 2016 by Allahpundit

Petraeus seems to be out. Rudy’s reportedly now out too. Only one top-shelf contender remains. One word: Mittmentum.

No, actually, I think Romney’s probably been excluded now too, although Trump can’t reveal that yet lest it dim the suspense for next week’s rose ceremony nomination announcement.

Poor Rudy. Secretary of State was famously the only job in the administration that he wanted in return for months of campaigning for Trump. In the end, he had to endure the ignominy of Trump confidant Joe Scarborough touting him for, um, ambassador to Italy on MSNBC today instead. Could be that Trump wanted him at State but had to make a hard calculation that between Rand Paul’s opposition to Giuliani and the ethical concerns his business dealings in the Middle East would raise during the confirmation process, he simply couldn’t get through the Senate. Whatever the reason, if you believe Gabriel Sherman’s reporting this is a defeat for Steve Bannon, who supported Giuliani for the position. It’s also another surprising defeat for Trump loyalists generally: At the moment, neither Giuliani, Chris Christie, nor Newt Gingrich has a job in the new administration despite them being three of the most high-profile advocates within the GOP for Trump this year. Gingrich insists he’ll have some sort of general portfolio focused on streamlining government, but we’ll see what that amounts to in practice.

Is this really a defeat for Bannon, though, or a temporary setback? Here’s more from Sherman:

The Priebus–Bannon power struggle is playing out most prominently in Trump’s search for a secretary of State. According to sources, Bannon has advocated for naming Rudy Giuliani, while Priebus has made the case for a more moderate choice. When concerns were raised about Giuliani’s business conflicts hurting his chances to be confirmed by the Senate, Bannon lobbied Trump not to settle for Mitt Romney and to expand the search for new candidates to include ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, and Senator Bob Corker, a source close to Bannon told me.

Tillerson’s the guy to watch right now, per CNN’s reporting. Fox News also sees movement towards Tillerson. (John Bolton is supposedly being lined up for a deputy role at State.) Bannon may get his fallback choice, particularly with populists putting some pressure on Trump over his nominations in the last 48 hours or so. Just within the past day, he’s nominated pro-amnesty Andy Puzder to be Labor secretary and named Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn to lead his National Economic Council. If he caps that off by choosing Mitt farking Romney as chief U.S. diplomat after passing over Giuliani, Christie, and Gingrich, his fans will be annoyed. Spiking Romney is an easy way to make them happy.

Just one question: Could Tillerson get confirmed? Read this Journal profile and count the potential red flags. For starters, he’s a “strong supporter of free trade,” which might be reason enough for Trump to pass him over. If renegotiating trade deals to make them more protectionist is destined to be the centerpiece of Trump’s foreign policy, why would he want a free-trader in charge of that? (That’s a strike against Romney too, of course.) If Tillerson’s nominated, though, then he’ll run into conflict-of-interest problems just like Giuliani would have. He’s the CEO of Exxon; of course he has business interests around the globe, including and especially in Russia.

The deal would have been transformative for Exxon. Mr. Putin at the time called it one of the most important involving Russia and the U.S., forecasting that the partnership could eventually spend $500 billion. But it was subsequently blocked by sanctions on Russia that the U.S. and its allies imposed two years ago after the country’s invasion of Crimea and conflicts with Ukraine.

Mr. Tillerson spoke against the sanctions at the company’s annual meeting in 2014. “We always encourage the people who are making those decisions to consider the very broad collateral damage of who are they really harming with sanctions,” he said.

One of the first issues Mr. Tillerson would have to resolve as secretary of state would be his holdings of Exxon shares, many of which aren’t scheduled to vest for almost a decade. The value of those shares could go up if the sanctions on Russia were lifted.

He could solve this particular conflict by dumping his stock options after he’s nominated, but there may be similar conflicts in other countries. He’d have to divest comprehensively — which would inadvertently highlight his new boss’s refusal to divest from his own global business interests even though he’s in a more influential job. And then there’s the fact that “few U.S. citizens are closer to Mr. Putin than Mr. Tillerson” thanks to Exxon’s extensive negotiations with the Russian government over the years. How would Russia hawks like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio feel about having a guy who fits that description in charge of U.S. diplomacy? If Democrats hang together in hopes of giving Trump a black eye by defeating a key nominee, Schumer would only need three Republicans to vote no to block Tillerson.

Oh well. Probably doesn’t matter. The Trump children will be running U.S. diplomacy during their spare time, when they’re not running Trump’s businesses. Put whoever you want at State as an ornament. Exit question: Why is Trump planning to meet with Carly Fiorina? What job does he have her lined up for?

Update: Team Trump just released this extraordinary statement. When was the last time a presidential transition team and a would-be candidate for a position put out a press release announcing that he won’t be considered — before he was ever formally nominated?

President-elect Donald J. Trump today announced that during a meeting with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani held on November 29, 2016, Mayor Giuliani removed his name from consideration for a position in the new administration.

President-elect Trump said, “Rudy Giuliani is an extraordinarily talented and patriotic American. I will always be appreciative of his 24/7 dedication to our campaign after I won the primaries and for his extremely wise counsel. He is and continues to be a close personal friend, and as appropriate, I will call upon him for advice and can see an important place for him in the administration at a later date.”

Mayor Giuliani will remain a Vice Chairman of the Presidential Transition Team led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, which is making historic progress in bringing highly qualified people into the administration.

“Rudy would have been an outstanding member of the Cabinet in several roles, but I fully respect and understand his reasons for remaining in the private sector,” said President-elect Trump.

In explaining his withdrawal Mayor Giuliani said:

“I joined the campaign because I love my country and because having known Donald Trump as a friend for 28 years and observing what he has been able to accomplish, I had no doubt he would be a great President. This is not about me; it is about what is best for the country and the new administration. Before I joined the campaign I was very involved and fulfilled by my work with my law firm and consulting firm, and I will continue that work with even more enthusiasm. From the vantage point of the private sector, I look forward to helping the President-elect in any way he deems necessary and appropriate.”

Reince Priebus, incoming White House Chief of Staff to the President-elect, said that the former Mayor “was vetted by our team for any possible conflicts and passed with flying colors.” He also said “the team appreciates Rudy’s contributions to the victory and considers him a close friend and advisor.”


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