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Donald Trump ‘considering woman and gay man for top roles' in White House

Protesters at an anti-Trump protest in downtown Santa Ana, California. Picture by Ana Venegas, The Orange County Register/Associated Press
Steve Peoples and Julie Pace, Associated Press

US President-elect Donald Trump is considering a woman and an openly gay man to fill major positions in his new leadership team.

It would be seen as history-making moves that would inject diversity into a Trump administration already facing questions about its ties to white nationalists.

The incoming president is considering Richard Grenell as United States ambassador to the United Nations.

If picked and ultimately confirmed by the Senate, he would be the first openly gay person to fill a Cabinet-level foreign policy post.

Mr Grenell previously served as US spokesman at the UN under former President George W Bush's administration.

At the same time, President-elect Trump is weighing up whether to select the first woman to serve as chairman of the Republican National Committee.

On his short list of prospective chairs: Michigan GOP chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, the former sister-in-law of Trump rival and 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

"I'll be interested in whatever Mr. Trump wants," Ms McDaniel said, adding that she was planning to seek the Michigan GOP chairmanship again

Internal deliberations about staffing come a day after Mr Trump made overtures to warring Republican circles by appointing RNC Chairman Reince Priebus as his White House chief of staff and Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon as chief strategist and senior counsellor.

The two men had made up the president-elect's chief of staff shortlist, and while Mr Priebus received that job, Mr Bannon's post is expected to wield significant clout.

Mr Trump gave top billing to the former media executive, who led a website that appealed to the so-called "alt-right" - a movement often associated with efforts on the far right to preserve "white identity", oppose multiculturalism and defend "Western values".

Mr Priebus defended the media mogul, saying the two made an effective pair as they steered Mr Trump past Democrat Hillary Clinton and toward the presidency.

He sought to distance Mr Bannon from the incendiary headlines on his website, saying they were written by unspecified others.

"Together, we've been able to manage a lot of the decision making in regard to the campaign," Mr Priebus told NBC's "Today." "It's worked very, very well."

President-elect Trump's hires were, at first glance, contradictory - though they fit a pattern of the celebrity businessman creating a veritable Rorschach test that allowed his supporters to see what they wanted.

Mr Priebus, who lashed the RNC to Mr Trump this summer despite some inter-party objections, is a GOP operative with deep expertise of the Washington establishment that the president-elect has vowed to shake up.

He has close ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan, a fellow Wisconsinite.

Mr Bannon, meanwhile, helped transform the Breitbart News site into the leading mouthpiece of the party's anti-establishment wing, which helped fuel the businessman's political rise.

Mr Ryan has been one of his most frequent targets.

Neither Mr Priebus nor Mr Bannon brings policy experience to the White House. Chiefs of staff in particular play a significant role in policymaking, serving as a liaison to Cabinet agencies and deciding what information makes it to the president's desk.

They are often one of the last people in the room with the president as major decisions are made.

In announcing the appointments, Mr Trump said Mr Priebus and Mr Bannon would work as "equal partners" - effectively creating two power centres in the West Wing.

The arrangement is risky and could leave ambiguity over who makes final decisions.

Mr Trump has long encouraged rivalries, both in business and in his presidential campaign. He cycled through three campaign managers during his White House run, creating a web of competing alliances among staffers.

Mr Priebus is a traditional choice, one meant as an olive branch to the Republicans who control both houses of Congress as Mr Trump looks to pass his legislative agenda.

The Bannon pick, however, is controversial.

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