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Names Floated for Trump's Secretary of State Rankle Democrats, Some Republicans

  • Michael Bowman

FILE - Vice president-elect Mike Pence, right, watches as President-elect Donald Trump speaks during an election night rally in New York, Nov. 9, 2016.

FILE - Vice president-elect Mike Pence, right, watches as President-elect Donald Trump speaks during an election night rally in New York, Nov. 9, 2016.

Senate Democrats and a few Republicans expressed consternation over reports that President-elect Donald Trump is considering former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former ambassador John Bolton for secretary of state in his administration.

"Rudy Giuliani as secretary of state? This man has no background when it comes to foreign policy," said Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. "It really is embarrassing."

Of Bolton, who served as America's ambassador to the United Nations under the George W. Bush administration, Durbin said, "I know this man. He's a handful. To think that he would represent the United States around the world is scary."

FILE - Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks before Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump in Youngstown, Ohio, Aug. 15, 2016.

FILE - Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks before Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump in Youngstown, Ohio, Aug. 15, 2016.

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky opposes both potential picks on policy grounds.

"I think the secretary of state should be someone who agrees with Trump's campaign pledge that the Iraq War was a mistake and that regime change doesn't work and hasn't helped our national security," Paul said. "Both Giuliani and Bolton have been big advocates, unrepentant advocates of the Iraq War."

Giuliani is best known for having led New York City during and after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Bolton was openly disdainful of the U.N., where he served and has consistently advocated U.S. intervention over diplomacy on the world stage.

Praise for both

Both men have their defenders in the Senate.

"John Bolton is one that I have a lot of personal relationship with," said Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe. "He could step in and be a great secretary of state. I think Giuliani probably is going to end up doing that. They are good choices."

FILE - John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaks to the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs in Baltimore, May 19, 2006.

FILE - John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaks to the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs in Baltimore, May 19, 2006.

"The people he's thrown out in terms of secretary of defense and secretary of state are all very competent, good people. So that's encouraging to me," said Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Giuliani and Bolton are not the only names Trump is reportedly considering for secretary of state. Republican Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told VOA his name is "in the mix" for the post, and that other lawmakers could be tapped for Cabinet positions as well.

"My guess is there are a number of senators here that may be considered for a number of different slots," Corker said.

Reaction from Democrats

While objecting to specific potential nominees Trump could put forward, Democrats also drew attention to reports of chaos within the Trump transition team, reports the president-elect has denied.

"Unfortunately, it looks like Trump is going to govern like he campaigned," said Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. "We [Democrats] are unified in our desire to make it clear how potentially disastrous this administration could be for the country.

"It's the purge within the transition team, it's the names that are being floated for secretary of state," Murphy added. "There seems to be a preference for loyalty to him [Trump] over readiness to serve the nation."

Russia, North Korea

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona issued a statement Tuesday warning the next administration against another diplomatic "reset" with Russia that would validate President Vladimir Putin, whom he described as "a former KGB agent who has plunged his country into tyranny, murdered his political opponents, invaded his neighbors, threatened America's allies, and attempted to undermine America's elections.

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin heads a meeting on the budget in Moscow's Kremlin, Russia, Sept. 26, 2016.

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin heads a meeting on the budget in Moscow's Kremlin, Russia, Sept. 26, 2016.

"The price of another reset would be complicity in Putin and [President Bashar al-] Assad's butchery of the Syrian people. That is an unacceptable price for a great nation," the statement added.

Asked by VOA whether he is confident Trump will assemble a first-rate foreign policy team, McCain said, "I have no idea."

But another Republican, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, expressed confidence that Trump will effectively deal with threats like North Korea.

"Our posture in Korea will remain firm and our commitment to security firm and our alliance with South Korea [as well]. And I believe we will actually step up our pace of activities and actions against the North Korean regime," Gardner said.

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