Vice President – Mike Pence
Former US Congressman and Governor of Indiana
Many Republicans were extremely happy when Trump picked Pence to be his running mate. Often thought of as a traditional conservative, he is steady, calm and collected. It has been suggested that Donald Trump doesn’t want to share the spotlight with anybody in his cabinet, hence Christie, Giuliani and Gingrich are nowhere to be seen. Relatively speaking, Pence keeps a low profile as a politician, and refrains from making the wild and controversial statements for which Trump has been known.
Liked by his Republican supporters, Pence has a long history of conservative viewpoints. He described himself as “Christian, a Conservative and a Republican, in that order”. On most issues, he has remained consistent, though his running mate’s views and actions have sometimes run contrary to Pence’s values. During his 2000 race for congress, Pence published his political agenda which offered his position on most of the topics of the day. Most people would agree that his positions are either conservative, or very conservative. You can link to the website here: http://web.archive.org/web/20010519165033fw_/http:/cybertext.net/pence/issues.html
Throughout his political career, one of Pence’s most polarizing positions is how he views homosexuals. He believes being gay is a choice, and has stated that keeping gays from marrying is not discrimination, but an enforcement of “God’s idea”. In 2007 he voted against a law that would have prevented discrimination against LGBT’s in the workplace. There have been reports that Pence supported “conversion therapy”, or the groups that promoted the practice. However, there doesn’t seem to be any documentation supporting that claim, and an aide to Mr. Pence refuted to the New York Times in Nov of 2016 that Pence ever supported the practice. In 2015 he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which many argued would allow business owners to discriminate against LGBT patrons. He acknowledged the bill was discriminatory but signed it anyway. The law was so controversial and damaging to Indiana that it soon needed to be amended. In 2007 he also sponsored a bill to defund planned parenthood (the first of many to come), and reintroduced the legislation multiple times. He continued his pro-life stance as Governor by signing HB 1337 which required the burial or cremation of the fetus, the law was later blocked by a federal court.
While Pence and Trump agree on many issues, Pence and Trump have their differences on free trade. For 12 years in Congress, Pence voted in favor of free trade, and supported the quick passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Trump has called the TPP “a rape of our country”.
Since the election, Pence has been involved in more than one controversy. Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn “misled” him when Pence asked him if he had had contact with the Russians prior to inauguration. While Trump knew the truth, for about a week Pence did not, which led to Flynn’s firing. In March, it was disclosed that while Governor of Indiana Pence used a private mail server similar to Hillary Clinton. Neither were found to be hacked.
Secretary of State – Rex Tillerson
Former Chairman, Exxon Mobile
Romantics often say love is what makes the world go ‘round. However, world leaders and politicians know it is really money that makes it go. If money is really the cause, the surprise appointment of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State may prove to be very effective. Former Chairman of Exxon Mobil, the second biggest company in the world (Apple is #1 in cap) Tillerson has established business contacts all over the world (including Putin and other Russians). Approaching world issues from a financial viewpoint vs. a political viewpoint may prove very effective for Tillerson, and he certainly knows how to get business done. Can wars be avoided if the solution is financially appealing to all parties? Is Tillerson the new Milo from Catch-22? Only time will tell.
Often cited as pragmatic, Tillerson is big on organization, structure and chain-of-command. This may become a strength or weakness to Trump, as both are accustomed to working in the business world, and lack the experience of working within governmental agencies. The State Department is huge, and having the buy-in of the existing governmental employees will be a key to his success.
Tillerson should be careful to make sure he is in Trump’s ear often, and not become disconnected. It’s unknown if Trump’s recent proposed 37% cut to the State Department was part of Tillerson’s plan, or if it came as a surprise. In addition, Trump didn’t help Tillerson out much when he vetoed Tillerson’s choice for his own deputy. Steve Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have also been involved in recent diplomacy with Kushner meeting privately with some Ambassadors, a function normally reserved for State employees. This could become a dicey situation if Tillerson is not in the loop directing or forming policy.
Secretary of Treasury – Steven Mnuchin
Former Partner, Goldman Sachs
President Trump has often claimed that he would “drain the swamp”. Many took this to mean that he would rid Washington of all the bureaucratic politicians that served themselves instead of the public. If that was truly a goal of Trump, it is confusing why he would look to any employee of Goldman Sachs which is often viewed as one of Wall Street’ most self-serving institutions, often accused of lining their own pockets without regard to their client’s interests.
