A MONTH after his historic election, president-elect Donald Trump wasted no time in selecting the individuals to run his administration. Many of them include his millionaire and CEO peers — of which donated a collective $11.6 million to his campaign — with several military generals and a handful of career politicians.
Reince Priebus, Chief of Staff
The Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman was one of the first chosen in the White House staff and may prove to bridge the gap between Trump and the Republicans in Congress — many of whom refused to support Trump during the campaign. House Speaker Sen. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) recommended the well-respected Republican leader, who clashed with Trump during the election race. He lambasted Trump after the infamous 2005 tape of Trump was release in which the reality star bragged about using his celebrity to force himself on women.
“No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever,” Priebus had said after the tape was leaked.
However, Priebus graciously accepted Trump’s nomination and has stated that his main goal was to groom the administration to become more congenial and less associated with Trump’s controversial rhetoric.
“[Trump] said, ‘We’re going to calm the waters. We’re going to bring people together. We’re not going to brag,’” Priebus said on Fox News following the election results.
Stephen Bannon, White House Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor
One of the more controversial picks, Bannon, the former head of so-called alt-right news outlet Breitbart News, had been one of Trump’s most-trusted advisers during the campaign. Since being selected as the chief strategist and senior counselor to the president-elect, critics have lambasted Bannon as a “white nationalist” for his news outlet’s alleged “racist” and “anti-Semitic” slant.
Responding to the criticism of his appointment from organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League as well as some Republican strategists, he said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter: “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s the power. It only helps us when they [presumably, liberals] get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Attorney General
Another controversial appointment, Sessions was responsible for helping Trump craft the strict immigration plan that has been a cornerstone of the campaign. He was also among the first senators to endorse Trump back in February.
The seasoned senator is well-respected among his Republican colleagues but is not a favorite among Democrats in Washington. In the 1980s, then President Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions for federal district judge only to be blocked by the Democrat-led Senate after being accused of saying racial slurs toward an African-American colleague.
Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN)
Considered one of the rising stars in the Republican Party, Trump’s nomination of the South Carolina governor came to the surprise of many. Previously considered for the Vice President ticket, Haley — the daughter of Indian immigrants — is one of the first women of color picked by Trump, who received flak for previously only picking older, white men. Haley, 44, had sparred with Trump during the race, criticizing his rhetoric and his refusal to condemn hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. In response, Trump picked on Haley, calling her “weak” on immigration. Despite their rocky history, Haley expressed a “sense of duty” and accepted Trump’s offer.
“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,” Haley said in a statement on Wednesday, November 23. “The second is a satisfaction with all that we have achieved in our state in the last six years and the knowledge that we are on a very strong footing.”
Trump’s Cabinet picks so far
Wilbur Ross, Jr., Secretary of Commerce
Committing to Trump promise to save jobs in coal, Ross, a 79-year-old billionaire, has built his fortune on restructuring the steel and coal industries. Although the coal industry is seeing strong competition from renewable energy companies, Ross’s commitment to saving jobs in coal strikes a chord with much of Middle America where most of those jobs are located.
As an opponent of free trade agreements, Ross has echoed much of Trump’s stances on the economy which likely aided in his nomination as commerce secretary. However, the relationship between the two dates back to the 1990s when Ross aided Trump in the latter’s failing Taj Mahal casino.
James Mattis, Secretary of Defense
Retired former commander of the U.S. Central Command Gen. Mattis played a critical role in the Marines when he led a division into Baghdad in 2003 during the invasion of Iraq. Much like the president-elect, Mattis — whose nickname is “Mad Dog — is known for his crass language and openly expressed enjoying the brutal nature of war. Mattis is also known for his undeniable understanding of military strategy, a characteristic that piqued Trump’s interest.
Trump announced the appointment to a cheering rally in North Carolina on Tuesday, December 6, saying that Mattis was “one of the most effective generals that we’ve had in many, many decades.”
Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education
The billionaire former Republican Party chairwoman in Michigan has been a leader in the movement to drastically change the education landscape. Spending millions to push create programs and laws, DeVos — who has had no experience in the public school domain — successfully expanded the use public funds to pay for private/religious school tuition by way of vouchers and other like program in several states.
