Trump’s Cabinet Is Going to Be as Bonkers as You Thought

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Donald Trump is going to be president, and he’s about to make his first hires. Who will join the Trump Cabinet™? Over the course of the campaign, the former celebrity mogul dropped a number of hints, and he flirted with the idea of unveiling his Cabinet, reality TV-style, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (It didn’t happen.) Since Trump won the election on Tuesday, his aides have started to fill in the gaps. Trump hasn’t talked much about what he’s looking for in a Cabinet secretary, but he has promised that his picks will have “great ability” and will not be “politically correct.”

Here’s a look at who might make Trump’s A-list:

Treasury: “We don’t have our best and our brightest negotiating for us—we have a bunch of losers, we have a bunch of political hacks, we have diplomats,” Trump said in an interview on Morning Joe last summer, when asked who he would name as treasury secretary. “I know the smartest guys on Wall Street. I know our best negotiators. I know the overrated guys, the underrated guys, the guys that nobody ever heard of that are killers, that are great. We gotta use those people…Guys like [former General Electric CEO] Jack Welch. I like guys like [private equity giant] Henry Kravis. I’d love to bring my friend Carl Icahn. I mean, we have people that are great.”

Welch has said he’s not interested. Kravis said, “I love my job and can’t imagine leaving it.” Icahn announced on Twitter last August that he would accept the job if asked to serve, after initially saying no deal. Then he reversed himself again. So he’s presumably out of the running. Currently, Trump is reportedly leaning toward ex-Goldman Sachs banker and Avatar financier Steve Mnuchin. He was chair of housing lender OneWest, which, according to the New York Times, “was involved in a string of lawsuits over questionable foreclosures, and settled several cases for millions of dollars.” Last year, Variety reported that Mnuchin and other partners lost $80 million in Relativity Media, a movie studio that went bust. The magazine added that “disgruntled Relativity investors privately are questioning how a bank Mnuchin once headed—OneWest Bank of Pasadena—was allowed by Relativity to drain $50 million from the studio just weeks prior to the July 30 insolvency filing.” Mnuchin was finance chair of Trump’s presidential campaign. 

Attorney General: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is leading Trump’s White House transition team, was the most discussed name prior to the verdict in the Bridgegate case. “I think he’d make a great attorney general, he’s a very talented guy,” Trump told Boston talk radio host Howie Carr in March. Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., said in February, “I think there would certainly be something within the Justice Department” for Christie if he weren’t chosen as vice president. When Trump passed over Christie for VP, he reportedly sought to smooth things over by floating the top spot at the Justice Department. “If he asks me, and I can do it, I will do it,” Christie said in July. But the lingering stain of Bridgegate may put him out of the running for this gig. Lately, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has emerged as a favorite for AG, according to MSNBC.

Giuliani has his own bit of baggage, which will likely come up in any confirmation hearing. As mayor of New York, he brought his taxpayer-funded security detail with him on trysts with the woman he was having an affair with. (They are now married.) His police commissioner, Bernie Kerik, who was named George W. Bush’s homeland security director on Giuliani’s recommendation, later served prison time for tax fraud.

Homeland Security: The New York Times and the New York Daily News reported during the campaign that Giuliani, one of Trump’s most fervent surrogates, is a contender for the post. When Fox’s Bill O’Reilly raised Giuliani as a possible homeland security pick during an interview in May, Trump replied, “I think it would be good.” (Trump has also floated Giuliani for another role, telling Fox & Friends he was “thinking about setting up a commission, perhaps headed by Rudy Giuliani, to take a very serious look at” terrorism.) But if Giuliani goes to the Justice Department, that might create an opening for Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a big-time Trump backer who once compared Black Lives Matter to ISIS. In May, Ebony called Clarke “a black cop with a dangerous mentality,” noting that his “conservative political views, particularly on law enforcement, have made him a darling of the right-wing media, but his critics have called him a ‘shill.'” Christie was also reportedly under consideration.

Health and Human Services: In the May O’Reilly interview, Trump praised the host’s suggestion that Ben Carson run the federal department that oversees the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Carson, for his part, has said he was promised a job “in an advisory capacity” in the Trump administration, but he has not specified which. Carson’s ability to lead a large organization was called into question during his presidential bid, when his campaign was routinely racked by internal chaos. In September, he said Trump should apologize for leading the birther movement in order to remove “hate and rancor” from the political process—and there’s no telling if that ticked off Trump.

