The men and women President-elect Donald Trump has selected to serve in his administration hold one common trait. It’s not their commitment to conservatism, corporate roots, or bible thumping. They have all been hand picked to keep his detractors on the defensive. What’s more, it’s likely that Trump has a second motivation in mind for selecting such “maverick” bedfellows. He likely plans to undermine and cripple many of the agencies he is being tasked with managing.
Take for example, Scott Pruitt. Pruitt is the Oklahoma State Attorney General. He’s also a climate change denier. And as Trump’s EPA chief pick, he intends to roll years worth of climate protection legislation. Betsy DeVos will head the Education Department, but intends to cut off the flow of federal money to public schools. Rick Perry was selected by Trump to head the Energy Department, a federal agency he once said he would eliminate. And the President-Elect tapped Mick Mulvaney for budget director. Mulvaney has the unique distinction of being among the legislators who brought the U.S. to the brink of a default during the 2011 budget crisis.
There’s little in the way of cohesion among these picks. But a few overarching ideas seem to peek out upon closer scrutiny. Trump has likely selected his picks across the lines of a few “categories” of teammate, and placed them in government agencies depending on what he believes needs to happen there.
The first group is the “Disrupters”, picked by Trump to make good on his campaign promise to shake up the political class in Washington. Pruitt, DeVos, Perry, and Mulvaney all certainly fall into this category; they’re all individuals who have shown a desire to break up or overhaul the agencies they’ve been appointed to lead. Ben Carson also makes this list, whose position as head of the Housing Department would make him likely to ” target=”_blank”>overhaul programs for the poor which he allegedly does not think well of. And Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama will make for an attorney general pick who is likely to push for much more conservative stances on crime, drugs, and immigration. His nomination is also likely to throw liberals into a fit; Sessions was once rejected by the Senate as a potential nominee for a federal judge position after testimony from colleagues alleged that he was a racist.
Trump has also aligned his cabinet picks with a class you might call the “Dealmakers”. These tend to be highly successful billionaires, such as Commerce Department pick and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross. After all the trash talk on Wall Street during this election, Steve Mnuchin of Goldman Sachs will head the Treasury Department. And Exxon Mobil chairman Rex Tillerson, who has maintained a long-standing friendly relationship with Vladimir Putin, will take the role of Secretary of State. Trump commented last week that Tillerson’s ties with the Russian government were a “great advantage” to his administration.
The group we’ll refer to as the “Loyalists” are in the game for a simple reason; they stuck by Mr. Trump when the going was tough. These folks include Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon, White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn, and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
So deep is Mr. Trump’s sense of loyalty for certain campaign staffers and friends that he brought on Linda McMahon to oversee the Small Business Administration. McMahon is best known for being heavily involved in the WWE professional wrestling federation from 1980 to the present. Surprisingly absent from Trump’s loyalty-based picks, though? Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani. Maybe even Trump got sick of ’em.
Trump has managed to placate old-school GOP ideologues by including a few “Establishment” picks in his line up, although they are distinctly in the minority considering the President-Elect’s virulent rhetoric against such establishment politicians during his campaign. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will be Trump’s envoy to the United Nations. Kansas Rep. Michael Pompeo will take the spot of CIA director. And Elaine Chao will be appointed as secretary of transportation. Ms. Chao couldn’t be a more solid pick for someone looking to shore up the support of a fractured Republican party. She’s the wife of Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell.
Finally, Trump has rounded out his staff picks with a nice helping of retired military generals. General John F. Kelly has similar credentials, having served as head of U.S. Southern Command and been in charge of Central and South American military operations. Former SEAL commander Ryan Zinke, who served in Bosnia, Iraq, Kosovo, and the Pacific, will be Trump’s new Secretary of the Interior. Finally, General James N. Mattis will be Trump’s defense secretary after serving the country as head of Central Command in the Middle East. Trump recently called General Mattis “[among] the most effective generals that we’ve had in many, many decades.”
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