After her nomination, her pro-voucher and pro-school choice agenda may play a key role in her new post, which coincides with Trump’s vow to divert funds away from the public education system, which he has described as “a government-run monopoly.”
Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Another one of Trump’s promises on the campaign trail was an end to President Barack Obama’s landmark health care laws, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. With his appointment of Price — an orthopedic surgeon from Atlanta — as his HHS secretary, Trump may have a perfect solution to that promise.
A strong critic of Obamacare, Price has offered a detailed health care plan to challenge and replace Obamacare since 2009 as Obamacare was being written. His suggested legislations — called the Empowering Patients First Act — would repeal Obamacare and offer “age-adjusted tax credits” for individual and group health plans, according to a report from The New York Times. This year, House Republicans have adopted several ideas from his plan in their issued “Better Way” agenda.
Gen. John F. Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security
A retired four-star general, Gen. Kelly will be responsible for overseeing immigration under the Trump administration. As Southern Command chief, Kelly — in addition to commanding the Marines in Iraq — organized and managed U.S. military operations in South and Central America, including the border.
Kelly’s son, Robert, was killed in combat in Afghanistan, which made him the highest-ranking officer in the military to lose a child during the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan. Critics also say this very quality was pivotal in Trump’s nomination following the backlash he received for criticizing the Khan family, a Muslim-American family who lost their son during the Iraq War.
Like Trump, Kelly possesses strict concerns on the U.S./Mexico border, including drug trafficking.
Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Although former Republican presidential nominee Ben Carson previously expressed disinterest in serving in Trump’s administration, Trump nominated the retired neurosurgeon to head the HUD department.
Carson does not have experience in government, bureaucracy or housing policy, however, Trump has no doubt that Carson harbors the qualities necessary to uplifting cities and towns across the U.S.
“Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities,” Trump said in a statement on Monday, December 5. “We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message for economic revival, very much including our inner cities.”
Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation
One of the first women of color that Trump has nominated in his administration, Elaine Chao’s appointment as transportation secretary is crucial to those who call for more Asian-American and female representation in Washington. Chao previously served on former President George W. Bush’s Cabinet as the Secretary of Labor; in his administration, she was the only official to serve all eight years.
Before that, she had been the deputy secretary of transportation from 1989-1991 during former President George H.W. Bush’s administration.
A solid figure in the Republican establishment, Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and has campaigned for him.
Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Treasury
During the election race, the entrepreneur, Wall Street investor and former executive of Goldman Sachs — one of the banks that needed a government bailout during the 2008 recession— served as Trump’s campaign national finance chair. After 17 years of rising to the top of Goldman Sachs, Mnuchin left to begin his own hedge fund and also finances large, blockbuster films in Hollywood on the side.
Scott Pruitt, Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
When Trump nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as the new head of the EPA, those that support climate change initiatives were outraged. Pruitt, who has close ties to the fossil fuel industry, has been a key player in challenging President Obama’s climate change policies.
The appointment of the so-called “climate change denier” — whose stances coincide with Trump’s — outraged those who have been fighting for climate change initiatives in Congress, including former Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
“Trump’s nominee to lead EPA, Scott Pruitt, is a climate denier who’s worked closely with the fossil fuel industry. That’s sad and dangerous,” Sanders tweeted on Wednesday, December 7 after the announcement.
Linda McMahon, Head of the Small Business Administration (SBA)
McMahon — co-founder and former CEO of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and a close friend of Trump — donated a total of $7.5 million to super-PACs that supported Trump’s campaign in August and September. In 2010 and 2012, McMahon ran for but failed to win the Republican Senate seat in Connecticut.
Trump cited the WWE’s upward mobility from a “13-person operation to a publicly traded global enterprise” for McMahon’s nomination.
“Linda is going to be a phenomenal leader and champion for small businesses and unleash America’s entrepreneurial spirit all across the country,” Trump said in a statement on Friday, December 9.
Appointments for the Cabinet secretaries of State, the Interior, Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Labor, and Energy are still pending, as of this writing. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)