This post was originally published on December 13th, but continues to be updated as more information rolls in. Most recent update: January 6th, 2017.
So far, all of Donald Trump’s cabinet nominations have struck fear and dread into my already-jaded heart. Like, choosing a climate change denialist to be in charge of actions taken to prevent climate change, and an enemy of public education to be in charge of public education, and an opponent of government assistance to be in charge of housing-related government assistance. All of these nominees will have to undergo a confirmation process which Democrats intend to make as inconvenient and drawn-out as possible.
Today, we’ll be talking about the nominees who will require confirmation, who range from “Wolves in sheep’s clothing” to “Actual wolves.” Honestly this ranking system became very difficult because I hate them all so much. What’s your take?
Small Business Administration: Linda McMahon
Job Description: Guaranteeing loans, assisting with government contracts and supporting small business interests.
Nominee: Linda McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, who unsuccessfully ran for Senate in Connecticut in 2010 and 2012 — campaigns she funded with $100 million of her own fortune.
$$$$: The McMahons have been friends with Donald Turmp since the ’90s and have donated $5 million to the Donald J. Trump Foundation, $200,000 to an anti-Bernie Sanders SuperPac and $7.5 million to pro-Trump Super PACs. All in all, gave nearly $10 million to Republicans or related groups in 2016.
What’s Her Deal? Linda and her husband were living on food stamps after filing for bankruptcy in the mid-’70s, but went on to purchase the World Wide Wrestling Federation, a regional company with 13 employees they eventually grew to an enormous publicly-traded corporation with over 800 workers worldwide — by ruthlessly obtaining a “de facto monopoly” in the pro wrestling business. Accepted tax credits intended to create jobs while laying off workers in 2009. Used labor loopholes to classify entertainers as “independent contractors,” thus denying them overtime and healthcare. Barry Petchesky of Deadspin said of her appointment, “This is no less insulting than if Trump had picked someone from the Wal-Mart board.”
I’ve ranked her as “least terrifying” because she’s got a few not-insufferable opinions: she’s pro-choice, she offered birth control to her female employees, and is a prominent advocate for female leadership in business. She’s designed advocacy campaigns that promote literacy and education as well as voter registration for young people. Also, she spoke out against Donald Trump’s misogyny. Unfortunately, none of those bright spots on the dark horizon have anything to do with the department she’ll oversee, but at least it reveals she’s not a total idiot.
Secretary of Transportation: Elaine L. Chao
Job Description: Overseeing infrastructure such as roads, bridges and airports as well as drone regulations, automobile safety, emissions standards and fuel-economy rules. Would oversee Trump’s infrastructure expansion plan.
Nominee: Elaine L. Chao, former Labor Secretary under George W. Bush, Deputy Secretary of Transportation under George H.W. Bush and the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
What’s Her Deal? Born in Taiwan, she moved to the U.S. with her family at the age of 8 and eventualy became the first Asian-American female Cabinet member in U.S. history. She endured some scandals as the U.S. Secretary of Labor including two mine disasters, failing to investigate complaints from workers not receiving federal minimum wage and campaigning for Republican candidates at taxpayer expense. Described by The New York Times as “an unapologetically ambitious operator with an expansive network, a short fuse, and a seemingly inexhaustible drive to get to the top and stay there.” Federal employees threw a “good riddance” party at the end of her term. Since leaving the Bush administration, she’s been a Fox News contributor and a fellow of the conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation. She made $1.2 million while overseeing Wells Fargo during a period when the bank profited from making millions of fake accounts. Her anti-regulation history is troubling for a woman who’ll be in charge of regulations surrounding commercial drone use and driverless cars.
U.S Trade Representative: Robert Lightizer
Nomination: Robert Lightizer, former trade official under President Ronald Reagan
Job Description: Supporting, deconstructing and/or writing new and/or old trade deals
What’s his deal? Currently working as an advisor, lobbyist and litigator for large U.S. corporations and coalitions, Lighthizer has promised to “level the playing field for American workers and forge better trade policies,” with a particular focus on China. More frightening than his appointment is that of Wilbur Ross, who appears further down the list, ’cause Trump has implied Ross, rather than Lightizer, will be the go-to guy for this area of interest. Lightizer is, at least, qualified for the job.