During confirmation hearings, Mr. Mnuchin found it difficult to explain his position on tax avoidance havens such as the Cayman Islands. While he denied ever using Banks in the Caymans’ to avoid paying taxes on his own money, he did not deny using them for his clients. He also failed to include approximately $100 million in assets on his financial disclosure form, including artwork held in his children’s names valued in the millions.
Secretary of Defense – General James “Mad Dog” Mattis
Four-Star General, US Marines, Ret 2013.
The position of Secretary of Defense is traditionally reserved for a lifelong civilian. Civilians set policy on war and peace; officers devise plans to execute that policy, and there are many clear arguments why this has been the policy of every President (Republican and Democrat) since Harry S. Truman. The last previous General to hold the post of Secretary of Defense was George Marshal in 1950. Recovering from WWII and facing the communist, it was thought Marshal would be the best choice to adapt our military to the new threat. Marshal held the position for only one year. Besides taking the unusual step of confirming a former General, Congress also waived the requirement that a General would need to be inactive for a period of seven years before serving as Secretary of Defense.
As General, there is no doubt Mattis had a distinguished and extraordinarily impressive career. He led Marine raids in Afghanistan in 2001, commanded a division of Marines during the invasion of Iraq in 2001, and in 2004 led the Marines in the battle to take the city of Fallujah. He is respected and liked by those who serve under him. In 2013 a Military Times profile claimed he was “the most revered Marine General in at least a generation”.
Some think Mattis speaks off the cuff a bit too often. Two of his more famous quotes are:
- “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”
- ‘Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.’
Mattis was an ardent supporter of winning over the minds of Iraqis, often instructing his troops to interact with the local population saying “Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.”
While Trump found a well-respected and liked General to run the military, he did not necessarily find a cabinet member who was in lock-step with his philosophies. Mattis supports a diplomacy first philosophy and the continued full funding of the State Department (Trump has proposed a 37% cut) stating “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately”. Mattis has opposed torture, believes the Iran deal should stay in place, and has graves concerns about Moscow.
Attorney General – Jeff Sessions
Department of Justice
Former US Senator from Alabama
I didn’t take long for controversy to find Jeff Sessions. During confirmation hearings, Senator Franken asked if he had spoken to the Russians during the campaign, Sessions answered no. It was later revealed that he had in fact spoken with the Russian Ambassador at least two times, including September 8th when they met in Session’s Washington office. Sessions’ explanation was that he didn’t understand the question during the confirmation hearing which some believe was either a lie or demonstrates he doesn’t have the mental faculties to be Attorney General.
As a Senator, Sessions is generally well liked by his colleagues. He is reported to have a pleasant and polite “Southern Hospitality” type of personality which enables him to get along with most other law makers. However, there is no misunderstanding that Sessions is a conservative Republican from the South, and can be counted on to vote that way.
Accusations of racism have followed Sessions during his career, and it was reported that he said: “The KKK was okay until I learned they smoked pot”. He is also quoted as saying that a white lawyer who had black clients was “a disgrace to his race”. His record on voting rights is so controversial it was the catalyst for a letter written by the Widow of Martin Luther King Jr. to Strom Thurmond, requesting that Sessions not be confirmed as a federal district judge in 1986. The letter, and the testimony of four DoJ lawyers who claimed Sessions had made racially offensive remarks, doomed his earlier confirmation.
Secretary of the Interior – Ryan Zinke
Former US Representative from Montana
Most people would consider Zinke an outdoorsman. He is also a conservative Republican, which means he is often faced with conflicting ideologies regarding the environment. On one hand, Zinke has supported preserving the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, but he is also against a rule to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses during energy production on public land. His position on global warming also vacillates, sometimes agreeing that temperatures are rising, but not always agreeing as to why. It is clear that he believes that there should be continued oil, gas, coal, logging and other development of our public lands, but he has also stated that he wants our National Parks to be world class. Can he do both? Trump has insinuated that he plans on rolling back regulations controlling oil and gas production on public lands, it will be interesting to see if Zinke is more in favor of conservation and preservation or in granting new and expanded leases to corporations.
