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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The presidency of the World Bank — the most powerful job in international development — is up for grabs, in the wake of the surprise resignation of Jim Yong Kim.

Why it matters: Kim's departure puts the Trump administration in a tough position. It can nominate an internationally-acceptable globalist to the job, or face rejection as the world selects a non-American to head the Bank for the first time in its history.

Less than a year ago, Kim said he was "completely committed to my job at the World Bank Group" after reportedly being approached to be president of Harvard. That was then. No one knows why Kim quit so suddenly (although rumors are swirling), but the vacuum caused by his departure is likely to create an international diplomatic whirlpool which could prove very tough for Trump to navigate.

  • The president of the World Bank is elected by all the bank's member states, according (it says here) to an "open, merit-based and transparent" process. So far, American men have always prevailed in that process, in accordance with the gentlemen's agreement under which the head of the IMF is always European and the head of the World Bank is always American. Essentially, the Europeans and Americans scratch each others' banks, and everybody else merely spectates.
  • With Trump in the White House, the Europeans have never been less inclined to scratch the Americans' back. If Trump were to nominate a well-qualified candidate like Indra Nooyi, then they would probably go along with the nomination, just because cooperative game theory has worked well for them to date.
  • On the other hand, there's no way Europeans would vote for a unilateralist Bannonite (John Bolton, say), and there's even less chance they would vote for Ivanka Trump, who helped launch the new World Bank women's entrepreneurship fund. Were Trump to nominate someone unacceptable to the Europeans, then the field would be wide open for other qualified candidates to seize the day. Former World Bank managing directors Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Sri Mulyani would both make excellent presidents.

The ball is now in Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin's court. He has three options.

  1. Start having quiet conversations with his European counterparts about mutually-acceptable American candidates, and nominate someone he knows will receive an easy confirmation.
  2. Nominate an American populist who will almost certainly fail to win the Bank presidency, allowing Trump to rail even more against the globalist elite.
  3. Do nothing, and allow the very qualified Kristalina Georgieva, Kim's interim replacement, to stay in the role indefinitely. She's Bulgarian, and is entirely acceptable to the Europeans. She might stay in the role for a while.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said Georgieva had been named CEO after Kim stepped down. She was already CEO. Sorry.

Go deeper

Resurrecting Martin Luther King's office

King points to Selma, Alabama on a map at his Southern Christian Leadership Conference office in Atlanta in January 1965. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Contributor

Efforts to save the office where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., planned some of the most important moments of the civil rights movement are hitting roadblocks amid a political stalemate.

Why it matters: The U.S. Park Service needs to OK agreements so a developer restoring the historic Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in Atlanta — which once housed King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference — can tap into private funding and begin work.

Off the Rails

Episode 4: Trump turns on Barr

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Drew Angerer, Pool/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 4: Trump torches what is arguably the most consequential relationship in his Cabinet.

Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president's theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were "bullshit."

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters gathered outside fortified statehouses across the U.S. over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.