Wednesday, 14 December 2016 18:30


Claire Manibog, The Financial Times, 13.12.2016


Donald Trump has begun putting together his transition team and naming the cabinet members who will come to power in Washington after the inauguration on January 20. Follow the FT’s guide to the main players he has already picked — and the positions yet to be filled. 


Mike Pence

FT Pence

Mike Pence, the Indiana governor and former congressman, was picked as Donald Trump’s running mate for having what the property tycoon lacked: experience of governing and knowledge of Washington. After his victory Mr Trump asked Mr Pence, a Washington insider, to head the transition team filling hundreds of posts in the White House and elsewhere, offering hope to lawmakers and lobbyists eager to see familiar faces in power.

It is a turnround for Mr Pence to be embraced as a force of moderation. He was a rigid social conservative during a decade in Congress and sparked a furore in 2015 for pushing a law that backed religious freedom in Indiana at the expense of gay rights.

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Reince Priebus
White House chief of staff

FT Priebus
A Wisconsin-raised lawyer who has never held elected office, Mr Priebus has run the Republican National Committee for a record six years. He has been credited with improving the party’s financial position and investing in the kind of data operations that President Barack Obama used to beat John McCain and Mitt Romney in their 2008 and 2012 election races.

The appointment of Mr Priebus catapults him to one of the most powerful positions in Washington. But he will have to share his place near the top of the power pyramid with Stephen Bannon. 

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Rex Tillerson
Secretary of state

FT Tillerson

In picking chief executive of ExxonMobil Rex Tillerson for one of his highest-profile cabinet positions, Mr Trump has ignored criticism that the oil and gas executive enjoys a too-cosy relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

A 41-year veteran of energy giant Exxon, Mr Tillerson has decades of experience dealing with foreign leaders. But critics have highlighted the decision by Moscow to award the Texan with the “Order of Friendship” decoration in 2013, meaning Mr Tillerson’s stance on Russia is expected to come under scrutiny when he faces his confirmation hearing before the Senate foreign relations committee next year.

As secretary of state, Mr Tillerson, 64, will be responsible for handling the US response to the Syria crisis, North Korea and the Iran nuclear deal - as well as relations with Russia and China.

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Stephen Bannon
Chief strategist

FT Bannon

The president-elect is drawing fire for choosing Stephen Bannon as a top White House adviser, with critics from both left and right arguing that the former head of Breitbart News has helped propel a divisive strain of white nationalism. Democrats, human rights groups and a handful of Republicans have attacked the appointment. 

Among those welcoming Mr Bannon’s appointment was David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader. “You have an individual, Mr Bannon, who’s basically creating the ideological aspects of where we’re going,” Mr Duke told CNN. “And ideology ultimately is the most important aspect of any government.”

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Jared Kushner

FT Kurshner

The president-elect’s son-in-law and young property mogul has a firm place in the Trump inner circle. Jared Kushner, 35, has demonstrated the qualities that have helped make him a political power — first as a confidant in the Trump campaign, now as a player in the president-elect’s transition effort and possibly as a White House adviser starting next year. 

Exactly how Mr Kushner will serve Mr Trump in the White House remains unclear. A US law — enacted in the 1960s after John Kennedy made his brother Robert attorney-general — bars presidents from employing relatives, including in-laws, in federal agencies. The suggestion has been made that Mr Kushner could work in an informal capacity, but that raises other legal issues.

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Steven Mnuchin
Secretary of the Treasury

FT Mnuchin
The next US Treasury secretary is set to be Steven Mnuchin, a Goldman Sachs veteran turned movie producer. Mr Mnuchin chairs the Dune Capital hedge fund and Dune Entertainment Partners and backed the president-elect during the Republican primary and then served as his campaign finance director.

Mr Mnuchin became a Goldman partner at the age of 31, rising to chief information officer after running the firm’s trading in mortgages, US government, money market and municipal bonds. He spent 17 years at the bank, where his father and brother had also worked. He left in 2002 to focus on Hollywood; he is credited as an executive producer on films such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Mad Max: Fury Road, and American Sniper.