Secretary of Agriculture – Sonny Perdue
Former state Senator and Governor of Georgia
Unlike many of Trumps cabinet picks, Perdue (no relation to Perdue chicken) actually has some experience relating to the department to which he has been nominated. Perdue grew up on a farm, became a veterinarian and spent much of his life in the agribusiness. After his stint as Governor, he founded Perdue Partners which exports many US agricultural products worldwide.
There is more to the Department of Agriculture than just watching crops grow, and Perdue will need to face many challenges as Secretary under Trump. Farm subsidy programs are often a hot topic on Capitol Hill, as are Food Stamps, food safety, food inspection, and school nutrition programs, all of which fall under the Department of Agriculture. Furthermore, Trump’s initiatives may face opposition from big Agriculture, who are generally in favor of the TTP. Trump hates the TTP, but it is estimated to bring in an additional $5.3 billion in farm income. Trump’s attempt to close the southern border will also greatly influence the supply of farm labor, which will certainly have an adverse effect on production costs. Perdue will have his hands full when confirmed, but at least he has experience to draw from.
Secretary of Commerce – Wilbur Ross
Wilbur Ross made his billions by buying ailing companies, turning them around, and selling them for a profit. Many of his larger deals involved steel, textiles, coal, oil, and gas firms, though he also has been involved in struggling banks. The turnaround of companies is not always easy, and Ross has been called a “vulture capitalist” because the restructuring has sometimes required the slashing of jobs and pensions to get the companies back in the black.
As Secretary of Commerce, his job will be to promote American business and industry. Ross appears very well qualified for this position having attended Yale, earning a MBA from Harvard, and spending many years on Wall Street analyzing numerous businesses. He has top notch business experience, he knows what it takes to turn around a failing business. Interestingly, while heading Rothschild’s bankruptcy business, he represented the interest of investors in Trump’s failing Taj Mahal casino.
While there are few scandals or accusations of wrongdoing in Ross’s past, he may face a challenge complying with federal ethic laws covering cabinet members’ business interest. Mr. Ross retains investments in many businesses around the world.
Secretary of Labor – Alexander Acosta
Attorney, Dean Florida International College of Law
Trump’s first choice for Secretary of Labor was Andy Puzder, who withdrew from consideration after opposition from both Democrats and Republicans. Puzder is the CEO of the holding company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast food chains. Rumors of cash payments to employees and unflattering comments about the American workforce probably was Puzder’s undoing.
A Harvard Law graduate, Alexander Acosta is considered a low-risk choice by Trump. His background should be appealing to both Democrats and Republicans. Acosta, a Republican, was appointed by President George W. Bush to the National Labor Relations Board and authored over 125 opinions while serving. He also served as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, where he defended the rights of American Muslims. As US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Acosta met with each new employee on the day were hired and told them their job “is to do justice, not to win at all costs”. If confirmed (and all signs indicate he will be), he will be the first Hispanic member of Trump’s cabinet.
Secretary of Transportation – Elaine Chao
Former Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush
Former Deputy Transportation Secretary under George H.W. Bush
To a joint session of Congress, Trump announced he would be asking for legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States. If approved, Chao would be in charge of spending many of those funds on America’s roads, bridges and airports.
Later Chao claimed Trump had “new, exciting and novel ideas about how to finance” the investment. It turns out most of the ideas are tolls, which are hardly new, exciting or novel.
Chao is not a controversial choice for Secretary. She has served other Republican Presidents well and is respected in Washington. She also happens to be married to Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader of the Senate. Things could get complicated for McConnell if Trumps goes off the rails and has a problem with Republicans in the Senate.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs – Dr. David Shulkin
Former Under Secretary for Health, Veteran Affairs
Board certified Physician
Most Americans agree that Veterans deserve to be one of our governments top priorities. During the past 10 years, the VA has been involved in multiple scandals for which only a few employees were fired or disciplined. Excessive wait times, poor care, and exorbitant cost overruns seem to be par for the course at the VA. A new facility in Denver has experienced cost overruns to such an extent, it is now estimated to cost almost 1.5 times as much as what the Sears Tower recently sold for, and it is not nearly finished. Again, nobody was fired for the mismanagement.
Shulkin will be the first non-Veteran to run the agency. His ability to effect change will greatly depend on whether Congress passes new laws which allow him to terminate employees with poor performance. If they don’t, he will find it difficult to implement the change or veterans deserve. Hence, his ability to reform an organization so vital to our veteran’s rests equally in his own hands, and in the hands of Congress.
