Trump adds diversity with picks of Haley, Carson and DeVos

South Carolina governor, a former critic of president-elect, becomes UN ambassador

Nikki Haley: South Carolina’s governor is seen as a rising star of the Republican party.  Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Nikki Haley: South Carolina’s governor is seen as a rising star of the Republican party. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters


Donald Trump has moved to add gender and racial diversity to his new administration, picking the first woman and the first African-American to join his incoming cabinet.

The president-elect reached beyond his inner circle to pick Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s governor and a critic of Mr Trump during the campaign, as UN ambassador. And he asked Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who ran for the Republican nomination, to be housing secretary, and nominated Betsy DeVos, a major Republican donor and sister of Blackwater founder Erik Prince, to be education secretary.

Ms Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, has little foreign policy experience and would be the first person in more than a decade to hold the job without a diplomatic background. But she is a rising star within the Republican party who has been mentioned as a future presidential candidate herself.

Dr Carson had said he did not want a cabinet position, but on Wednesday wrote on Facebook that after talks with the Trump transition team, he now believed he could “make a significant contribution particularly to making our inner cities great for everyone”.

Hardliners and loyalists

Until these latest picks, Mr Trump had stuck with hardliners and loyalists for his incoming administration, naming close advisers for attorney-general and national security adviser and a harsh critic of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, to head the CIA. All three are white men, and the selection of Ms Haley and Dr Carson is seen as an attempt to achieve greater diversity in the president-elect’s team.

“Governor Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country,” Mr Trump said in a statement. “She is also a proven dealmaker, and we look to be making plenty of deals.”

Her selection came amid growing signs Mr Trump was looking to establishment figures to fill out his national security team. Retired General James Mattis, a former commander of US forces in the Middle East respected on both sides of the political aisle, is the leading contender to become defence secretary and Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee who condemned Mr Trump during the campaign, is under consideration for secretary of state.

Ms Haley, 44, supported Marco Rubio, the Florida senator, in the Republican primaries and after he quit the race endorsed Ted Cruz, a conservative Texas senator. Earlier in the campaign she had been openly critical of Mr Trump, declaring he represented “everything a governor doesn’t want in a president”.

‘No government experience’

When Dr Carson’s name was floated last week as a potential secretary of health and human services, his business manager Armstrong Williams said that he was worried that he “has no government experience and has never run a federal agency”.

But in his Facebook post on Wednesday, Dr Carson said a formal announcement nominating him housing and urban development secretary would come shortly. “After serious discussions with the Trump transition team, I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly to making our inner cities great for everyone,” he wrote.

Mr Trump said Ms DeVos would “reform the US education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back”. Ms DeVos has been a prominent activist for taxpayer-funded charter schools and for creating voucher schemes for private schools.

Along with Ms Haley, her nomination is another step outside of Mr Trump’s relatively small circle of loyalists and supporters.

Republican up-and-comer

Ms Haley was the first Indian-American woman to be governor of a US state when elected in 2010; she was born a Sikh but is now a member of the Mt Horeb United Methodist Church.

Ms Haley status as a Republican up-and-comer was solidified by her handling of the 2015 row over the flying of the Confederate flag in Southern states. She moved swiftly to take down the flag from the state legislature after the mass shooting of black parishioners in a Charleston church.

In a speech providing the official Republican response to Mr Obama’s State of the Union address last year, the governor criticised the “angriest voices” within national politics and their “siren call” to voters, a line widely seen as a not-so-subtle shot at Trump’s campaign.

Her nomination to the UN post came as General David Petraeus, the former CIA director and commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, indicated he would be prepared to serve in a Trump administration.

Mr Petraeus, who was forced to stand down from the CIA following an extramarital affair, told the BBC he would be willing to serve “and put aside any reservations based on campaign rhetoric”.

Turned down

Jack Keane, another retired general close to Mr Petraeus, has said he turned down an offer to serve as defence secretary because of the recent death of his wife – but recommended Mr Petraeus and Mr Mattis as candidates.

Mr Petraeus told the BBC he had not had direct contact with Mr Trump and did not know how he operated but added “those who have been talking to him say this is a very personable, very hospitable, very gracious guy who is full of questions and dialogue”.

He added approvingly: “This is a guy who’s done pretty well in life. He’s been through a variety of different challenges.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016