The Who’s Who So Far in the Trump Transition

Since Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the US Presidential election on 08 November, the President-elect has been busy assembling the team he will rely on when he assumes office on 21 January 2017. Some of the names have sparked controversy, others surprise, but Donald Trump has deflected criticism of his picks in the most Donald Trump way possible- by Tweeting about it. So far, his transition has sent Democrats into hysteria and Republicans either into defense mode or full on glee. Here’s where we are right now.

Mr Trump’s transition began with an immediate shake-up of the person leading it. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has been battling an investigation into the Bridgegate Scandal since 2013 and increasing unpopularity ever since his endorsement of Donald Trump, was due to be the Transition Chairman. However, following the guilty verdict of two of his top aides in the bridge closure scandal, the President-elect removed the Governor from the Transition Team entirely. The Vice-President-elect, Mike Pence, is now leading the transition effort.

One of the President-elect’s first moves was to appoint RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to be his chief of staff. Many expected the Republican chief from Wisconsin to be given a role in a Trump Administration, but few anticipated for him to be given the highest title in the West Wing. He will have to oversee all of Trump’s advisers and White House staff, and will be key in implementing many of the President-elect’s messaging and agenda-setting.

One of the most controversial appointees in recent memory is Steve Bannon. Bannon was executive chairman of Breitbart News, an online news, opinion and commentary forum for conservatives. Bannon’s appointment was harshly criticised by those on the left and many on the right for pieces he had written not too long ago that allegedly espouse anti-Semetic and white nationalist views. His appointment as chief strategist and senior counselor to the President means that his views will be in the ear of the President on a daily basis. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) gave a lengthy floor speech imploring the President-elect to fire Bannon and denounce the white supremacist revival, but Trump has not publicly spoken of the Bannon appointment since it was originally announced.

Donald Trump has appointed four term Alabama-Senator Jeff Sessions to be the nation’s top prosecutor at the Department of Justice. The incoming Attorney General has broad responsibilities for setting law enforcement standards across the country, as well as overseeing the FBI, and Mr Sessions fits well within Mr Trump’s focus on law and order during his campaign. As seems to be a pattern in the Trump Transition, Senator Sessions has made some racially inflammatory remarks during his career, particularly in regards to law enforcement in African-American communities, but he is likely to be confirmed by the Senate relatively easily, given his long tenure and relationships there.

The President-elect appointed Betsy DeVos to be his Education Secretary. She is fully supportive of school choice, which Republicans love and Democrats loathe. She wants to put an end to teacher tenure and is firmly anti-teacher’s union. She is a major Republican donor and has been active in Republican presidential politics since George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign. She has never attended, and nor have her children, any public schools, a point of harsh criticism from the Democrats. Her portfolio is not the most controversial, but her Senate confirmation hearings will make for interesting television.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has been appointed Ambassador to the United Nations by the President-elect, a position that rarely gets a mention but is vitally important to the conducting of global affairs. She has led several trade missions around the world advocating for South Carolina, but other than that, her diplomatic experience is nil. On top of that, she was harshly critical of Trump during the Republican primaries, endorsing Senator Marco Rubio and calling Trump “unstable”, but she must now serve him nonetheless.

There are two other cabinet posts where rumours are flying around like crazy: Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense.

Retired Marine General James Mattis and Senator Tom Cotton, a former US Army officer in Iraq and Afghanistan, are the front runners for the top Pentagon job. Mattis made comments about Islam that has sparked controversy among progressive groups, but is in the process of talking Donald Trump out of reintroducing waterboarding into the military’s interrogation tactics. Cotton support waterboarding, but lacks as much military strategy experience as Gen. Mattis, making his the most likely to be appointed as Secretary of Defense.

Secretary of State has created some interesting gossip. Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, former House Speaker and Republican candidate Newt Gingrich, former UN Ambassador under George W. Bush John Bolton, former New York City Rudy Giuliani, and Former Secretary of Treasury under George W. Bush and Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson are all reportedly being considered for the top diplomatic job. Romney launched a blistering attack on Donald Trump in a 40 minute speech back in July and refused to endorse him at any point during the campaign. Gingrich and Giuliani are big supporters of the President-elect and typically repeat his talking points with ease and delight. If Trump offers the role to Governor Romney, many Trump supporters will be upset and feel let down by the appointment of an establishment politician to the most important Cabinet position. We are waiting for an announcement some time this week.

There are still many Cabinet positions left to be filled, including Treasury and Homeland Security, Energy and the like. As more names are floated and positions offered, we here at Parliament Street will keep you updated.


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