Part 3 is my attempt at analysis. I have broken it down into the same headings as found in Part 2 Timeline Summary.
Furthermore, I will be posting these sections individually in an attempt to make them more accessible.
Starting in the summer of 2016 with the appointment of VP Pence, Trump has been evaluating and assembling his Cabinet and other Executive Branch positions, formally completing this process on Feb 8th.
Pence was the Governor of Indiana and had relatively low job approval ratings in his state (1). In spite of this, Pence is popular with Republicans, especially on Capitol Hill (2). Pence was likely chosen for the sake of “party unity” (3) and to be an acceptable replacement for when Trump gets impeached or is removed from office through the 25th Amendment.
With the exception of his nominations for Secretary of Defense General Mattis and DHS General Kelly (I think both are exceptional), I would argue that Trump has assembled the worst Cabinet in history. I will also be completely ignoring the potentially traitorous collusion with Russia that so many of these people have (I will look at that in a future essay).
A cautionary note about Mattis – his move to SecDef takes him directly from his position helping to run General Dynamics — “a $30-billion colossus that heavily relies on Pentagon contracts overseen by the Defense Secretary.” (4) Mattis owns $1,000,000 in General Dynamics stocks. This is a huge conflict of interests. A question to ask – Trump just called for a $54 billion dollar increase in military spending, how much of that money ends up directly in Mattis’ pockets? Something to keep in mind with nearly every member of team Trump is the amount of money they will now be making directly off the citizens of US.
A bizarre addendum to these deplorable nominees is the Republicans abridging the vetting process. Democrats accuse the GOP of ramming Trump’s nominees down their throats without the advance vetting that Obama gave his first-term Cabinet (5). His nominees are a menagerie of billionaires, millionaires, and lobbyists with corporate ties and who also donated money to Trump. Even Gen. Kelly failed to disclose his position on the Board of a lobbying firm called ‘Spectrum Group’ (6)
Three of President Trump’s nominees for Cabinet positions (Ross, Mulvaney, and Price) “revealed that they had engaged in illegal or questionable behavior that prior administrations have considered serious enough to necessitate a nominee’s withdrawal.” (7). Monica Crowley was forced to withdraw from a position on the NSC for plagiarizing her Ph.D. thesis (8) Puzder was forced to withdraw for scandals related to domestic abuse and cheating workers out of wages (9). DeVos was confirmed in spite of “blatantly violating campaign finance laws” (10) and lying about sitting on the Board of her parent’s association (11).
Let us not forget the whirlwind tour of National Security Advisor Flynn (who lasted a record 25 days). He was canned for lying to the Vice President about communications he had with Russian agents (12).
In all of this scandal laden news it’s easy to forget that Steve Bannon is a white supremacist who ran a paper that regularly denigrated women and minorities and who may have received illegal donations from a PAC (13). And now he is Chief Strategist. Steve Sessions was prevented from holding office in the 80’s for being a racist. Now he is Attorney General. Or that Sebastian Gorka (who Vanity Fair called the ‘Jihad Whisperer’ (14)) and Stephen Miller (Miller has been accused of association with Neo Nazi Richard Spencer) (15) also have strong white nationalist leaning and are both potentially white supremacists who hate Muslims. Both of them are valuable members of Trumps staff.
FCC appointee Ajit Pai is moving to relax internet privacy standards (16) and wants to get rid of “net neutrality” rules (17). After reviewing “net neutrality” I’m at a loss to see how it benefits the people in our country. It does however benefit corporations a great deal. With each appointment it becomes easier to see the creation of an oligarchy.
In addition to the criminality and corruption taking hold in the leadership of the USA, this Cabinet brings with them a number of individuals who hold outlandish, unscientific, and bizarre world views. Ben Carson believes that the pyramids were built to store grain (18). He also believes that homosexuality is a choice, evolution is an idea encouraged by the devil and, most famously, that Obamacare is ‘the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.’ (19). Rick Perry, the new Secretary of Energy, didn’t know what the Department of Energy was or what it did (20). Steven Mnuchin, the new Secretary of the Treasury has never served in government and has no experience in setting macroeconomic policy (21). He did however lead Trump’s fundraising efforts. He also “failed to disclose his interests in a Cayman Islands corporation as well as more than $100 million in personal assets.” (22) Scott Pruitt is a climate change skeptic. Ryan Zinke said that the science behind climate change is “not proven”.
I could go on and on about how unqualified his Cabinet is, or how they are generally hostile to the mission of the Department they have been put in charge of. Or I could lecture at length on their ethical violations and criminal activities, but I think that the point has been well made. The Washington Post has a good article that summarizes this (23).
Just a couple more points about his staff-related decisions.
- Keeping FBI director Comey – he is a partisan operative who will not investigate Trump’s Russian connections. Or as stated by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), former head of the Congressional Black Caucus. “He embarrassed this nation, he possibly influenced the outcome of a presidential election, and he should not hold any position of trust, whatsoever, in our government.” (24)
- Reorganizing the NSC to put Bannon on it – Re-organizing the NSC is not particularly noteworthy. In fact, putting the Director of the CIA on the NSC is probably a good idea. However Bannon, a white supremacist and political hack should have no place anywhere where national security is being discussed. It is in fact hard to believe that he would qualify for a security clearance (Let us not forget that Bannon is endorsed by KKK leader David Duke) (25). Senate confirmed Cabinet members are held accountable for their decisions.(26) Bannon will not be. In a 2011 interview Bannon said progressives vilify conservative women because they’re not “a bunch of dykes.” (27) In 1996, he was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery, and dissuading a witness (28). His ex-wife accused him of being anti-Semetic (29). His newspaper, Breitbart, compared the work of Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust. (30)
- In January Trump made a spectacle of relieving then acting Attorney General Sally Yates. Swapping out personnel isn’t a big deal, but in the letter he put out about it is. As a response to her ordering the DOJ not to enforce Trump’s controversial ban in immigrants he accused her of betraying the country. (31) This fits into a pattern with Trump of seeing anyone who disagrees with him as an enemy or a traitor; much in the same way he calls news he doesn’t like “fake news”.
Summary – Trump has demonstrated an unconscionable level of ineptness by not filling in the job vacancies of the Executive Branch. All in all, the new President has about 4,000 positions he is responsible for filling, to include hundreds of senior staff positions. Of the positions that he has filled, the decisions seems to be largely guided by who donated money to him.
Also with regards to the positions that he has filled, they are of two types. 1. They are hostile to the agency they were hired to run (Pruitt, Puzder, Zinke), or 2. They are completely unqualified to run it (Perry, Carson). In some instances, his nominees are both (DeVos).
Many members have committed or been accused of committing serious ethics violations (DeVos, Kelly, Ross, Mulvaney, Price, Conway, Tillerson, Carson) (32,33,34,35)
He has also filled his team with racists (Sessions), white supremacists (Bannon, Miller, Gorka), and liars (Spicer, Conway, Miller). Additionally, nearly every member has egregious conflicts of interests and as previously mentioned many have very concerning ties to Russia.
His cabinet lacks diversity and in no way represents the melting pot that makes American great. This will be the first cabinet in 30 years without a Latino (36). The four most powerful departments will be led by white males (the first time this has happened in 26 years) (37) Of Trump’s 18 highest profile members – “…some Cabinet-level and others powerful but slightly lesser, and excluding his vice president and most senior White House staff — 14 are white, of which 12 are male.” (38) All of his top National Security members are white men.
Daniel Cashman, EAMP, MS (AOM), NCCAOM Dipl. of Acupuncture