GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte, now heading out of Congress after she lost her election Tuesday evening, is apparently in the running to be secretary of defense in the Trump administration.
Defense hawk and A-10 advocate Ayotte is now counted among other luminaries, such as retired Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Kellogg and Sen. Jeff Sessions, all vying for the position, The Washington Post reports.
Although retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn was initially thought to be a strong contender, the Trump transition team seems to have shifted away from that idea because such a move would require a congressional waiver. Those retiring from the military by law have to wait seven years before serving as civilian head of the Department of Defense (DOD), which means that Flynn has five more years to go before he’d be eligible.
Ayotte is known in Congress for backing the A-10 ground-attack plane, a jet the Air Force for years has wanted to eliminate. In late October, the Air Force finally relented and announced that it would be keeping the jet around “indefinitely.”
Ayotte, however, might be a strange pick because of her strained relationship with Trump. She did not attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland earlier this year and also reversed course on her claim that Trump was a proper role model for children.
Moreover, she also tends towards a much more hawkish stance on foreign policy. That hawkish wing of the Republican Party has not taken a liking to Trump and in fact has been the most eager to stump for Hillary Clinton’s election.
Fifty top GOP national security experts argued in an open letter released in August that Trump isn’t qualified to lead the country and would be a dangerous choice for president. Some of the signatories of the letter even went so far as to say they’d be voting for Clinton.
Trump wasn’t at all perturbed by their opposition, blaming many of the signatories for constructing the failed war in Iraq and alleging they were cynically motivated failures trying to grasp onto power.
After the tape on Trump’s comments about women letting him do whatever he wants, Ayotte slammed Trump, saying, “I cannot and will not support a candidate for president who brags about degrading and assaulting women.”
“She’s viewed as being in the mainstream of conservative Republican foreign policy,” a Republican Party foreign policy official told The Washington Post. “She would be a defense secretary in the mold of John McCain or Lindsey Graham, and if that’s what Donald Trump is looking for, that’s what he’s going to get.”
Notably, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, an early contender for Republican Party presidential nominee, voted for independent candidate Evan McMullin.
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