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Trump taps S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley as UN ambassador, Betsy DeVos for education secretary

U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has chosen South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and prominent charter school advocate Betsy DeVos as his secretary of education, the first women selected for top-level posts in his new administration.

Former Trump presidential rival Ben Carson asked to 'consider' housing appointment

U.S. president-elect Donald Trump announced he had chosen South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, left, to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and prominent charter school advocate Betsy DeVos, right, as his secretary of education. (Randall Hill, Mike Segar/Reuters)

U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has chosen South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and prominent charter school advocate Betsy DeVos as his secretary of education, the first women selected for top-level posts in his new administration.

Both cabinet-level positions require Senate confirmation.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said "an announcement is forthcoming" on his role, which would make him the first black choice — presumably as secretary of housing and urban Development.

DeVos a controversial pick for conservatives

While some cheered 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 DeVos, a longtime Republican donor, previously supported Common Core, the set of national education standards adopted by most states.

Trump railed against Common Core during the campaign, calling it "a disaster" and pushing instead for local, decentralized education.

DeVos, from Michigan, is a longtime advocate for charter schools, which are privately operated but receive government funding, and school vouchers, which allow parents to use public funds for private school tuition. She leads the advocacy group, American Federation for Children.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, seen here at a Washington event last Friday, will be Donald Trump's first female — and first non-white — cabinet-level official if confirmed by the Senate. (Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

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," Cannon said, referencing Trump's campaign trail slogan. "And it seems to fly in the face of what Trump has stated on education policy up to this point."

Trump called DeVos "a brilliant and passionate education advocate" in a Wednesday statement.

DeVos issued a statement saying: "The status quo in education is not acceptable."

The DeVos family has been active in Republican politics for decades, especially as donors to candidates and the Republican Party. DeVos's husband, Dick, is an heir to the Amway fortune and a former president of the company.

The couple gave $22.5 million to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington in 2010, at the time the largest private donation in the centre's history.

Trump calls Haley 'a proven dealmaker'

Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, is first minority member chosen by Trump.

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

President-elect Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos shake hands at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on Saturday. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

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."

Graham is chairman of the Senate's foreign operations subcommittee on appropriations, which is responsible for funding the UN and all American foreign assistance.

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.

Bad blood 

Yet it could be an awkward role at times. Trump campaigned on the theme of "America first" and said he is skeptical about "international unions that tie us up and bring America down." Trump has also described the United Nations as weak and incompetent.

Haley would be the third consecutive female U.S. ambassador to the UN, after Susan Rice and Samantha Power, the current ambassador.

Haley's new job clears the way for Lt.-Gov. Henry McMaster to step into the role of South Carolina governor. McMaster was an early Trump endorser, backing him before the state's Republican primary in February.

Bad blood between Trump and Haley was evident through much of the campaign. Haley denounced several of Trump's campaign comments and urged voters to "reject the siren call of the angriest voices."

DeVos, too, was slow to warm to Trump.

She told The Associated Press in July, "A lot of the things he has said are very off-putting and concerning."

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

Ben Carson confusion

Trump has not extended an offer to retired neurosurgeon and former presidential rival Carson to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a Carson spokesman said on Wednesday, disputing an earlier report by the Wall Street Journal.

Trump has expressed interest in having Ben Carson join his cabinet as secretary of housing and urban development. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via Reuters)

"Trump did not make an offer," Carson spokesman Armstrong Williams told Reuters. "He asked him to consider HUD. Nothing has been offered and no decision has made."

The Wall Street Journal earlier had cited Williams as saying Carson had been offered the post and had accepted.

Wit files from CBC News

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