WASHINGTON -- His nascent administration already under attack, President-elect Donald Trump was considering Monday whether to inject new diversity into the GOP by recommending a woman to lead the Republican Party and an openly gay man to represent the United States at the United Nations, Trump aides said.
Later in the day, a senior Trump official said former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is the favorite to be secretary of state. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the source isn't authorized to speak on the record. The official said there's no real competition for the job and that it's Giuliani's if he wants it. A second official, however, cautioned that John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., remained in contention for the job.
The moves, among dozens under consideration from his transition team, follow an intense and ongoing backlash from Trump's decision Sunday to appoint Stephen Bannon, a man celebrated by the white nationalist movement, to serve as his chief strategist and senior adviser.
"After winning the presidency but losing the popular vote, President-elect Trump must try to bring Americans together -- not continue to fan the flames of division and bigotry," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. She called Bannon's appointment "an alarming signal" that Trump "remains committed to the hateful and divisive vision that defined his campaign."
His inauguration just 66 days away, however, Trump focused on building his team and speaking to foreign leaders. He remained sequestered in Trump Tower in New York.
The incoming president spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone. His transition office said in a readout that "he is very much looking forward to having a strong and enduring relationship with Russia and the people of Russia." Trump has spoken in recent days with the leaders of China, Mexico, South Korea and Canada.
At the same time, Trump was considering tapping Richard Grenell as U.S. ambassador to the U.N., according to people with direct knowledge of Trump's plans. He would be the first openly gay person to fill a Cabinet-level foreign policy post. Grenell, known in part for aggressively responding to critics on Twitter, previously served as U.S. spokesman at the U.N. under President George W. Bush.
Trump was also weighing whether to select Michigan GOP Chairman Ronna Romney McDaniel, a niece of chief Trump critic and 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the people said. She would be the second woman ever to lead the Republican National Committee, and the first in four decades.
"I'll be interested in whatever Mr. Trump wants," McDaniel said Monday, adding that she was planning to seek the Michigan GOP chairmanship again.
The people who confirmed the personnel moves under consideration were not authorized to publicly disclose private discussions. They stressed that the decisions were not final.
Giuliani, 72, as a former mayor, federal prosecutor and top Trump adviser, lacks extensive experience in foreign policy, which is central to the secretary of state position. Known for his hard-line, law-and-order views and brusque manner, he would set a different tone than recent holders of the job, including Trump's ex-rival Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.
Bolton has years of federal government experience, but he has also raised eyebrows with some of his stances, including a 2015 op-ed in The New York Times in which he advocated bombing Iran to halt the country's development of nuclear weapons.
A spokesman for Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his interest in the job. But the former mayor said Monday night at a gathering of executives sponsored by the Wall Street Journal that he "won't be attorney general" in Trump's administration -- a job for which he'd long been seen as a top contender.
Asked about the secretary of state speculation, Giuliani said Bolton "would be a very good choice." But asked if there was anyone better, he replied with a smile: "Maybe me, I don't know."
Also on Monday, Mary Jo White, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, announced that she would step down two years before the end of her term, clearing the way for Trump to reshape the way Wall Street is regulated.
The resignation gives Trump a chance early in his term to make changes to investor protections and other regulations, part of what is widely expected to be a broad effort by the new administration to scale back what Republicans consider cumbersome federal rules that slow economic growth.
Trump was also said to be considering an oil billionaire and a North Dakota lawmaker for top posts as he moves to roll back President Barack Obama's environmental and energy policies and to allow the unfettered production of oil, coal and natural gas.
Trump has vowed to rescind "all job-destroying Obama executive actions" and pledged to sharply increase oil and gas drilling on federal lands while opening up offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean and other areas where it is blocked.
Topping Trump's to-do list is repealing the Clean Power Plan, Obama's signature effort to limit carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. The plan -- the linchpin of Obama's strategy to fight climate change -- is currently on hold awaiting a court ruling.
Trump is also targeting recent Obama administration efforts to reduce air and water pollution that have been opposed by Republicans and industries that profit from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, including a rule to protect small streams and wetlands and ozone regulations designed to cut down on smog.
Those under consideration for energy secretary include Harold Hamm, an Oklahoma oil tycoon and leading proponent of fracking, a technique that uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel, and chemicals to extract oil and gas from rock, and Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, an early Trump supporter from a major oil-drilling state, according to transition planning documents obtained by The Associated Press.
Venture capitalist Robert Grady, who worked in President George H.W. Bush's administration, is listed as a contender to lead both the Energy and Interior departments.
Trump also is likely to move quickly to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, which Obama rejected last year. Trump highlighted the project at a campaign stop in Florida last month and listed it among his top priorities for the first 100 days of his administration.
Environmental groups said they don't plan to make Trump's job easy.
"We intend to fight like mad, both in the courts and in the streets, to resist any rollbacks by the Trump administration," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.
Groups opposing the construction of an oil pipeline through the Midwest are planning more than 200 protest actions across the country today.
Response to Bannon
Internal deliberations about staffing occurred a day after Trump made overtures to warring Republican circles by appointing Bannon and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as his White House chief of staff.
The former media executive led a website that appealed to the so-called alt-right -- a movement often associated with efforts on the far right to preserve "white identity," oppose multiculturalism and defend "Western values."
Priebus on Monday defended the media mogul, saying the two made an effective pair as they steered Trump past Democrat Hillary Clinton and toward the presidency. He sought to distance Bannon from the headlines on his website, saying they were written by unspecified others.
Priebus, who lashed the RNC to Trump this summer despite some intraparty objections, is a GOP operative with deep expertise on the Washington establishment that Trump has vowed to shake up. He has close ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan, a fellow Wisconsinite.
Bannon, meanwhile, helped transform the Breitbart News site into the leading mouthpiece of the party's anti-establishment wing, which helped fuel Trump's political rise. Ryan has been one of the site's most frequent targets.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said Bannon's selection "sends the disturbing message that anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and white nationalist ideology will be welcome in the White House."
That view was echoed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. It insisted that "Trump should rescind this hire."
Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and presidential candidate, accused Bannon's critics of sour grapes. On Twitter, he wrote that Bannon should embrace the criticism from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"Critics of Steve Bannon know he's smarter and tougher than they are," Huckabee wrote. "When CAIR doesn't like you, that is a good thing."
Republicans who had long opposed Trump's candidacy also took to Twitter on Sunday night and Monday morning to warn that his choice to rely on the advice of Bannon is an indication of the way that he will govern.
"The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office," said John Weaver, a Republican strategist who ran the presidential campaign of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and previously advised Sen. John McCain of Arizona. "Be very vigilant, America."
Obama avoided any direct criticism of Trump's personnel moves during an afternoon news conference, suggesting that the new president deserves "room to staff up."
"It's important for us to let him make his decisions," Obama said. "The American people will judge over the course of the next couple of years whether they like what they see."
Information for this article was contributed by Steve Peoples, Julie Pace, Thomas Beaumont, Ken Thomas, Donna Cassata and Bill Barrow of The Associated Press; by Ylan Q. Mui and Renae Merle of The Washington Post; and by Michael D. Shear of The New York Times.
A Section on 11/15/2016
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