Homeland Security Secretary: John F. Kelly
Nomination: John F. Kelly, retried four-star Marine general
Job Description: Guarding the United States borders
What’s his deal? Highly decorated and well-respected, Kelly is a registered Independent voter. He rose the ranks to take control of the United States Southern Command, putting him in charge of the military jail at Guantánamo Bay while giving him exposure to immigration, drug trafficking and other cross-border problems, according to The New York Times. He is a fan of border security and will likely champion The Wall, as he believes smuggling rings in Mexico and Central America are using networks to bring undocumented immigrants into the U.S. in a model that could be imitated by terrorists. Lost his son to a land mine in Afghanistan in 2010, making him the highest-ranking military officer to lose a child in Iraq or Afghanistan. He facilitated the prisoner swap for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — yannow, from Season Two of Serial!
U.N. Ambassador: Nikki R. Haley
Job Description: Will be the primary face of America to the world and will represent the U.S. at the Security Council on a wide range of issues including nuclear proliferation.
Nomination: Nikki R. Haley, Governor of South Carolina, former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives.
What’s Her Deal? She supported Marco Rubio and vocally opposed Trump in the primaries. She also vocally opposes Barack Obama, noting that these days “you can work hard, try to be as successful as possible, follow the rules, and President Barack Obama will do everything he can to stand in your way.” She opposes marriage equality, fighting it “to the bitter end,” according to GLAAD. She also went hard on an obviously racist voter ID law in South Carolina, and she rejected billions of dollars from the Affordable Care Act, refused to expand Medicaid, and cut an extra $3 million from South Carolina’s budget for AIDS awareness and prevention. The people she targeted with her refusal to accept federal aid were families making less than $10,000 a year, many of whom don’t have cars or running water in their homes. The “desperately poor,” according to a 2014 article by The Washinton Post.
She did call on Donald Trump to condemn groups like the Ku Klux Klan, kill a proposed anti-trans bathroom bill and support the removal of the Confederate Flag from South Carolina statehouse grounds. Although she’d be the least experienced U.N. Ambassador ever, her appointment has been received as slightly less alarming than the others by those who see in “Ms. Haley, a daughter of Indian immigrants, someone unafraid to express her beliefs even if they differ from Mr. Trump’s.” Trump supporters generally loathe her.
National Intelligence Director: Dan Coats
Job Description: Coordinating the intelligence-gathering and analysis of 16 civilian and military spy agencies and working to prevent terrorist attacks.
Nominee: Dan Coats, two-time Indiana senator and former U.S. ambassador to Germany
What’s his deal? On the upside, Coats has friends on both sides of the aisle, apparently gives off a strong “Mister Rogers” vibe, and is a big fan of Indiana’s growing farm-to-table movement. On the downside, although not necessarily relevant to this position, he’s anti-LGBT, anti-choice, a proponent of abstinence-only sex education and once called on Obama to declare that All Lives Matter. He’s also a member of The Fellowship, a secretive and influential Christian political group with some VERY problematic ideologies. Unlike most of the sycophants on this list, however, Coats has spoken out against Trump (although his wife enthusiastically endorsed him). Last year, when Donald Trump announced his plan to prevent Muslims from entering the U.S., Coats tweeted, “Once again, Donald Trump has chosen bombastic rhetoric over sound judgment.” After the 2005 pussy-grabbing video was released, Coats tweeted, “Donald Trump’s vulgar comments are totally inappropriate and disgusting, and these words have no place in our society. We must affirm that women deserve respect and honor.” I guess he’s past that now. In 2014, he was proud to be on a list of politicians no longer welcome in Russia, declaring, “While I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to go on vacation with my family in Siberia this summer, I am honored to be on this list.” He’s like your smart yet conservative great-grandfather who hates everything about your lifestyle but is very polite about it during the holidays.
Secretary of the Interior: Ryan Zinke
Job Description: Responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources.
Nominee: Ryan Zinke, ex-Navy Seal and U.S. Representative for Montana, former Montana State Senator.
Ryan Zinke, who has a B.S. in Geology, was very concerned about climate change in 2010 but by 2014 no longer believed it to be a thing, after rising through the ranks of Montana Republicans “with big support from the less clean corners of the energy industry.” He opposes the transfer of federal lands to state control and has vocalized support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. However, Theresa Pierno, president and chief executive of National Parks Conservation Association, says Zinke has also “prioritized the development of oil, gas and other resources over the protection of clean water and air, and wildlife.” He received a 3 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters. He supports the Keystone XL pipeline. In 2012, he started his own anti-Obama Super PAC. OH AND just for good measure: opposes same-sex marriage, opposes the Affordable Care Act and is anti-choice.
