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President-elect Trump Now Focusing on Filling Top Foreign Policy Posts

  • Wayne Lee

FILE - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump greets supporters during his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, Nov. 9, 2016.

FILE - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump greets supporters during his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, Nov. 9, 2016.

With a stunning presidential victory behind him, Donald Trump now turns his attention to filling Cabinet positions that will be instrumental in shaping America's foreign policy over the next four years.

Among the issues Trump's administration must address are global terrorism, instability in the Middle East, tension in eastern Europe along the Russian border, and China's growing global military and economic influence.

Immigration reform, a centerpiece of Trump's campaign, is expected to be a high priority, as Trump has vowed to build an "impenetrable physical wall" along the border the United States shares with Mexico.

To effectively execute on the foreign policy front, the president-elect will need to surround himself with extremely knowledgeable people who can make reasonable proposals, according to Charles Stevenson at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

"The president-elect appears to have a short attention span," Stevenson said in an interview with VOA. “He's not into the ruminative seminar-type situations like President [Barack] Obama and former President [Bill] Clinton were. He wants to be decisive quickly, and that means those presentation skills would be very important."

FILE - Republican President-elect Donald Trump along with his wife, Melania Trump, greet people in the crowd after delivering his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City, Nov. 9, 2016.

FILE - Republican President-elect Donald Trump along with his wife, Melania Trump, greet people in the crowd after delivering his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City, Nov. 9, 2016.

The pool of experienced candidates from which Trump can draw may be smaller than usual for incoming presidents. In his first major foreign policy address in April, Trump promised to avoid experienced people "who have perfect resumes but very little to brag about except responsibility for a long history of failed policies and continued losses at war."

Council of Foreign Relations Visiting Fellow Elizabeth Saunders told VOA the backlash resulting from Trump's position may force the president-elect to search outside the traditional pools of candidates.

"The problem is many of those people have signed pledges never to work for him … and it's partly because they may find him unacceptable, but it's also because he is really at odds on many issues with the Republican foreign policy establishment," she said.

If potential candidates changed their minds and would be willing to accept an administration position, Sanders questioned whether Trump would accept them.

"If he did have them, would he listen to them?" she asked.

Trump has generally remained mum on who will fill positions that play key roles in foreign policy issues, but here are some names that are being circulated:

Secretary of state

Former House Speaker and close Trump adviser Newt Gingrich is being widely mentioned for the position, one that Stevenson says may not be suited to Gingrich's strengths.

FILE - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks before introducing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign rally at the Sharonville Convention Center in Cincinnati, July 6, 2016.

FILE - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks before introducing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign rally at the Sharonville Convention Center in Cincinnati, July 6, 2016.

"Gingrich as Speaker of the House was a very skilled political tactician. I'm not really aware of any distinctive foreign policy views that he's expressed over the years," Stevenson said.

Also being mentioned as candidates are Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

Secretary of defense

Close Trump adviser and U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions could join the new administration in this capacity. Other names mentioned are former Senator Jim Talent and former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

FILE - David Clarke, Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, speaks during the opening day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 18, 2016.

FILE - David Clarke, Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, speaks during the opening day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 18, 2016.

Homeland Security secretary

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's name is being circulated for this job. The conservative sheriff of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, David Clarke, has also been mentioned as a candidate.

Treasury secretary

Trump has publicly said he wants his campaign finance chairman, Goldman Sachs alumnus Steven Mnuchin, to fill this post.

FILE - Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, June 2, 2015.

FILE - Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, June 2, 2015.

Commerce secretary

Trump economic adviser and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross could fill this post. Other names being mentioned are former Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and former steelmaker executive and Trump trade adviser Dan DiMicco.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks to reporters in Hempstead, New York, Sept. 26, 2016.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks to reporters in Hempstead, New York, Sept. 26, 2016.

Attorney-General

The name most prominently mentioned for the nation's top law enforcement officer is former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The former U.S. attorney and assistant attorney general is apparently not shy about expressing his interest in the job.

"I certainly have the energy and nobody knows the Justice Department better than me," Giuliani said Thursday morning on CNN.

Other possibilities include New Jersey Governor Christie and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

FILE - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie campaigns for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Millington, Tennessee, Feb.27, 2016.

FILE - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie campaigns for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Millington, Tennessee, Feb.27, 2016.

Women

As to whether Trump will consider women for Cabinet-level or other top positions, Stevenson of Johns Hopkins said, "I don't think Trump would play identity politics the way most Democrats would, where they want to be sure that the people in the Cabinet, the people around them, reflect the diversity of America."

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