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, 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.
White House chief of staff
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.
Secretary of state
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.
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.”
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.
Secretary of the Treasury
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.
Secretary of Commerce
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.
Secretary of labor
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.
National security adviser
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.
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.
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.
General James Mattis
Secretary of defense
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.
Secretary of Homeland Security
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.
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
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.
Secretary of education
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.
Secretary of health and human services
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.
Ambassador to the UN
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.
Secretary of housing and urban development
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.
Secretary of transportation
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.
Director of the National Economic Council
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.
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