Following his Nov. 8 victory in the general election, President-elect Donald J. Trump has gradually been filling his cabinet with his most trusted advisors to accompany him for his first term in office. Trump has nominated seasoned politicians, business outsiders, and military generals, including some of the closest members of his campaign as well as his outspoken critics.
Despite Trump’s promises to “drain the swamp” and tackle political corruption in Washington, DC, his cabinet choices have incited criticism for doing exactly the opposite. From fossil fuel proponents appointed to lead the Environmental Protection Agency to inflammatory media executives, Trump’s appointees have been nothing short of controversial.
Chief Executive of CKE Restaurants Andrew Puzder, a major campaign donor and critic of the Obama administration’s labor policies, has been appointed Labor Secretary. Linda McMahon, former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, has been selected to lead the Small Business Administration. Retired Marine Corps four star general John F. Kelly has been appointed Secretary of Homeland Security. Created in response to the 2001 terror attacks, Homeland Security will be responsible for border control and enforcing deportations as well as the wall Trump has promised. Retired USMC general and 11th Commander of United States Central Command James N. Mattis, who played a pivotal role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, is poised to become the Secretary of Defense. Mattis will oversee the fight against ISIS.
Trump selected his campaign finance chairman, Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive and Hollywood film producer, as his Secretary of the Treasury. Former Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush and wife of Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell Elaine Chao, has been appointed Transportation secretary. Georgia representative and orthopedic surgeon Tom Price, a known opponent of the Affordable Care Act, has been chosen as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Betsy DeVos, former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and an education activist, has been selected as Education Secretary, and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross has been chosen as Commerce Secretary. Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who has notably aligned with fossil fuel interests in the past, has also been chosen as the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator.
After turning down a position as Secretary of Health and Human Services citing his lack of government experience, former presidential candidate and neurosurgeon Ben Carson accepted an appointment as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Mike Pompeo, Kansas representative, former Army officer, and Benghazi critic, has been chosen as the CIA director. Immigration enforcement proponent Jeff Sessions, who was rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986 for racially charged comments, has been selected as Attorney General. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who has been criticized for having no experience in foreign affairs, has been appointed UN ambassador. Haley has also been an outspoken critic of Trump, and was a strong supporter of Florida governor Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign.
Cabinet appointees must be nominated by the President-elect, then approved by the Senate. Though several Democrats have vowed to oppose Trump’s choices, the Republicans have the majority in both the Senate and House of Representatives, effectively blocking the opposing party from any interference. Several other members of Trump’s staff, however, do not require approval. Trump directly appoints the National Security Advisor, Chief of Staff, and Chief Strategist. Former US Army Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, RNC chairman Reince Priebus, and Breitbart News executive chair Stephen K. Bannon have all filled these positions, respectively.
Perhaps the most controversial appointee, Bannon has come under fire for his work at Breitbart News, a far-right news and opinion website. In the past, critics have accused Bannon of furthering the alt-right agenda, whose ideologies have been closely aligned with white nationalism. Bannon, a former US Navy Officer, has dabbled in foreign affairs, serving as a special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon. After working in investment banking and the environmental sector, Bannon became an executive producer in the film industry. In 2012, Bannon assumed his current position at Breitbart and has shifted the dialogue of the site’s towards more controversial subject matter. Bannon has also irked criticism for his comments, including those calling progressive women “a bunch of dykes” and for his urgency to “Let the [Republican] grassroots turn on the hate because that’s the ONLY thing that will make them do their duty.” As perhaps the most influential member of Trump’s staff, Bannon’s future as Chief Strategist has brought up concerns over the direction of Trump’s presidency.
(Sources: NY Times, Washington Post, The Daily Beast, NBC, Politico)