Hillary Clinton: Secretary of State

03/10/2009 12:48 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Huffington Post

***Update 12/1, 11 AM***

At a news conference today, Obama introduced his picks of retired Marine Gen. James Jones as White House national security adviser, former Justice Department official Eric Holder as attorney general, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as secretary of homeland security, Susan Rice as UN Ambassador, Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense

Read more here.

***

UPDATE 11/30, 10:25AM

It's official. Obama will name Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State on Monday:

President-elect Barack Obama planned to nominate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as his secretary of state on Monday, transforming a once-bitter political rivalry into a high-level strategic and diplomatic partnership.

Obama will name the New York senator to his national security team at a news conference in Chicago, Democratic officials said Saturday. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly for the transition team...

...The Clinton pick was an extraordinary gesture of goodwill after a year in which the two rivals competed for the Democratic nomination in a long, bitter primary battle.

Senator Clinton's path to the Cabinet was cleared after her husband Bill agreed to disclose the names of all the donors to his foundation and library as well as agreeing to further conditions:

Most remarkably, the former president agreed to release the long-secret list of 208,000 donors to his presidential library and foundation. As one of nine concessions, he has promised to put out the list by the end of the year.

"It speaks to President Clinton's willingness to do more than what's asked of him," said a Democratic official familiar with the protracted negotiations between Clinton emissaries and Obama transition aides...

...Here's the full text of the internal guidance about the agreement:

"At the request of President-elect Obama, and to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest between the work of President Clinton and the service of Hillary Clinton should she be nominated and confirmed as Secretary of State, President Clinton is taking the following steps above and beyond the requirements of current laws and regulations.

--The Clinton Foundation will publish the names of everyone who has contributed since its founding in 1997 (this year).

--Should Senator Clinton be nominated and confirmed as Secretary of State, during her time of service, the Foundation will also publish the names of everyone who contributes going forward on an annual basis.

--The Foundation will separately incorporate CGI [the Clinton Global Initiative] from the Foundation; President Clinton will continue to host CGI gatherings, such as the one in NYC and its meetings for college and university students, as Founding Chairman of CGI.

--Although President Clinton will continue to invite participants to CGI events (which involves normal registration fees), he will not solicit 'sponsorship' contributions for CGI.

--CGI will also not host annual events outside the US and CGI will not solicit or accept foreign government contributions.

Read the full list of conditions here.

UPDATE 11/21, 3 PM

The New York Times is reporting that Clinton will accept Obama's offer of the secretary of state position.

Mrs. Clinton came to her decision after additional discussion with President-elect Barack Obama about the nature of her role and his plans for foreign policy, said one of the confidants, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the situation. Mr. Obama's office told reporters Thursday that the nomination is "on track" but Clinton associates only confirmed Friday afternoon that she has decided.

"She's ready," said the confidant. Mrs. Clinton was reassured after talking again with Mr. Obama because their first meeting in Chicago last week "was so general," the confidant said. The purpose of the follow-up talk, he added, was not to extract particular concessions but "just getting comfortable" with the idea of working together.

A second Clinton associate confirmed that her camp believes they have a done deal. Senior Obama advisers said Friday morning that the offer had not been formally accepted and no announcement will be made until after Thanksgiving. But they said they were convinced that the nascent alliance was now ready to be sealed.

AP: President-elect Barack Obama plans to nominate Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state after Thanksgiving, a new milestone for the former first lady and a convergence of two political forces who fought hard for the presidency.

One week after the former primary rivals met secretly to discuss the idea of Clinton becoming the nation's top diplomat, an Obama adviser said Thursday that the two sides were moving quickly toward making it a reality, barring any unforeseen problems.

The senior adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity because the president-elect is not prepared to officially announce the nomination, said Obama believes Clinton would bring instant stature and credibility to U.S. diplomatic relations.

Obama is convinced the advantages of Clinton serving far outweighed potential downsides, the adviser said.

Transition aides said the two camps have worked out financial disclosure issues involving Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, and the complicated international funding of his foundation that operates in more than 40 countries. The aides said Obama and Hillary Clinton have had substantive conversations about the secretary of state job.

Clinton has been mulling the post for several days, but the comments from the transition aides suggested that Obama's team does not feel she is inclined to turn it down. Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines would not comment, except to say that anything about Cabinet appointments is for Obama's transition team to address.

Clinton would have to surrender her New York Senate seat, which she has held for eight years, to take the job.

