As with so many other things, it’s difficult to comment definitively on President-Elect Trump’s transition team or potential appointees, because it appears that the president-elect and his team are pretty shaky on those things themselves. The whole situation is, as Jezebel described it, a fucking mess. After it became very clear that the Trump team had no idea how much they had to do in order to transition into the White House, right up to being surprised that Obama’s staff wasn’t going to stay on and work for them, they started to ask for (demand) help. Eliot Cohen, a Republican who formerly worked for the State Department, did try to help — he says he was lashed out at by the person in the Trump camp he spoke with, and regrets his attempt.
Cohen went on to describe how one of his conservative friends “in Trumpworld” asked him to provide a list of names from the Republican foreign policy establishment who had not formally joined the Never Trump movement and might be willing to serve under President Trump. After complying with the request, Cohen says that the friend responded in an email “seething with anger directed at those of us who had opposed Donald Trump — even those who stood ready to help steer good people to an administration that understandably wanted nothing to do with the likes of me, someone who had been out front in opposing Trump since the beginning.”
Within the team, things are also contentious. VP-elect Mike Pence has essentially taken over the transition team by force from Chris Christie, who had originally been assembling it, and purged it of many of Christie’s picks. The consensus is that Christie is essentially being excommunicated thanks to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, because in his capacity as a federal prosecutor he convicted Kushner’s father for a truly bizarre scandal that would take too much time to go into here. Kushner, you may recall, is also one of the family members that Trump has been strenuously denying trying to get top-level security clearance for, something that is unprecedented in traditional American democracy but is common in authoritarian governments and dictatorships.
I am not trying to get "top level security clearance" for my children. This was a typically false news story.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2016
Also, while all of this is going on, the current active head of the NSA is still explaining and confirming that WikiLeaks functioned as a tool of Russia to “achieve a specific effect.”
In short, things seem in flux over at Trump Tower. That said, here are a few people we know are at least being considered or are on the shortlist, and what we know about them.
We have more coverage of Bannon coming, but you likely already know he is not great. He ran Breitbart, the gleefully hateful right-wing media site; he’s a documented white nationalist and anti-Semite with a history of domestic abuse, and he seems to have a sharp understanding of how to manipulate Trump into thinking, saying and doing what he wants him to. He was a chairman of Trump’s campaign. Trump’s proposal to make him Chief Strategist puts him in a position to have Rasputin-like power over an easily manipulated world leader. Harry Reid has called upon Trump to reverse his decision.
Priebus, currently the chairman of the RNC, will be White House Chief of Staff, who is in charge of “[managing] the work and personnel of the West Wing, steering the president’s agenda and tending to important relationships.” NYT notes that “the role will take on outsize importance in a White House run by Mr. Trump, who has no experience in policy making and little in the way of connections to critical players in Washington.”
He’s back! Having apparently fully tucked his tail between his legs and swallowed any opposition to Trump, Cruz visited Trump Towers and now may be considered for Attorney General.
Kobach is also rumored to be on the shortlist for Attorney General; he’s extremely anti-immigration and is already interested in “looking at how to implement a proposal suggested by the billionaire businessman that would force immigrants from Muslim countries to register on a database.” A year ago, SPLC was asking why Kobach has been associating with white nationalist groups, featured speaker at a “writer’s workshop” put on by a white nationalist press and working as a lawyer for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, listed as a hate group since 2007.
Also being considered for Attorney General, as well as Homeland Security Secretary and Secretary of State. Giuliani was a fervent Trump supporter and enthusiastic participator in Trump’s revision of history and gaslighting, one example being when he promoted Trump’s security plan by claiming “eight years before [President Barack] Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States” — a confusing statement given that Giuliani was mayor of New York during 9/11. He has continued to insist that Clinton should be jailed, and has been revealed to have ties to Iran, Venezuela and Qatar.
Sessions appears to have a plethora of opportunities opening up for him in the Trump administration, as he’s considered for positions ranging from Defense Secretary to Attorney General to Homeland Security Secretary. In the early 2000s, it was revealed that Sessions has called the NAACP and ACLU “un-American” and “Communist-inspired;” he was also reported to have called a white civil rights lawyer a “disgrace to his race.” A Black former US attorney testified that Sessions called him “boy,” and that he had “joked” that “he thought the Ku Klux Klan was ‘OK’ until he heard that some members were ‘pot smokers.'” He’s also virulently anti-immigration, including wanting to limit legal immigration into the US.
The “extremely conservative, tough-on-crime” sheriff of Milwaukee County and beloved of many high-ranking Republicans for being a Black officer who is happy to go on Fox News and defend police and gun rights, Clark has routinely defended Trump and tweeted in October that it was “pitchforks and torches time” because Trump was being criticized. He has also compared BLM and Occupy to ISIS. He is being considered for Homeland Security Secretary.
It's incredible that our institutions of gov, WH, Congress, DOJ, and big media are corrupt & all we do is bitch. Pitchforks and torches time pic.twitter.com/8G5G0daGVN
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) October 15, 2016
Seemingly constantly mired in lawsuits, like this one for racial profiling, Arpaio has long blatantly celebrated anti-immigrant sentiment, “repeatedly and knowingly disobeyed his orders to cease policing tactics against Latinos,” and perhaps most famously created “Tent City,” an enormous incarceration complex of tents leftover from the Korean War left unheated in winter and uncooled in summer that made Mother Jones’ “10 Worst Prisons” list. Arpaio is on tape referring to it as a “concentration camp.” He’s also being considered for Homeland Security Secretary.
Remember her? The would-be VP who made the phrase “drill, baby, drill” famous is in the running to be Interior Secretary, the position that “manages the nation’s public lands and waters.” It would be a terrible development for clean energy, national parks, environmental issues that impact indigenous land and peoples, like the DAPL, and much more.
Also up for Interior Secretary is Jan Brewer, former governor of Arizona, who headed the infamous SB 1070 bill that would allow law enforcement to proactively profile people and demand to “see their papers.” She’s also said that there’s too much emphasis on trying to elect more women, saying that “this woman thing has gotten way out of control” and “it’s been driven by the left.”
There are many, many other truly alarming people being considered for a number of roles — Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee are on the list for Health and Human Services Secretary, for instance, the former having gutted Louisiana healthcare after refusing to expand Medicaid under the ACA and the latter of whom has no direct experience with healthcare that I can immediately discern. It doesn’t look good. Even with a few women and people of color added to his team, there’s no mistaking that the machine being built is powered by white supremacy and state violence; the individual identities of a few doesn’t erase that, or what this cabinet could accomplish. A sweeping blow decimating healthcare, immigration law or education is still devastating, even if someone somewhat marginalized signs the paperwork. Of course, it’s possible that there will yet another internal shakeup or that one of these names will do something to anger a member of the inner circle, ruining their chances. There isn’t much that we know for sure about this — except, unfortunately, that people will be chosen based upon their loyalties to Trump and his cronies, not their experience or qualifications, and that they’ll be committed to reversing the progress of the past eight — and maybe even 50 or 75 — years as fast as they can.