Secretary of Education – Betsy DeVos
Political Activist, Philanthropist
The American Education system is in need of repair. Depending on which international study you accept, the US ranks about 14th – 19th in the world in k-12 public education. This is in spite of the US having the 6th highest GDP per Capita. Many intercity school systems are simply a disgrace, where babysitting delinquents have somehow become more important than providing quality education. Rewarding great teachers or terminating poor ones is almost impossible. Perhaps Trump believed a shake-up was needed and that placement of a strong Secretary was in necessary in order to make those changes happen. DeVos is not the person to make it happen.
DeVos’s biggest accomplishment is writing huge checks to Republican campaigns. During a two-month period in the summer of 2016, the DeVos family contributed $1.45 million to Michigan GOP lawmakers. They have recently contributed to over 20 Republican US Senators (Marco Rubio received almost $100,000).
While she has been a strong advocate for school vouchers and charter schools, she has no actual experience in school administration, public or private. She herself never attended public school. Her children never attended public school. She did not receive any degree in education, not an undergraduate, graduate or doctorate degree. She has never been a teacher, principal or school administrator. There is no record of her running for, or being on any school board. She has no experience or qualifications to evaluate a teacher’s performance. She has made significant financial contributions to pro-charter school and voucher organizations in her home state of Michigan, but those donations have had little to no effect on providing quality education. The charter schools in Detroit have been particularly disastrous, with little accountability to actual performance. DeVos has held few (if any) positions of leadership and has not run or been a top-level manager in any organizations of any significant size. Why Trump thinks she is qualified to run an organization the size of the Department of Education with its 4,400 employees is somewhat of a mystery.
When a new President gets elected it is not uncommon for big donors and supporters to get some sort of perk. For the amount the DeVos family has given to Republicans, they should have a bedroom in the White House. By all means, DeVos deserves some sort of title, perhaps even an ambassadorship in Fiji. But if Trump really wanted to improve public schools in America, he should have selected somebody who can drive change, a person with experience running large organizations, a person with an education background. Betsy DeVos is not that person, she is a person who writes big checks.
Secretary of Energy – Rick Perry
Former Governor of Texas and Presidential candidate
Arguably the worst pick Trump made for any cabinet position. The choice of Rick Perry is completely baffling. One can only surmise Trump thinks that the Department of Energy’s sole responsibility is the oil and gas industry, much of which is based in Texas. In fact, 60% of the department’s budget is allocated to the development, design, storage and safe keeping of the US nuclear arsenal. In addition, every American aircraft carrier and submarine operate a nuclear reactor which is developed and tested at Department of Energy facilities. The position of Secretary of Energy is of vital importance to American security, probably second only to the Secretary of Defense.
Rick Perry has no experience or expertise in regards to nuclear weapons or systems. During a 2011 Presidential debate, Rick Perry suggested he would eliminate five governmental agencies. When asked which ones, he was able to remember only three, and could not remember the other two, eventually muttering “oops”. This gaffe essentially ended Perry’s prayer of ever becoming President. One of the agencies he wanted to eliminate at the time but couldn’t remember was the Department of Energy. Why Trump would nominate a person to run a department who wanted to eliminate it is baffling, especially considering the vital importance the department holds in regards to national security. Sadly, but not surprisingly, Perry didn’t actually know what the department did until the day before his confirmation hearings when he stated “…In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination”.
Besides wanting to eliminate the department because he didn’t know what it did, Perry is grossly unqualified to be in charge in just about every other way. In comparison, Dr. Ernest Moniz (the previous Secretary before Perry), received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Stanford. He also served as head of MIT’s Department of Physics, and as Director of the Bates linear Accelerator. Prior to Dr. Moniz, Dr. Steven Chu was Secretary of Energy. Dr. Chu also earned a Ph.D. in physics, but from UC Berkeley. After serving as Secretary, Dr. Chu returned to research at Stanford University where he expanded his research to include both biological and polymer physics. And “oops”, we almost forgot, Dr. Chu also earned a Nobel prize in Physics. Rick Perry studied animal science at Texas A&M where was a cheerleader.
Could Trump have nominated a worse choice? When we really try, we can think of one possibility, perhaps Dennis Rodman would have been a worse choice. Like Perry, Rodman is pretty much an idiot who has no nuclear training. Rodman is also friends with North Korean Communist dictator Kim Jong-un. Rodman probably would have been a worse choice, but just barely.