The nomination would be a remarkable union between the former first lady who was an early favorite to win the presidency and the first-term senator who upset her in the primary and cruised to a general election victory. Such a high-profile seat in the Cabinet for Clinton also would be another achievement for the most accomplished former first lady in U.S. history, who has been the first presidential spouse to serve in the Senate and run for the White House herself.

Obama was picking other Cabinet posts as well. Obama has informally selected Washington lawyer Eric Holder as attorney general and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as health secretary and is likely to choose Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to be secretary of homeland security, Democrats said.

Any of the plans could be sidetracked by unexpected glitches in the final vetting process, officials note.

* * * * *

Update 11/20: The New York Times reports that suspected leaks from the Clinton team are angering Obama aides and may threaten Hillary Clinton's position:

Both sides were engaged in a delicate public and private dance, maneuvering for position and reputation in case the deal falls through. Aides in each camp have grown increasingly sour toward the other in recent days as the matter played out publicly.

In their public signals, the Clintons are trying to take the former president's activities off the table as an issue, in their view eliminating any excuses for Mr. Obama not to give Mrs. Clinton the job. Some in the Obama camp are bristling at what they see as strategic leaks by the Clintons aimed at boxing in the president-elect and forcing him to offer the post.

The tension could foreshadow a complex relationship burdened by suspicion and enmity should Mrs. Clinton become secretary of state. By putting her in the cabinet, Mr. Obama could remove a potential thorn in the Senate on issues like health care and a potential rival for the nomination in 2012 if his term proves rocky. But he could also face a rival power center within his own administration with her on his team.

The Washington Post reports that, beyond the vetting, there may be another roadblock to Hillary Clinton's Cabinet seat: a clause in the Constitution.

It's called the Constitution of the United States, specifically, Article One, Section Six, also known as the emoluments clause. ("Emoluments" means things like salaries.) It says that no member of Congress, during the term for which he was elected, shall be named to any office "the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during his term." This applies, we're advised, whether the member actually voted on the raises or not.

In Clinton's case, during her current term in the Senate, which began in January 2007, cabinet salaries were increased from $186,600 to $191,300. This situation has arisen before, most famously in the case called "The Saxbe Fix," but it involves a controversial, somewhat tortured reading of the Sacred Document.

BIll Clinton has said he will do "whatever they want" as part of the vetting process.

Update: Clinton insiders say that, contrary to other reports, Bill's dealings are not the only roadblock to Hillary's Cabinet post. The Senator herself is undecided:

Reports that portray Clinton as willing to accept the job - once the Obama transition team vets the Clintons - are inaccurate, one Clinton insider told Politico.

Press reports that portray Clinton as willing to accept the job - once the Obama transition team vets Bill Clinton's philanthropic and business ventures - are inaccurate, one Clinton insider told Politico.

"A lot of the speculation and reporting is out ahead of the facts here," said the person, who requested anonymity. "She is still weighing this, independent of President Clinton's work."

Clinton, the person said, remains deeply "torn" between the possibility of serving in Obama's cabinet and remaining in the Senate to "help pass health care and work on a broad range of domestic issues."

That comment jibes with what others close to Clinton have been saying since the Secretary of State chatter began last week: that Clinton is conflicted and the deal far from done, despite screaming headlines in outlets including the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper claiming the offer was made and accepted.

Most of the speculation about Clinton's frame of mind in the last few days has been off-base, sources say, because she's played her cards close to the vest, consulting only her husband and two or three kitchen cabinet advisers.

Update 11/18: The Politico reports that the possibility of a Clinton in Obama's Cabinet is roiling his aides and supporters:

Barack Obama's serious flirtation with his one-time rival, Hillary Clinton, over the post of secretary of State has been welcomed by everyone from Henry Kissinger to Bill Clinton as an effective, grand gesture by the president-elect.

It's not playing quite as well, however, in some precincts of Obamaland. From his supporters on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, to campaign aides of the soon-to-be commander-in-chief, there's a sense of ambivalence about giving a top political plum to a woman they spent 18 months hammering as the compromised standard-bearer of an era that deserves to be forgotten.

"These are people who believe in this stuff more than Barack himself does," said a Democrat close to Obama's campaign. "These guys didn't put together a campaign in order to turn the government over to the Clintons."

...

Inside the campaign, a prominent Democrat said, Obama's decision was also greeted with ambivalence - though his aides have, as usual, moved into a united front in public on the topic.

