As people close to the Donald Trump transition team continue to report that former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani is the leading candidate to be secretary of state in a Trump administration, objections are getting louder. Giuliani, they point out, has no experience as a diplomat, has a history of aggressive and combative rhetoric, and has complicated financial ties to many foreign governments and organizations.
Giuliani, who made his name as a tough-on-crime U.S. attorney during the Reagan administration, became a national figure after the 9/11 attacks, when his response to the murder of thousands of his constituents was seen as unifying. He briefly ran for Senate in 2000, before withdrawing from the race in order to undergo treatment for prostate cancer. He also made an unsuccessful run for president in 2008.
In the wake of his mayoralty, Giuliani used his post-9/11 profile to position himself as an expert in national security and the fight against terrorism. However, his company, Giuliani Partners, was heavily criticized for hiring people with questionable connections, like former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who would later serve time in federal prison for, among other things, tax fraud.
Giuliani is now a with the law firm Greenberg Traurig, where he chairs the Cybersecurity, Privacy and Crisis Management practice. He has served as a lobbyist for energy companies, and at one point represented Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, when the government was investigating whether the firm had misled regulators about the drug’s addictiveness.
The idea that Giuliani might become the nation’s chief diplomat has unsettled many people in the world of international relations because the person in the post is often on the front lines of extremely delicate discussions and negotiation. And delicacy is not one of Giuliani’s primary character traits.
In fact, one of Giuliani’s most high-profile actions in the field of international relations was to stage a public insult of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat in 1995. Arafat was in New York, attending a concert at Lincoln Center marking the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. Giuliani had him publicly ejected from the hall, in an act the Clinton administration called “an embarrassment to everyone associated with diplomacy.”
If he were to be nominated, Giuliani would also have to contend with questions about his extensive business ties to foreign companies and governments -- many of whom have paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars to deliver speeches overseas. That last detail is somewhat awkward, given that during the presidential campaign, Trump and his surrogates constantly harped on the fact that Democrat Hillary Clinton made a lot of money giving speeches after she left government service.
Giuliani will also face questions about his connection to Mujahedeen Khalq, an Iranian opposition group that was for many years considered a terrorist organization by the State Department. (Giuliani worked to have the MEK removed from that list, and succeeded in 2012 when then-Secretary of State Clinton agreed.)
There are also signals that Giuliani might not face a completely compliant GOP if he should progress to Senate confirmation hearings. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has promised to use every tool available to block Giuliani, saying that his bellicosity makes him unfit for the job.
However, Giuliani was loyal to Trump through the very worst periods of the presidential campaign. In the days after a videotape showing Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women was made public, even his vice presidential running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, refused to go on the talk show circuit to defend him. But Giuliani was there, gamely deflecting and minimizing Trump’s admissions.
Whether or not the former New York mayor gets the nod from Trump will likely be seen as one of the first tests of just how much Trump values personal loyalty over political expediency.
UPDATE: This article originally reported that Giuliani is a name partner at Bracewell & Giuliani. He left that firm earlier this year, and it has been renamed.