Secretary of Health & Human Services – Dr. Thomas Price
Resigned in disgrace 9/29/2017
Former Congressmen, Georgia
An orthopedic surgeon raised in Michigan, Price confirmation was fraught with controversy, and his confirmation process went long into the night. Eventually, at around 2:00 AM he was confirmed along party lines.
Much of the controversy regarding Price was his record of personally investing in health care stocks and then advancing legislation that would benefit those companies. Price stated during his hearings “Everything I did was ethical, above board, legal and transparent”. While his trading activities may appear suspicious, unethical or a conflict of interest, it would appear that his statement was correct as no congressional investigation ensued.
Price is a member of AAPS (American Physicians and Surgeons), a group who oppose Medicare and offers training to Doctors on how to opt out of the program that aids seniors. Price has made statements that he supports Medicare, but that changes will need to be made in order to guarantee its sustainability. This viewpoint is generally accepted in Washington, but it conflicts with Trump’s pledge that he would make “no changes” to Social Security or Medicare, a pledge he repeated during his address to Congress on Feb 28, 2017.
On the Conservative scale, Price is just about as far right as a Senator can get. He is against same-sex marriage and is in favor of a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman. He is a strong pro-life advocate, receiving a score of 100% from the National Right to Life Committee, and a score of 0% from Planned Parenthood. He was a vocal opponent of just about everything Obamacare and especially disliked the provision requiring no co-pay for birth control, stating that it infringes on religious liberties.
If Trump’s goal was to appoint somebody who wanted gut Obamacare, then he certainly found his man. The challenge that Price faces is that even though Republicans control both houses, they can’t seem to agree on how to change Obamacare, which will make changing any aspect nearly impossible.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – Dr. Ben Carson
Former Directory of Pediatric Neurosurgery, John Hopkins
By most accounts, Carson is a likable and intelligent self-made man who has overcome adversity during much of his early life. Educated at Yale and University of Michigan, Carson gained fame in 1987 as the leader of groundbreaking surgeries to separate conjoined twins. Carson would perform five surgeries to separate conjoined twins, which tragically often resulted in the death of one, or both of the children. Unfortunately, this was typical for the operation until more advanced practices and techniques were developed.
Carson has written ten books, some of which are bestsellers. As Carson became better known and expressed interest in politics, scrutiny of some of his stories started to become a problem. Carson has stated that after meeting General Westmoreland, he was offered a full scholarship to the US Military Academy. However, General Westmoreland wasn’t in Detroit at the time Carson said the offer occurred, WestPoint technically doesn’t offer scholarships, there is no record of Carson’s application, nor evidence of him being extended admission. There are other numerous other stories which have come under scrutiny that cannot be confirmed.
Carson himself was a candidate for President. He lost popularity when his weakness in foreign affairs became apparent. At one point, Carson commented that he is not opposed to a Palestinian State, but questioned why it needs “to be within the confines of Israeli territory…Is that necessary, or can you sort of slip that area down into Egypt?”
In reality, Carson has no government experience or expertise in housing and urban development policy. Nor does he have experience in housing finance or banking, which might help in regards to understanding FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac policies. When asked why he was qualified to run the agency, he responded that he had grown up in the inner city. By his logic, that would make about 50 million people qualified to run HUD, and another 10 million qualified to run the Navy if they grew up near a naval base.
Chief of Staff as of 7/28/2017- Formally Secretary of Homeland Security – John Kelly
Appointed, Formally Confirmed
Former Four Star General, US Marines, Ret 2016
With 240,000 employees, the Department of Homeland Security is the third-largest cabinet department. It is in charge of keeping America safe, including the borders, airports, and responding to emergencies. It is Kelly’s responsibility to carry out the building of any wall and implementing any travel ban or immigration policy that Trump may put in place. Because of his position, he should be included in the formation and rollout of any such plan. Unfortunately, Trump and his inner circle (i.e. Steve Bannon) did not notify Kelly it was coming until the day before it was signed. With no time to inform or train staff, the rollout was blasted by both Democrats and Republicans and was widely considered a total blunder by the Trump camp as it caused immediate chaos around the world.
Prior to his retirement, he served President Obama as Southern Command chief. He disagreed with the Obama administration on at least two issues; Kelly believes that Guantanamo Bay should stay open and that women should not be able to serve in all aspects of the military.