Commerce Secretary: Wilbur Ross
Job Description: Oversees the census, the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Spearheads trade policy and business development.
Nomination: Wilbur Ross, billionaire investor
$$$: Contributed $200,000 to Trump directly and $700k to state parties as well as hosting a Trump fundraiser in the Hamptons. In 1990, saved Trump’s ass in Atlantic City.
What’s His Deal? He’s worth around $2.9 billion (mostly from investing in faltering steel mills and coal mines) and often spends his leisure time at an estate in Florida just around the riverbend from Donald Trump’s gaudy palace, The Mar-a-Lago. Is known as the “king of bankruptcy” for “buying, restructuring and selling off steel makers and other fading industrial companies.” He’ll be overseeing international trade rules and applying tariffs on imports, like Trump’s 35% proposal. Nancy Pelosi says of this selection, “With sprawling conflicts of interest and a troubling record on worker safety, Democrats have serious concerns that Wilbur Ross’ corporate interests will trump the concerns of American families, entrepreneurs and our economic security.”
Secretary of Defense: James N. Mattis
Nomination: James N. Mattis, Retried General
Job Description: Shaping the fight against the Islamic State, overseeing the military.
What’s His Deal? Firstly, he’s not actually eligible for the position, ’cause you’ve gotta be at least seven years into retirement from the military to have it. A special congressional waiver is expected to remedy that problem. Identifies as a “warrior monk” and a lifelong bachelor. He doesn’t own a television. (“Lifelong bachelor” was once code for “homosexual,” unfortunately that does not seem to be the case here.) Involved in some of the United States’ best known-operations, including the first Marine force into Afghanistan after September 11th. The Obama administration cut short his run leading the United States Central Command in the Middle East and Southwest Asia due to his hawkish views on Iran. It’s likely Trump is a fan of Mattis’s criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of Isis and Mattis’s belief that Iran is the greatest threat to pace in the Middle East. John McCain is head-over-heels for Mattis, who he describes as “without a doubt one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops.” It’s expected that he’ll want to ramp up U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On the upside, he thinks Trump’s feelings on Russia are bonkers and he’s not a fan of torture as an interrogation technique.
Head of Housing and Urban Development: Ben Carson
Job Description: Will oversee fair-housing laws, the development of affordable housing and access to mortgage insurance. This includes vouchers and rental assistance for over five million low-income families.
Nomination: Ben Carson, Neurosurgeon and failed Presidential candidate.
What’s The Deal? In an appearance on CNN last week, Mark Lamont-Hill noted, “Being a neurosurgeon doesn’t make you qualified to be the head of HUD. Leadership skills are not transferrable, you know what I mean. Like Ghostface Killah’s the leader of Wu-Tang Clan, right? LeBron James is the leader of Cleveland Cavaliers. It doesn’t mean they should be the leader of Housing and Urban Development.” Carson has called HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Program a “mandated social-engineering scheme” and generally opposes government programs designed to battle poverty, believing “personal responsibility” is the only solution. Also, FTR, he equates homosexuality with beastiality, opposes same-sex marriage, considers homosexuality a choice and compared “political correctness” to Nazi Germany.
Secretary of Energy: Rick Perry
Job Description: Writing efficiency regulations, running energy research programs, overseeing nuclear weapons stockpile and policy
Nomination: Rick Perry, Governor of Texas from 2000-2015, former Dancing with the Stars contestant, former Presidential candidate, current Chief Strategy Officer at MCNA Dental.
What’s His Deal? Obama has appointed actual physicists to this position in both of his terms, but Trump is choosing a politician who, had he won the presidency in 2012, planned to eliminate the Department of Energy altogether — although he couldn’t remember it when delivering his list of planned Department cuts during a 2012 presidential debate. His skepticism about climate change and the benefits of regulations put current green-energy projects at risk and stands to further enable the energy sector to benefit from minimal oversight. “None of this would be as big of a problem if Obama hadn’t just agreed to a a massive modernization program of our existing stock of nuclear weapons,” writes Ashley Feinberg at Deadspin. “This program is going to cost somewhere in the range of $350-450 billion and take about ten years. And our big, dumb boy Rick Perry gets to kick the whole thing off, as he’s now responsible for the design, testing, and production of all nuclear weapons. How hard can it possibly be.”
we are all going to die :)
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) December 13, 2016
Much like Trump, Perry is noted for his “rawness… swagger and blunt talk, as well as a willingness to use power to face down political enemies.” Rick Perry is also a sworn enemy of our people: he thinks Church and State are excellent bedfellows, he’s totally against giving any rights or protections to LGBTQ people whatsoever and is passionately anti-choice. He doesn’t believe in evolution and thinks homosexuality can be cured.
