During the campaign, Donald Trump trashed the hawkish foreign policy of the second Bush White House. But now, he and his team are relying on the man most closely identified with that regime — Dick Cheney — to help ensure that Rex Tillerson is confirmed next year as Trump’s secretary of state.
As Republicans have voiced reservations about Tillerson’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Cheney — himself a former oil executive, a longtime Tillerson friend, and perhaps the country’s most famous foreign policy hawk — is serving as a bridge between the Trump team and skeptical Republican senators.
It’s a scenario no one could have possibly foreseen: that one of the key architects of the Iraq War, which Trump slammed on the campaign trail, is now being enlisted as an emissary for a man Trump wants to help steer his ship of state.
Rick Dearborn, executive director of the Trump transition and a Senate veteran who served as chief of staff to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for more than a decade, is looking to leverage Cheney’s influence with key GOP senators, according to a transition aide.
Another transition aide said Cheney’s imprimatur may serve as “a good housekeeping seal of approval” with Republican skeptics. And indeed, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio received a call from the former vice president earlier this week. The goal: “To move Marco the right way,” according to a source familiar with the conversation. Rubio will cast a pivotal vote on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which must approve the nomination before it proceeds to the full Senate.
The former vice president is also in close contact with senior Trump aides. Cheney speaks frequently with the vice president-elect, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who himself serves as a liaison between the president-elect and Capitol Hill, and who has said he hopes to model his vice presidency on Cheney’s.
“Mike relishes the advice,” said a senior transition aide, who added that Cheney is “willing to do what he’s asked” and “wants to be helpful” to the incoming administration.” The aide denied, however, that Cheney’s conversations were part of a coordinated effort between Trump Tower and Capitol Hill to push for Tillerson’s confirmation.