After his retirement, Kelly mentioned that he would like to continue serving his country under either a Republican or Democratic administration. One of the biggest criticisms of Kelly’s nomination wasn’t against Kelly himself, but that Trump was nominating too many Generals to fill his cabinet. General Kelly is one of the very few generals, congressmen or senior administration staff to truly know what war means, and what sacrifices American families make when a President decides to send in the troops. His son, 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly was killed in Afghanistan while fighting the Taliban in 2010. John Kelly is a Gold Star – Four Star General.
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency – Scott Pruitt
Confirmed (Not a Cabinet Position)
Previously State Attorney General, Oklahoma
Does Donald Trump understand the word “protection”? Depending on your viewpoint, Pruitt is either the absolutely best, or worst choice to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). During the election, Trump rejected the scientific fact of global warming, calling it a fraud or a hoax, and often repeated his pledge to repeal all of the Obama Administration’s environmental regulations. If the goal is to discredit and dismantle the agency, then Pruitt is a great choice. Pruitt has sued the EPA 13 times, and his LinkedIn page states he “is a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda”. All of Pruitt’s 13 lawsuits against the EPA sought to allow more pollution, none of them sought greater protections for the environment or to reduce pollution. Pruitt has also made statements implying that it would be fine “if the EPA didn’t even exist”.
Pruitt has received over $300,000 in contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Hence, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t believe in global warming, or that CO2 is a contributing factor to rising temperatures. What is surprising is that he sued the EPA so that coal power plants could emit greater levels of mercury into the atmosphere, claiming “the record does not support the EPA’s findings that mercury… pose[s] public health hazards.” During this time, the number of lakes in Oklahoma listed with mercury poisoning went from 19 in 2010, to 40 in 2016. Furthermore, despite the American Lung Association calling smog “one of the most dangerous” pollutants, Pruitt sued the EPA to allow higher levels of ozone, the chief ingredient in ground-level smog. Pruitt’s record of protecting the environment is so abysmal, 450 former employees of the EPA took the unusual step of sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, urging that he not be confirmed.
If you are in favor of eliminating environmental protections, don’t believe in global warming, think it is okay to put more mercury in the air and increase smog levels, then Pruitt is an excellent choice to lead the EPA. On the other hand…
Cabinet Rank Positions – Appointed by President Trump
Chief of Staff – Reince Priebus
Fired via Twitter 7/28/2017
Former Chairman, Republican National Committee
In January 2011 Priebus took over the reins of the Republican National Committee (RNC) from Michael Steele. Steele had issues during his term, having a public spat with Rush Limbaugh who said Steele was not fit to lead the Republican party. Under Steele, the RNC also ran up a debt of $23 million, and it was hoped that Priebus would get the budget under control, which he eventually did.
Effective in his position, Priebus was re-elected to second and third terms and held the position through the 2016 election. During the election, Priebus was often critical of Trump, admonishing him for comments about banning Muslims, and for his comments regarding a Gold Star family. It was also rumored (but not confirmed) that Priebus met with Trump in New York after the Access Hollywood tape leaked and advised him to get out of the race.
Because of Priebus’s prior criticism, many of Trump’s closet supporters were surprised that Trump announced him as his Chief of Staff. As Chief of Staff, Priebus is the gatekeeper to Trump and the Oval Office. Traditionally, he would set schedules and agendas, a very powerful position.
Regardless of what Trump claimed, it was clear that the first few weeks of the Trump administration did not go smoothly. Rumors of infighting and finger-pointing have led some to believe that a staff shakeup is inevitable. Is Priebus going to be the fall guy? Only time will tell.
Chief Strategist and Sr. Advisor – Steve Bannon
Former Executive Chairman, Breitbart News (resumed position)
A MBA graduate of Harvard and a former Goldman Sachs Banker, Bannon has surprisingly become one of Trump’s most trusted advisors. Many find it hard to classify Bannon. He himself describes his ideology as “Nationalist”, which is not necessarily the same as “White Nationalist”. However, after learning of Bannon’s appointment, David Duke, the former Leader of the KKK called Bannon’s selection “excellent”. In contrast, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League made a public statement in part saying “It’s a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the alt-right, a loose knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists is slated to be a senior staff member in the “people’s house”.