Secretary of the Treasury: Steven Mnuchin
Job Description: Overseeing the Internal Revenue Service and government borrowing in financial markets, rewriting the tax code, carrying out financial sanctions against foreign enemies.
Nominee: Steven Mnuchin, National Finance Manager for the Donald Trump Campaign, former Goldman Sachs executive with heaps of hedge fund experience
$$$: In addition to running Trump’s fundraising enterprises, he contributed $425,000 to the campaign and party.
What’s His Deal? Born into riches, Mnuchin eventually left Wall Street for Hollywood, where he financed the X-Men franchise and the abysmal white savior story Avatar. He’s got zero government experience aside from donating oodles of money to Republican committees and campaigns. He’s behind the abysmal transition of failed lender IndyMac into OneWest, which enabled their continued pursuit of despicable foreclosure practices, which had, according to The New Republic, “a particular talent for dispossessing the homes of senior citizens and people of color.” The New Yorker calls Mnuchin one of Trump’s “Wolves of Wall Street in the White House.” They also called him a “a mild-mannered egghead” who is “more of a financial opportunist than a banker.” However, “it’s not clear that Mnunchin has any fervent beliefs at all,” according to Slate, who note he’s previously donated to Democrats and generally offers “no comment” on policy.
His only redeeming quality is serving as producer of Mad Max: Fury Road.
Labor Secretary: Andrew F. Puzder
Job description: Enforcing rules that protect workers, distributing unemployment benefits, publishing job data.
Nomination: Andrew F. Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants (Carl’s Jr, Hardees, Green Burrito and Red Burrito)
$$$: Along with his wife, contributed a total of $332,000 to Trump.
What’s His Deal? He opposes expanding eligibilty for overtime pay and paid sick leave, thinks raising the minimum wage hurts small businesses and leads to job loss and believes the Affordable Care Act caused a “restaurant recession.” Much like Trump, Puzder “seems to delight in bashing elites” and “is prone to the occasional streak of political incorrectness.” For example, he feels replacing human workers with robots would be beneficial ’cause they’re “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall or an age, sex or race discrimination case.”
Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson
Job Description: Carrying out the President’s foreign policies through the State Department and the Foreign Service of the United States.
Nomination: Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, former president of Boy Scouts of America.
$$$: Has given nearly $500k to Republican campaigns since 2003, including the campaigns of George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell and Jeb Bush. Exxon Mobil has already spent nearly $9 million in lobbying in 2016 alone.
What’s His Deal? Tillerson, a proud Texan who started at Exxon as an engineer in 1975 and made $27.2 million as CEO in 2015, is such good friends with Russia and Putin that he won an actual FRIENDSHIP AWARD from Russia in 2013. Tillerson’s interests in expanding Exxon’s access to oil worldwide has made him aware of foreign governments and policies on an intimate level, but, as fivethirtyeight points out, “The company’s interests aren’t always aligned with those of the U.S.” Politicians on both sides of the aisle have expressed concern about this appointment and Tillerson is likely to face an uphill battle in confirmation. He does, at least, realize that global warming exists, but regardless has a reputation as a “ruthless corporate executive hellbent on extracting oil whatever the environmental cost.” Tillerson is also very involved with the Boy Scouts of America, and influenced their decision to lift the ban on gay scouts — but Exxon Mobil has been slow to add sexual orientation to their anti-discrimination policy. The main issue with Tillerson’s appointment is perhaps the most serious conflict of interest in the history of the position, as his company stands to benefit immensely from less regulation in world markets and lifting sanctions on Russia. Because you know what this man needs? More money.
Secretary of Education: Betsy DeVos
Job Description: Deals with federal influence over Education policy, including school choice, civil rights in schools and administering school loans.
Nomination: Betsy DeVos, Michigan Republican party chairwoman and chair of the pro-school-choice advocacy group American Federation for Children.
$$$: Her husband is heir to the Amway fortune and the DeVos family has given over $10 million to Republicans in the 2016 election cycle alone, including $4.4 million to super PACs.