Education: Maybe Carson could run two departments? At a debate in March, after the pediatric neurosurgeon had dropped out, Trump remarked, “I am going to have Ben very much involved in education, something which really is an expertise of his.” However, Trump has said the Department of Education would be “largely eliminated” in his administration. This might be a part-time gig.

State: Conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt has lobbied hard for superhawk John Bolton, who served as ambassador to the United Nations under the George W. Bush administration. Trump left the door open during the campaign. “I watched him yesterday, actually, and he was very good in defending me in some of my views, and very, very strong, and I’ve always liked John Bolton,” Trump told Hewitt in a radio interview. And when Trump was asked in August 2015 to name his “go-to”  foreign policy advisers, he gave two names: Bolton and retired Colonel Jack Jacobs. (Jacobs subsequently said he had never advised Trump.) Citing Bolton was odd, since Trump has boasted (inaccurately) that he was a critic of the Iraq War, and Bolton was a cheerleader for the war. As a senior State Department official prior to the 2003 Iraq invasion, Bolton pushed the false claim that Saddam Hussein was actively developing a nuclear weapons program. (He also supported a conspiracy theorist named Laurie Mylroie who contended that Saddam was behind the 9/11 attacks.) And he insists that the Iraq invasion was the right move. In May, he said, “I still think the decision to overthrow Saddam was correct.”

Politico and MSNBC have floated another name for the top foreign policy post: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. A finalist to be Trump’s vice president, Gingrich has talked publicly about crafting his own role in a Trump administration. After Mike Pence was picked for the veep spot, Gingrich commented, “I said I want to be the senior planner for the entire federal government, and I want a letter from you that says Newt Gingrich is authorized to go to any program in any department, examine it, and report directly to the president.” In other words, he wants to be—in Game of Thrones parlance—the Hand of the King. Maybe that’s because Gingrich, with his decades of outlandish remarks, controversies, and scandals, might not want to go through what could be a bruising confirmation process.

Energy: Reuters reported in July that Trump was considering nominating fracking billionaire Harold Hamm to run the Energy Department. Trump made no effort to deny that report, and he bragged about his friendship with Hamm at a press conference a few days later. “These other companies, they go out and spend millions of dollars looking for oil,” Trump said. “That guy takes a straw, puts it in the ground, and oil pours out of it. That’s the kind of a guy we want telling us about energy.” This week, Hamm called on Trump to slash regulations on oil and gas drilling, claiming the government is impeding energy production (even though the United States is producing oil and gas at record levels). At the Republican convention, Hamm declared, “Climate change isn’t our biggest problem. It’s Islamic terrorism.” Last year, according to Bloomberg, Hamm told the University of Oklahoma dean he wanted the school to fire scientists who were exploring connections between oil and gas activity and the state’s tremendous increase in earthquakes.

Defense: Trump tweeted in July about the possibility of naming Lt. General (Ret.) Michael Flynn, a top campaign surrogate who is the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, to run the Pentagon.

But because Flynn is less than seven years removed from active duty, he would need a waiver from Congress in order to take the job. He is also in the running to be Trump’s national security adviser, a non-Cabinet position that does not require Senate confirmation. Flynn was forced out of his job as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 after a tumultuous stint at the Pentagon, and he later wrote a book describing Islam as a “cancer.” As the top national security guy in the White House, Flynn would be in a position to exact revenge on the military bureaucracy that pushed him out.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), one of Trump’s closest advisers during the campaign, and Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. of California, who endorsed Trump early, have also been mentioned for the top Pentagon job.

Agriculture: Biofuels baron Bruce Rastetter, a member of Trump’s agriculture advisory council and a big-time Republican donor, has been rumored to be on the shortlist, in part because of his close relationship with Christie. That’d be a Christmas gift for the ethanol lobby. Politico reported this week that the list of candidates for the job also includes Texas Agriculture Secretary Sid Miller, who famously called Hillary Clinton a “cunt” on Twitter during the presidential race. Miller, who was embroiled in an ethics scandal back in Texas for using taxpayer dollars to compete in a rodeo, has aggressively pushed junk food in public schools and went so far as to grant “amnesty” to a cupcake.

