WASHINGTON ― President-elect Donald Trump has tapped former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for a mysterious role sharing expertise on private sector cybersecurity as a “trusted friend,” Trump’s transition team announced on Thursday.
Trump will also be “hosting a series of meetings with senior corporate executives from companies which have faced or are facing challenges” related to hacking, identity theft and infrastructure security, the president-elect’s transition team explained in a press release.
Giuliani, an early and vocal Trump cheerleader, was previously floated as a potential pick for U.S. attorney general or secretary of state. Those nominations ultimately went to other candidates, but Trump said last month that he could “see an important place for [Giuliani] in the administration at a later date.”
It’s unclear what exactly Giuliani will be doing in his new role, but it could raise conflict of interest issues. Giuliani chairs the global cybersecurity practice at Greenberg Traurig and is chairman and CEO of Giuliani Partners, a consulting firm he launched after leaving public office. As The Huffington Post previously reported, Giuliani Partners had clients with political interests that could conflict with Giuliani’s governmental duties. Giuliani also has ties to foreign governments and political parties.
The Trump transition team did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
Discussing the new position on “Fox & Friends,” Giuliani said on Thursday that the idea is to bring together “corporate leaders and their technological people.” Trump has met with Silicon Valley executives before. His biggest tech ally has been PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who said this month he does not plan to take a White House job.
Giuliani said on Thursday that “a lot of the solutions are out there, we’re just not sharing them. It’s like cancer. You know, there’s cancer research going on all over the place ― you’d almost wish they’d get together in one room and maybe we’d find a cure.”
Kyle Wilhoit, a cybersecurity researcher at the firm DomainTools, said he is a “bit skeptical” about Giuliani’s appointment. “Unfortunately, it’s hard to know his experience with cybersecurity,” he said. But he added that “a lot of what we do as cybersecurity experts revolves around sharing, and it’s positive Giuliani recognizes that.”
Trump repeatedly questioned the U.S. intelligence community’s consensus that Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee with the goal of interfering in the 2016 election. During the campaign, he also openly invited Russia to hack Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails. He finally acknowledged this week that Russia was probably behind the hacks, but added “look at the things that were hacked, look at what was learned from that hacking.”
Last month, when asked whether he would support sanctions against Russia over the cyberattacks, Trump blamed computers for the whole mess.
“Computers have complicated lives very greatly,” he said.” The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on.”
This post has been updated with comment from Wilhoit.