Donald Trump, Seeking Ambassadors, Sorts Through Competing Priorities


So far, Mr. Friedman is the exception. As the intense jockeying for ambassadorships has begun among donors, loyalists to Mr. Trump and, in some cases, people close to his children, his advisers have potentially competing priorities.

If Mr. Trump chooses Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets who is a longtime Republican donor and a friend of the president-elect, or someone like Peter S. Kalikow, the New York developer and Trump supporter, he would be following a familiar script.

If he chooses someone like Jon M. Huntsman Jr. for Japan, Mr. Trump would be trying to match a Republican establishment figure with a region he is familiar with. Mr. Huntsman has served as ambassador to China and Singapore.

If he goes for someone like Robert Pence, a Virginia developer who did not support Mr. Trump’s candidacy but who has been recommended by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, it would fall more in line with his choice of Ms. Haley and of bringing outsiders into the fold. (The two Pences are not related).

The expectation is that Mr. Trump will begin by rewarding supporters with appointments to Western Europe or the Caribbean, as is often the case with new administrations. But they could also include donors to his campaign or transition, people he might need again in the future.

“They generally start out more political,” said Asgeir Sigfusson, the communications director for the American Foreign Service Association. “The numbers will even out.”

In previous administrations, he said, about 70 percent of nominations were foreign-service professionals and 30 percent were political appointees. It remains to be seen if Mr. Trump will adhere to that breakdown, Mr. Sigfusson said.

Aides to Mr. Trump declined to comment, beyond saying that discussion about candidates was in the early stages.

There are some favorites among the names Mr. Trump’s advisers are batting around, however, and meetings on the subject are expected to increase in frequency starting this week.

Mr. Trump’s aides are sifting through a broad list of recommendations from people involved in the transition process, including the president-elect’s daughter Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. As a result, the suggestions have included people who did not immediately support the Trump ticket, such as Ronald J. Gidwitz, who backed Jeb Bush in the primaries.

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Mel Sembler, left, a former ambassador to Australia and Italy, said old scars were used as new information during Senate confirmation hearings.

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Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

There have been some aspirational suggestions, such as Mr. Huntsman, who served as ambassador to China in the Obama administration, for Japan; or Michèle A. Flournoy, a top Pentagon official in the Obama administration, as an ambassador to NATO. The two have deep knowledge of policy and have been spoken of favorably by Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief White House strategist. But a number of Mr. Trump’s top advisers oppose them.

Then there are more-personal recommendations from people involved in the transition. One was for Morris Goldfarb, who until recently was the chief executive officer of the G-III Apparel Group, which had a licensing agreement for Ms. Trump’s apparel line. Another was former Gov. James Gilmore of Virginia, who has been recommended by Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, a Trump adviser.

Ivana Trump, Mr. Trump’s first wife, cheekily recommended herself to The New York Post for ambassador to the Czech Republic. John Jay LaValle, chairman of the Suffolk County Republican Committee in New York and one of Mr. Trump’s few vocal defenders in the campaign’s final days, could see a plum post.

And there are a raft of donors and longtime Republicans angling for appointments who could expect particularly close scrutiny by Democrats during confirmation hearings.

“I think confirmation is always problematic,” said Mel Sembler, a party fund-raiser appointed ambassador to Australia by the elder President George Bush and to Italy by the younger.

“The first time out, it was a long and embarrassing and difficult process,” Mr. Sembler said. Old scars become new information as senators start their review, he said.

Some donors could see old troubles aired

Mr. Kalikow, the New York developer, who filed for personal bankruptcy when he owned The New York Post more than two decades ago, has been mentioned for a possible post. So has Georgette Mosbacher, a socialite whose husband was the focus of a lawsuit over a flawed census count in 1990. Neither Mr. Kalikow nor Ms. Mosbacher would comment for this article.

Duke Buchan, major supporter of Jeb Bush and a defender of the work of Right to Rise, the “super PAC” backing that candidate, joined the Trump effort in the summer and contributed significantly to his campaign. Mr. Buchan has expressed interest in becoming ambassador to Spain, where he says he studied and where a company he once held stock in recently owned property.

Mr. Buchan, who does not know Mr. Trump well, has had blunt discussions about how to best position himself for an ambassadorship, according to people close to the transition. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Fred V. Malek, a former aide to President Richard M. Nixon and to the elder President Bush, said that being a donor did not guarantee anything.

“It doesn’t mean that somebody can be a fund-raiser and just have an ambassadorship,” he said. “They have to have some credentials.”

At least two prospective candidates from the donor community, according to people with direct knowledge of the discussions, are likely to end up with posts.

Lewis M. Eisenberg, the Republican National Committee finance chairman who raised money with Mr. Trump’s choice for Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, is seen as a possible choice for Italy. Mr. Johnson, the Jets owner, is a leading choice for Britain.

Joseph Forgione, who was passed over for secretary of housing and development, has support to become ambassador to the Vatican. So does William E. Simon Jr., an ally of Rudolph W. Giuliani, who recommended him.

R. Nicholas Burns, an ambassador to Greece under President Bill Clinton, said that the State Department typically puts forward a list of people to consider, and that incoming presidents should be aware of their options.

“I think President-elect Trump would be well advised to broaden the circle of people he consults in making these appointments,” Mr. Burns said.

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