29 Nov 2016

General who shared classified info may get Trump top job

12:46 pm on 29 November 2016

US President-elect Donald Trump has stepped up his search for a new secretary of state, with the focus on former CIA head David Petraeus, who is a candidate despite admitting he shared classified information with his lover.

General Petraeus held a meeting with the Republican winner of the 8 November election at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Donald Trump, left, and David Petraeus.

Donald Trump, left, has met with David Petraeus. Photo: AFP

A former top US military commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, General Petraeus was sentenced to two years' probation and fined $100,000 last year for the unauthorised removal and retention of classified information.

He admitted sharing classified information with his biographer, with whom he was having an affair. The scandal forced General Petraeus to resign from the CIA in 2012.

General Petraeus has also been mentioned as a possible new secretary of defence. Mr Trump, who takes office on 20 January, is also holding talks with Mitt Romney on Tuesday, his second recent meeting with the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

US Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani are also in the mix for the job of America's top diplomat, Mr Trump's aides say.

General Petraeus said after meeting Mr Trump that the New York businessman "basically walked us around the world" in their discussion. "He showed a great grasp of the variety of challenges that are out there and some of the opportunities as well".

A Republican source close to the transition team said it had appeared late last week that Mr Trump was leaning toward choosing Mr Romney but that the appearance of General Petraeus at Trump Tower suggested the president-elect was still undecided and casting a wider net for the secretary of state position.

Frances Townsend, a national security aide during the administration of Republican President George W. Bush, also met Mr Trump on Monday.

Petraeus troubles

General Petraeus' past mishandling of classified documents is unlikely to be an obstacle to Mr Trump offering him a top government post, said a source who has advised the transition team on national security. That is despite Mr Trump harshly criticising Democratic rival Hillary Clinton during the election campaign for using a private email server while she was secretary of state.

Trump often compared the prosecution of General Petraeus with the lack of legal action against Clinton, who was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation but never charged with any offence.

"Just based on his public statements, I think [Trump] sees Petraeus as a good man who made a mistake, who did a fraction of what other people have done and received a lot more punishment," the source said.

Among Mr Trump's transition team, General Petraeus and Mr Romney are supported by Republicans looking for a candidate with gravitas who can unify the party, the source said.

Mr Giuliani is favoured by aides who worked on the election campaign, while ideological conservatives are more inclined toward John Bolton, the former ambassador to the United Nations, the source said. Mr Corker is well regarded, but some in Mr Trump's camp do not want too many senators coming into the Cabinet, the source said.

Mr Trump arrived back in New York on Sunday after several days in Florida for Thanksgiving. He caused a stir on Sunday when he alleged on Twitter that "serious voter fraud" had occurred in the presidential election in New Hampshire, Virginia, and California - states won by Mrs Clinton - but provided no evidence to back his assertion.

The White House said on Monday there had been no evidence of widespread election fraud in the presidential contest, and all three states rejected Mr Trump's allegation.

New Hampshire's deputy secretary of state, David Scanlan, said: "There's no evidence that we've seen that supports claims like that. Voter fraud does occur, but it occurs in isolated instances."

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla called Mr Trump's allegations unsubstantiated and Virginia Commissioner of Elections Edgardo Cortes said they were unfounded.

- Reuters

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