During the primary, top aides like David Plouffe and Robert Gibbs developed a particular distaste for all things Clinton, one that filtered down through the campaign. So the transition from viewing Hillary Clinton as a relic of a drama-filled Democratic past to the top choice to run the foreign policy of an Obama administration has been difficult for some campaign veterans, to say the least.

The wisdom of an Obama/Clinton team of rivals seems to be viewed with even more skepticism by the campaign's rank and file. One Obama insider said that while Obama's senior staff has come around to acknowledging the power of a Clinton choice, supporters have not.

Update 11/18: ABC News is reporting that "serious progress" has been made on the possible appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

It is not yet a done deal, but sources say both President-elect Obama and Sen. Clinton are increasingly optimistic that her assignment will happen.

And some Democrats say it could happen as early as in the next week.

One of the sticking points, of course, has been the complex web of international business dealings of former President Bill Clinton. But sources say there has been movement on that front, with some vetting being supervised by Obama attorney Christine Varney, with serious involvement by many officials whom the Clintons know and trust, including some Clinton Foundation officials.

Update 11/17: The New York Times reports that Barack Obama's advisers have begun vetting HIllary Clinton for Secretary of State -- including a look at Bill Clinton's finances and activities:

President-elect Barack Obama's advisers have begun reviewing former President Bill Clinton's finances and activities to see whether they would preclude the appointment of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, as secretary of state, Democrats close to the situation said Sunday.

The examination of the former president suggests how seriously Mr. Obama is considering bringing his onetime rival for the Democratic presidential nomination into his cabinet. He met with Mrs. Clinton in Chicago on Thursday to talk about the prospect and word quickly filtered out. Many Democrats close to both camps said Sunday that it seemed likely that Mr. Obama would ask her to take the job, assuming they could work something out regarding Mr. Clinton's role.

A team of lawyers trying to facilitate the potential nomination spent the weekend looking into Mr. Clinton's philanthropic organization, interactions with foreign governments and ties to pharmaceutical companies, a Democrat close to both camps said. While Mr. Clinton has used his foundation to champion efforts to fight AIDS, poverty and climate change around the world, he has also taken millions in speaking fees and contributions from foreign officials and businesses with interests in American governmental policies.

Obama advisers are discussing what Mr. Clinton would need to do to avoid a conflict of interest with the duties of his wife, who is said to be interested in the post. "That's the first and most important hurdle," said a senior adviser to Mr. Obama. "He does good work. No one wants it to stop, but a structure to avoid conflicts must be thought of."

During an appearance in Kuwait yesterday, Bill Clinton briefly addressed the speculation surrounding his wife. "If he decided to ask her to do it, and they did it together, I think she'd be really great at being Secretary of State," he said.

And Politico's Mike Allen writes on the latest deliberations in the Obama camp:

Team Obama, after all but offering SecState to Senator Clinton, is expressing EXASPERATION with the Clinton camp for the difficulty in getting a clean vet on President Bill Clinton's many entanglements. "The ball is very much in her court, but the president's finances have been a major point of sensitivity from day one," a Democratic official said. ("Day One!") "Given that everyone's mystified by how deliberately public the Clintons have made this once secret process, the assumption is either that the Clintons are trying to use the public buzz to steamroll their way in, create a sense of inevitability that overcomes those concerns, or that it's just a matter of time before they ... satisfy vetting somehow, some way. Otherwise, after all this speculation, there'll be a permanent dark cloud hanging over her finances. ... But generally the sense among the no-drama Obama world is: This is well on its way to winning best Oscar for drama."

* * * * *

Update 11/16: Henry Kissinger praised Hillary Clinton as an "outstanding" choice at a summit in India:

At the World Economic Forum's 24th India Economic Summit in New Delhi, India, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said of reports that President-elect Obama is considering Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, as Secretary of State, "I believe it would be an outstanding appointment. If it is true, it shows a number of things, including great courage on the part of the President-Elect. To appoint a very strong personality into a prominent cabinet position requires a great deal of courage."

Kissinger said that "Obama was my second choice in the election. But at the same time, I want to stress that this is the moment for non-partisanship in America. There are a number of challenges that must be dealt with...I believe that the United States faces a moment of enormous complexity, but also a moment of extraordinary opportunity."

According to two senior Democratic officials, Barack Obama offered Hillary Clinton the Secretary of State position when they met in Chicago.