What’s Her Deal? Betsy DeVos is a lobbyist with zero government experience. She has a bunch of money (like her husband, she inherited wealth) and she has used it to destroy the public education system in Michigan by favoring voucher programs and unregulated charter expansion regardless of educational results. Michigan’s ACLU director has noted that she’s driven by “a misguided idea that diverts taxpayer dollars into private and parochial schools and perverts the bedrock American value of separation of church and state.” According to The Washington Post, “teachers unions and many Democrats fear an unprecedented and catastrophic attack on public schools, which they see as one of the nation’s bedrock civic institutions.” Her family is a major donor to anti-LGBT conservative organizations including The Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, and it’s likely this position will enable her to roll back anti-bullying laws intended to protect LGBT students. In fact, Betsy’s father is a founder of The Family Research Council. READ ABOUT WHAT SHE DID TO DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND THEN WEEP TO YOURSELF INDEFINITELY.
Central Intelligence Agency Director: Mike Pompeo
Job Description: Directing the CIA during a time of complex security threats.
Nomination: Mike Pompeo, U.S. Representative for Kansas, Former United States Army Captain
What’s His Deal? Pompeo is a Tea Party movement member and an “unyielding critic” of Hillary Clinton, believing she masterminded the Benghazi attacks despite the committee finding no evidence of her wrongdoing. His confirmation would make him “one of the most overtly partisan figures to take over the C.I.A.,” which’s a problem, ’cause the CIA’s supposed to be non-partisan. Feels the hunger strike at Guantánamo was a “political stunt.” Feels Planned Parenthood is a federally-funded abortion superstore and opposes abortion even in the case of rape or incest. He’s skeptical of climate change and supports overzealous and unethical surveillance of American citizens.
Health & Human Services Secretary: Tom Price
Job Description: Approves new drugs, regulates food supply, operates biomedical research, runs Medicare and Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. Will have authority over the CDC, FDA and NIH.
Nomination: Tom Price, orthopedic surgeon and six-term Republican congressman
What’s His Deal? Transitioned from orthopedic surgery to politics in 2004 because he thought politicians were bad at understanding the needs of doctors. Possibly hates the Affordable Care Act more than anybody else, ever, and intends to dismantle it. Still makes time to vehemently hate Planned Parenthood. Chuck Schumer says his nomination is “akin to asking the fox to guard the henhouse.” GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis has deemed him “completely unfit” to be health secretary. Could loosen regulations for pharmaceutical marketing and shift research priorities. You can read more about the implications of this pick at Politico.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator: Scott Pruitt
Job Description: Issues and oversees environmental regulations.
Nominee: Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General. Former Oklahoma State Senator, 1998-2006.
What’s His Deal? Pruitt, a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, isn’t convinced that climate change is a thing or that global warming is a man-made problem. He even put together a group of 29 “top energy producers” to challenge the U.S. government in its initiatives to do something about it, which he characterized as “overzealous, wasteful government regulation.” Has sued the EPA multiple times over perceived overregulation. His campaigns have been financed by top oil and gas industry players. He supported the Hobby Lobby ruling, is anti-choice, pro-DOMA, and hates the Affordable Care Act. “Pruitt could be the most hostile E.P.A. administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history,” Ken Cook, head of the Environmental Working Group, told The New York Times. Already, the Trump transition team has subjected Energy Department employees to a 72-question survey regarding their feelings and history with climate change policy and activism.
Attorney General: Jeff Sessions
Job Description: The nation’s top law enforcement official and chief lawyer will preside over the enforcement of civil rights laws and Supreme
Nomination: Jeff Sessions, former Attorney General of Alabama and current Alabama senator
What’s His Deal? Oh gosh. This very early supporter of Trump’s campaign is a racist misogynist homophobe, for starters. Past positions have included calling a white civil rights lawyer a “disgrace to their race,” calling the NAACP “un-American” and declaring that Donald Trump’s pussy-grabbing comments are not evidence of sexual assault. His nomination to a Federal Judgeship in 1986 was denied confirmation due to his history of racist comments. According to The Guardian, he is “one of the most rightwing and anti-immigration members of the Senate.” He once claimed the National Endowment for the Arts was using grant money to promote homosexual activities. Is against everything we believe in, for example: The Voting Rights Act of 1965, the science of climate change, repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, same-sex marriage and a path to citizenship for immigrants.