As Treasury secretary he will face the challenges of managing the national debt, global financial ties and Wall Street regulation for a president whose plans appear set to raise government borrowing, risk trade tensions and loosen the shackles on banks.

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Wilbur Ross

Secretary of Commerce

FT Ross
Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, known on Wall Street as the “king of bankruptcy” for his record of buying failing companies, has been nominated as Donald Trump’s commerce secretary, putting an advocate of renegotiating US trade pacts in a key economic post.

Mr Ross was a close adviser to Mr Trump during his campaign and helped develop the president-elect’s policies for corporate tax cuts, increased infrastructure spending and international trade.

A former investment banker who specialised in corporate turnrounds, Mr Ross has been particularly outspoken on the need for overhauling business taxes, advocating sharp cuts in corporate rates and incentives for US companies that have parked profits overseas to bring them home.

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Andrew Puzder
Secretary of labor

FT Puzder
Mr Trump is set to appoint Andrew Puzder, the fast-food executive and outspoken opponent of raising the minimum wage, as US labor secretary.

As head of CKE, the California-based owner of the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr chains, Mr Puzder has been a longtime campaigner against business regulations and raising the minimum wage. The Obama administration has been advocating an increase in the minimum wage despite opposition from many business groups.

If confirmed by the Senate, the former lawyer would be charged with saving “small businesses from the crushing burdens of unnecessary regulations that are stunting job growth and suppressing wages”, Mr Trump said.

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Michael Flynn
National security adviser

FT Flynn 

Michael Flynn, a decorated intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, was previously head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The role of national security adviser is seen as even more important than usual given Mr Trump’s lack of foreign policy experience. 

The choice attracted criticism because of some of the extreme views that the brash Irish-American has taken, including his belief that the terror group Isis poses an existential threat to the US, and because he was fired from the DIA over his leadership style.

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Jeff Sessions

FT Sessions

Jeff Sessions, Mr Trump’s nominee for attorney-general, is a four-term Republican senator from Alabama. The 69-year-old did a stint in the Army Reserve before launching a law career. After serving two years as a federal prosecutor, he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 to serve as US attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. 

Five years later, Mr Reagan tapped Mr Sessions for a seat on the federal judiciary in Alabama. But the nomination was withdrawn amid criticisms over Mr Sessions’ comments about the NAACP, ACLU and Ku Klux Klan — which were seen as racially insensitive — and his record on civil rights cases. 

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Mike Pompeo
CIA director

FT Pompeo

Mr Trump’s pick to head the spy agency has represented a district in Kansas for three terms in the US House of Representatives. The 52-year-old is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and “served as a cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall,” according to his official biography.

He is a fierce critic of the Iran nuclear deal and wants to restore surveillance programmes stopped after the Edward Snowden revelations. The hawkish member of the House Republican caucus on foreign affairs was one of the harshest critics of Hillary Clinton over the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

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General James Mattis
Secretary of defense

FT Mattis

General James Mattis, Mr Trump’s choice for Pentagon chief, is a retired marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s Middle East policy.

Known as “Mad Dog” - a nickname used even by Mr Trump on announcing the appointment on Twitter - the general has a tough stance on Iran, labelling the country “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East”.

One legal hurdle remains however. Republicans in Congress must arrange a waiver to allow Mr Mattis to serve despite a decades-old rule that military officers must be out of uniform for seven years before being appointed secretary of defense.

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John Kelly
Secretary of Homeland Security

FT Kelly

Responsibility for immigration and the proposed US-Mexico “wall” will go to John Kelly in the new Trump administration.

A retired marine general who led US military operations in Latin America, Mr Kelly will oversee border policies and counter-terrorism efforts as the head of homeland security, pending Senate confirmation.

Mr Kelly, whose son was killed fighting with US forces against the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2010, has openly opposed the Obama administration's as yet unfulfilled plan to close Guantánamo Bay and rejected criticism about the treatment of detainees.

