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Donald Trump names first two women in administration line-up

Published 23/11/2016

President-elect Donald Trump waves to the crowd as he leaves the New York Times building (AP)
President-elect Donald Trump waves to the crowd as he leaves the New York Times building (AP)

President-elect Donald Trump has named the first women in his top-level administration, recruiting them for the posts of education secretary and US ambassador to the United Nations (UN).

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is to serve as ambassador to the UN and prominent charter school advocate Betsy DeVos has agreed to become secretary of education.

Both Cabinet-level positions require Senate confirmation.

While some praised Ms Haley's selection, despite her limited experience on the international stage, the DeVos choice faced criticism even before it was formally announced on Wednesday afternoon.

Conservatives warned that Ms DeVos, a long-time Republican donor, previously supported the Common Core education standards that Mr Trump railed against during the campaign.

Mr Trump called Ms DeVos "a brilliant and passionate education advocate".

"Under her leadership we will reform the US education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families," the incoming president said.

Ms Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, is the only minority member chosen by Trump so far.

"Governor Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country," Mr Trump said.

"She is also a proven dealmaker and we look to be making plenty of deals. She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage."

While Ms Haley has limited foreign policy experience, Mr Trump said he was impressed with her knowledge of global affairs. Spokesman Jason Miller also said the two had "a natural chemistry".

Ms DeVos, from Michigan, is a long-time advocate for charter schools and school vouchers. She leads the advocacy group American Federation for Children.

"The status quo in education is not acceptable," she said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfil his or her highest potential."

The DeVos family has been active in Republican politics for decades, especially as donors to GOP candidates and the Republican Party.

DeVos' husband Dick is an heir to the Amway fortune and a former president of the company.

Hours before the DeVos pick was announced, conservative policy leader Frank Cannon, president of American Principles Project, called her "an establishment, pro-Common Core secretary of education".

"This would not qualify as 'draining the swamp," Mr Cannon said, referencing Mr Trump's campaign trail slogan. "It seems to fly in the face of what Trump has stated on education policy up to this point."

There was less immediate opposition to Ms Haley's selection.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham praised his home-state governor as a good choice and said in a statement that he looks forward to working with her on "overdue reforms of the United Nations".

Mr Graham is chairman of the Senate's Foreign Operations Subcommittee on Appropriations, which is responsible for funding the UN and all American foreign assistance.

Ms Haley said she accepted the assignment partly out of "a sense of duty".

"When the president believes you have a major contribution to make to the welfare of our nation, and to our nation's standing in the world, that is a calling that is important to heed," she said in a statement.

Mr Trump is spending Thanksgiving with his family at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

AP

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