Trump Administration Watch

Each new hire doubles down on his heated pledges regarding Mexicans, Muslims, and foreign government.

  /  11.19.2016

Donald Trump’s staffing decisions are the best clues we have as to the tone and tenor of his upcoming Presidency. And this week has been Trump’s time to make his expression felt.

Today, the President-elect has named Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo as CIA Director, former general Mike Flynn as National Security Advisor, and announced his nominating Alabama Senator (and early Trump supporter) Jeff Sessions for the highly coveted position of Attorney General.

That makes five appointments to date, with no minorities or women.

Beyond a lack of demographic diversity, these decisions reflect a few things about Trump’s strategy; with his Chief of Staff and Chief Strategist hires, the mogul is simultaneously speaking to the insurgent anti-establishment populists who got him into office (vis a vis Bannon), while appeasing the party establishment he’ll need to work with while there (by way of Priebus).

But these three new appointments are more revealing on a policy level: each hire doubles down on some aspect of his heated, often divisive campaign pledges on Mexican immigrants, the Muslim community, and our relationship with foreign governments.

For instance: In February, former General Flynn tweeted “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” Flynn also enjoys an extraordinarily warm relationship with Russia. Like Trump, Sessions is a proponent of the torture technique known as “waterboarding,” and supported Trump’s ban on entry for Muslims during the campaign season. Sessions is also hard-lined when it comes to undocumented immigrants and illegal entry. Meanwhile, Pompeo — a Harvard M.B.A. who graduated first in his class at West Point — opposes the Iran nuclear deal.

Of the appointments to date, only the Attorney General role requires Senate confirmation hearings. And while Sessions is a relatively well-liked Senator, his confirmation process is likely to be intense: Thirty years ago the Senator suffered a failed confirmation hearing to be a federal judge after allegations surfaced that he had called the NAACP “un-American” and a black attorney “boy.” Sessions has steadfastly denied these allegations, and is expected to point to his confirmation vote for the country’s first black Attorney General Eric Holder, in addition to votes on a host of civil rights issues.

Those seeking representational diversity in a Trump administration have one prominent cabinet position upon which to cast their hopes: This week Washington was buzzing after a meeting between the President-elect and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, which catapulted Haley to the top of the speculative heap of Secretary of State candidates. If she gets the nod, the headline for this article would be outdated with a stroke of the pen (and a confirmation hearing). This would be remarkable for a few reasons, not least of which is her contentious relationship to Trump during the campaign season. Then again, the other rumored top candidate is Mitt Romney, and he and Trump didn’t exactly have a sweet ’16 together, either.

We’ll continue to watch as Trump’s administration takes shape. From what we’ve gathered, President Trump may well take his strongest cues from his campaign moves.



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