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Scott Pruitt
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

 FT Pruitt

Mr Trump’s new chief environmental regulator will be a conservative state law enforcer who, like the president-elect, has questioned the science behind climate change.

Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a fossil fuel industry ally, has said that humanity’s contribution to global warming was “subject to considerable debate”.

He has also railed against the very body he will now head up, the EPA, for meddling in state affairs and played a leading role in a legal effort designed to push back against the Obama administration’s climate change policy. A decision on the lawsuit is still pending in a federal court.

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Betsy DeVos
Secretary of education

FT DeVos

Ms DeVos is a major Republican donor and sister of Erik Prince, founder of private security company Blackwater.

Along with Ms Haley, her nomination is another step outside of Mr Trump’s relatively small circle of loyalists and supporters.

Ms DeVos has been a prominent activist for taxpayer-funded charter schools and for creating voucher schemes for private schools.

Profile >



Tom Price
Secretary of health and human services

FT Price

Georgia congressman Tom Price is a fierce critic of “Obamacare” and his expected nomination as health secretary appears to confirm Mr Trump’s determination to undo most of Barack Obama’s controversial reforms.

Mr Price, 62, a orthopaedic surgeon and a conservative, has proposed legislation to scupper Obamacare multiple times since work on it began in Mr Obama’s first term.

If the appointment is confirmed by the Senate, Mr Price would play a central role in dismantling and replacing the president’s reforms, which have been seen as a central part of his legacy.

Obamacare has helped 20m people gain health insurance but has also stoked discontent among others for pushing up premium costs and reducing choice. It continues to divide public opinion: according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey in October, 45 per cent of adults viewed it unfavourably while the same proportion viewed it favourably.



Nikki Haley
Ambassador to the UN

FT Haley

The president-elect reached beyond his inner circle to pick Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s governor and a critic of Mr Trump during the campaign, as UN ambassador.

Ms Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, has little foreign policy experience and would be the first person in more than a decade to hold the job without a diplomatic background. But she is a rising star within the Republican party and has been mentioned as a future presidential candidate herself.

Profile >



Ben Carson
Secretary of housing and urban development

FT Carson

The president-elect has nominated Ben Carson, a former surgeon and one-time campaign rival, as secretary for Housing and Urban Development in his cabinet.

The duo traded jabs as they battled for the Republican nomination in the primaries. But Dr Carson eventually became one of the first contenders to endorse Mr Trump.

Dr Carson tapped into the same sense of disappointment with Washington insiders that Mr Trump did, given his background in medicine, not politics.

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Elaine Chao
Secretary of transportation

 FT Chao

Mr Trump has nominated Elaine Chao as his transportation secretary. Mrs Chao, an immigrant who moved to the US aged eight, served as Labor secretary in the George W. Bush administration from 2001 to 2009. She was the first American woman of Asian descent to be appointed to the cabinet.

With a stint as deputy transportation secretary in the late 1980s already under her belt, she will be tasked with delivering on Mr Trump’s infrastructure bill. She is married to Mitch McConnell, the Republican senator from Kentucky and senate majority leader.



Gary Cohn
Director of the National Economic Council

 FT Cohn
Donald Trump has named Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn to head the White House National Economic Council, marking his third top appointment from the ranks of the bank despite his pledge to sever links between Wall Street and Washington.

In announcing the appointment, Mr Trump said that Mr Cohn would “put his talents as a highly successful businessman to work for the American people” and would create policies that would “grow wages for our workers, stop the exodus of jobs overseas and create many great new opportunities for Americans who have been struggling”.

The appointments of three people connected to Goldman have sparked criticism that Mr Trump is abandoning his vow to “drain the swamp” of the rich and powerful in the corridors of power in Washington.

Profile >



Positions that have yet to be filled


Secretary of the Interior

Secretary of Agriculture

Secretary of Energy

Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Director of the Office of Management & Budget

United States Trade Representative

Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers

Administrator of the Small Business Administration

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