Amid speculation Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will leave his position to pursue his old job as U.S. senator in Kansas, President Trump is considering one of his top ambassadors who’s also the highest-ranking openly gay person in his administration as a replacement, according to the Washington Post.
Trump has reportedly “asked people what they think” about U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell for the role. If nominated and confirmed, Grenell would be the first-ever openly gay person to serve in a Cabinet-level role for any administration.
Grenell has gained a reputation for having a combative nature, especially for chiding Germany over continued business dealings with Iran. But that style, the Post reports, is “actually a selling point for Trump.”
In terms of LGBTQ advocacy, Grenell has been spearheading the Trump administration’s global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality in the more than 70 countries, including many Middle Eastern and Caribbean countries, where it remains illegal.
Although critics have questioned whether this initiative actually exists, Grenell earlier this month hosted an event at the U.S. mission at the United Nations highlighting the endeavor.
It’s not the first time Trump had reportedly considered Grenell for a more senior role in his administration. Earlier this year, when Trump and former National Security Adviser John Bolton parted ways, Grenell was reportedly on the short-list as a replacement and lobbied for the position. Trump, however, ended up picking Robert O’Brien, who formerly served in the Trump administration as a special envoy for hostage affairs.
But other names are reportedly ahead of Grenell on Trump’s short-list to become the next secretary of state.
Chief among them is O’Brien himself, who is seen as closely aligned with Pompeo, therefore a natural successor. According to the Post, Trump “really likes” O’Brien. Other names mentioned are Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, State Department envoy to Iran Brian Hook, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
As the Post noted, Grenell, if nominated by Trump, could face a difficult uphill in the confirmation process. Grenell’s confirmation as ambassador was held up for several months in the Senate as a result of a hold by Democrats, many of whom objected to his mean tweets he made in the past about the appearance of women, including Hillary Clinton, Rachel Maddow and Callista Gingrich. In the end, Grenell was confirmed by a party-line vote of 56-42.
It remains to be seen whether or not Pompeo will, in fact, pull the trigger and leave his job as secretary of state to seek a position as the junior U.S. senator from Kansas. The Washington Blade has placed a request in with the White House seeking comment on Trump’s reported consideration of Grenell as a secretary of state.
UPDATE 1/7/2020: Pompeo has decided not to run for the open U.S. Senate seat in Kansas, according to the Washington Post.