Veterans Affairs: At a speech in Virginia in July, Trump floated Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) as a possible head of the scandal-plagued agency. “He certainly is someone a lot of people respect,” Trump said of Miller, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee. According to a list of possible cabinet appointees obtained by BuzzFeed, he remains under consideration.

Interior: Politico reported in September that Lucas Oil founder Forrest Lucas is the front-runner to head the federal agency that oversees national parks and Indian affairs.* Lucas, a major Republican donor, has in recent years thrown his money behind efforts to block state legislation designed to crack down on abusive puppy mills. Picking an oil-industry executive to manage public lands—and one of the department that’s most aggressively fighting climate change—would send a clear signal about Trump’s priorities.

The dark horse, though, is Donald Trump Jr., who told Petersen’s Hunting that he would make a good interior secretary because he likes to hunt. “I can make a difference,” he said, “and I could do something to preserve the great traditions of the outdoors that are so vital to this country, and would be so vital to our youth, that have been shunned by the media and stigmatized in so many ways.”

In 2015, Trump suggested that Sarah Palin would make an effective Cabinet secretary. Palin has said she would like to run the Department of Energy, but according to Politico, Interior might be her best bet. If so, get ready to hear the phrase “Drill, Baby, Drill” again. Interior is the department where Trump is most likely to hire a woman. Former Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin are also under consideration, according to BuzzFeed.

Commerce: Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), the first member of Congress to endorse Trump, has said Trump hinted at a job offer before winning the election. “He has said to me many times, ‘Chris, I know you were the first, I will always remember what you’ve done for me,'” Collins said in July, adding that his Republican colleagues had begun calling him “Mr. Secretary.” Collins told the Buffalo News that he would only accept “a Cabinet-level position,” and more specifically, that he would like to be secretary of commerce.

Trump has also tossed out names of other people he’d liked to give a job in his administration:

Ivanka Trump: Other than Palin, Trump’s oldest daughter, Ivanka, is the only woman he’s suggested as a possible Cabinet pick. “I can tell you everybody would say, ‘Put Ivanka in, put Ivanka in,’ you know that, right?” he told radio host Michael Savage. Yet Trump also said he would put his children in charge of his company if he became president. And not even Ivanka can do both.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage. “I don’t know that he would want that but he is a very talented guy, he is also a great person, a tremendous person and if he were available I would certainly find something for Paul because he’s done a great job up here…He’s not only popular, he’s done an unbelievable job, so I would certainly say that he would be a candidate,” Trump said of the openly racist Maine Republican.

Sen. Tom Cotton: Trump has also floated an unspecified cabinet job for the first-term Republican senator from Arkansas. “I’ve gotten very good, you know, very good statements from Sen. Cotton, whose parents I know and met,” Trump said in the summer. “I think that he is a very talented guy. He’s also a very popular, he’s a very popular person. So…[he is] high on the list for something at least. That I can tell you.”

David Pecker: The New York Post speculated that the National Enquirer boss, whose paper endorsed Trump, was expecting to earn an ambassadorship for his efforts. In November, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Enquirer had paid a woman who claimed to have had an affair with Trump $150,000 for the rights to her story but never published her account. Pecker, a longtime Trump friend, has called those rumors “ridiculous.”

Correction: This post originally misidentified the EPA as part of the Interior Department.

Art by: Library of Congress; Palin: Charles Dharapak/AP Photo; Carson: Dennis Van Tine/AP Photo; Don Jr: J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo; Rudy: Evan Vucci/AP Photo;  Newt:Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP Photo; Christie: David Goldman//AP Photo; Bolton: Alonzo Adams/AP Photo; Trump: Evan Vucci/AP Photo.


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This is the rubber-meets-road moment: the early days in our first fundraising drive since we took a big swing and merged with CIR to bring fearless investigative reporting to the internet, radio, video, and everywhere else that people need an antidote to lies and propaganda.

Donations have started slow, and we hope that explaining, level-headedly, why your support really is everything for our reporting will make a difference. Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” or in this 2:28 video about our merger (that literally just won an award), and please pitch in if you can right now.

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