While Bannon was in charge of Breitbart News, the website often ran divisive and offensive headlines such as “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew,” “Trannies 49 Xs Higher HIV Rate,” and “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.” Until just recently, Breitbart employed Milo Yiannopoulos as an Editor. Yiannopoulos resigned after comments he made were interpreted as his supporting sex with children as young as 14. Besides his comments regarding sex with children, Yiannopoulos made other comments that were deemed so vicious and racist, he received a lifetime ban from Twitter. Upon hearing the news, Bannon’s first comments to a reporter at Vanity Fair were “Did you hear about Milo? It’s great”.
One who reads about Bannon and the comments he has made might come away with the impression that his goal is to create chaos. He seems to relish political turmoil and the disruption of established political systems. During a 2016 Atlantic Magazine interview, he stated “We don’t believe there is a functional conservative party in this country and we certainly don’t think the Republican Party is that. It’s going to be an insurgent, center-right populist movement that is virulently anti-establishment, and it’s going to continue to hammer this city, both the progressive left and the institutional Republican Party.” Interpret what he says as you wish, but the more of his quotes you read, the more you realize how anti-establishment he is. It has been reported that his central philosophy is almost communistic in nature, and he believes that a corrupt ruling class in America has abandoned the American workers in favor of policies that line its pockets, and the pockets of corporate interest. He seeks to destroy, or at least disrupt the existing ruling class.
Is Steve Bannon a modern-day Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now? Even ultra-conservative Glen Beck thinks Bannon is scary, saying of Bannon “quite possibly the most dangerous guy in all of American politics” and a “horrible, despicable human being.” When the Conservatives are saying things like this about you, either your last name is Clinton or you truly are a kook.
Counselor to the President – Kellyanne Conway
Missing in any significant way after John Kelly became Chief of Staff
Former Campaign Manager for Donald Trump
Conway initially endorsed Ted Cruz for President. After Cruz dropped out of the election, Trump appointed her as Senior Advisor, and then later promoted her to become his third Campaign Manager.
During the campaign, Conway was the Yoda of spin and deflection. If she was asked a question about a controversial Trump tweet, within five seconds she would be talking about how terrible Hillary was. It seemed that she never answered a question outright, and always used her time to turn the conversation to what she wanted to talk about. Not even the decent reporters could seem to keep her on the topic they wanted. She was very, very good, and may have been one of the biggest factors in Trump’s victory.
Things began to go South for Conway shortly after the inauguration. While trying to spin Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s lies on Meet The Press, she said that he simply used “alternative facts”. Host Chuck Todd was incredulous, ripped her for using the term and suggested that there were no such things as alternative facts. About a week later she was defending Trump’s immigration plan during an interview with Chris Mathews. She justified the plan by referencing the “Bowling Green Massacre”, an event that never took place. With her credibility sinking to new lows, CNN refused to have her as a guest the following day. Continued questions about her credibility came from the Washington Post, Matt Lauer, George Stephanopoulos, and others, which led to her being banned from “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. Not long afterward, Conway seemed to disappear from TV.
Senior Advisor to the President – Jared Kushner
Real Estate Investor, Son-in-law of the President
There’s not much history on Jared Kushner. He is a behind-the-scenes type of guy. At a relatively young age of 27, he was forced to take over the family business when his father ran into a bit of an issue with the law. Charles Kushner plead guilty of 18 counts of tax evasion, witness tampering and campaign fraud. He was also accused of hiring a prostitute to sleep with his brother-in-law so that he could tape it and give a copy of the sordid episode to his sister (no, it wasn’t a wedding present). And who was the prosecutor? None other than Chris Christie, no wonder Christie is no longer in the inner circle.
It seems much of Jared’s focus has been in diplomacy. Kushner, along with disgraced former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, met with the Russians at Trump Tower during the election. Initially denied by the White House, the meeting ultimately resulted in Flynn’s firing, but left Kushner untouched. Kushner was also instrumental in talks with Mexico, which fell apart after an erratic outburst from Trump regarding the wall. It has been reported that Kushner has been in contact with dozens of foreign governments, and has been found to be a good intermediary who can facilitate meetings throughout the administration. Trump has also suggested that Kushner may be helpful in negotiating peace plans in the Middle East.
Should Kushner be in a place of such power with the President, or should his functions be handled by the State Department? The reality is that the White House needs a rational competent person to keep things under control. While he is only 32, Kushner might be the person who can smooth feathers and keep things from getting completely out of hand.