Donald Trump's cabinet nominations: what we know so far

The president-elect has nominated Jeff Sessions as attorney general and Mike Pompeo to head the CIA but rumors and speculation swirl about other positions

President-elect Donald Trump scheduled a series of meetings with close allies and Washington veterans this week, stoking speculation about his possible cabinet picks – just as he did this summer, when he polled crowds about his running mate and floated improbable names to the press.

Trump has weeks to decide nominations to head the US’s powerful federal agencies, though presidents-elect have historically made most of their nominations in December. So far he has made three nominations, and his aides have leaked out a dozen possible names for other cabinet positions.

Attorney general

Senator Jeff Sessions, 69, was named by Trump as nominee to lead the justice department, provoking immediate outrage from Democrats and civil rights groups. Sessions was rejected for confirmation as a federal judge in 1986, after testimony that he said the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until I found out they smoked pot” and called a black attorney “boy” (he denied the latter). A decade later he won election to a Senate seat in Alabama, and in the 2016 campaign he became one of Trump’s most ardent supporters, especially on immigration.

“If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man,” Democratic representative Luis Gutiérrez said in a statement.

If confirmed, Sessions would succeed Loretta Lynch, the first African American woman to serve as attorney general.

CIA director

On Friday, Trump named representative Mike Pompeo, 52, as his choice for director of the CIA. Like Sessions, Pompeo was an early supporter of Trump, and shares hawkish views with the candidate on surveillance and espionage. An army veteran and graduate of Harvard Law and West Point, Pompeo won a seat representing Kansas in 2011, and took on a leading role in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s response to the 2012 attack on a US compound in Benghazi, Libya. The investigation found no wrongdoing by Clinton, but faulted the Pentagon’s procedures.

Before he joined Congress, Pompeo worked at Sentry International, a vendor of oil field equipment, and in 2012 published a Politico op-ed pleading: “Stop harassing the Koch brothers”, the oil billionaires whose company is based in Kansas, and whose employees have given $75,000 to Pompeo, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

National security adviser

Trump has named retired general Michael Flynn, 57, a confidant who supports closer ties with Russia, a role as one of his top advisers on foreign policy. Flynn had a decorated, three-decade career that culminated in a job as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. But in 2014 he was forced out of that position, reportedly because of his extremely hawkish views and chaotic management.

In retirement, Flynn headed a consulting firm with wealthy international clients, met with Vladimir Putin and Kremlin-owned news organization RT, claimed that “fear of Muslims is rational” and propagated fake news. As national security adviser, he would help Trump determine the direction of foreign policy and shape of the military.

Rumored nominees: secretary of state

At least seven names have been raised for secretary of state, the United States’ chief diplomat and head of the state department.

On Saturday in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump is due to meet Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee in 2012. Romney accused Trump of fomenting racism and misogyny throughout the 2016 campaign, and repeatedly warned about the dangers of Putin’s Russia. A friend of Romney’s told CNN he would probably not join Trump’s cabinet.

Sources with diplomatic posts said that disgraced general David Petraeus, the former director of the CIA, is being considered for the position of secretary of state. Petraeus’s nomination would prove ironic, however, in light of Trump’s repeated accusation that Clinton endangered national security with her use of a private email server while secretary of state. Petraeus pleaded guilty in 2015 to giving secrets to his autobiographer, with whom he was having an affair. He was sentenced to two years’ probation and a fine of $100,000.

Henry Kissinger, the secretary of state to Richard Nixon, visited Trump Tower on Thursday, though the 93-year-old declined to endorse Trump during the campaign. Trump also met South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who in December called his proposed ban on Muslims entering the US “absolutely un-American”, but ultimately voted for him 11 months later.

Former UN ambassador John Bolton and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, two more reported candidates, have already been opposed by one Republican senator, Rand Paul. Bolton and Giuliani rank among the most hawkish members of the party, and in September the latter said “anything is legal” in war. Bolton’s support for the invasion of Iraq, however, and Giuliani’s history with foreign wealth could prove a problem in confirmation hearings.

One member of Congress has been mooted for the position. Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the committee on foreign relations and a self-described “realist” – less hawkish than Giuliani – has said he is “in the mix” for the position. He added that he considered himself unlikely to be chosen.

Treasury secretary

Steve Mnuchin, a 17-year veteran of Goldman Sachs and Trump’s campaign adviser for finance, visited Trump Tower on Thursday and Friday, as on Thursday did Texas congressman Jeb Hensarling, the chairman of the House financial services committee. Politico reported earlier this month that Mnuchin is a favorite for secretary of the treasury, despite Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” of consultants and lobbyists.

Homeland security secretary

Texas congressman Mike McCaul, the chairman of the House homeland security committee, told Politico that he was interested in taking over the sprawling agency responsible for immigration, the border and disaster management. Congressman John Katko, who oversees transportation for that committee, is another reported possibility.

More unlikely are Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who lost re-election this month and faces contempt charges in a racial discrimination suit, and Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke, who has repeatedly suggested crackdowns on protests.

Environmental Protection Agency

Trump has named Myron Ebell, a lobbyist who leads a group claiming to dispel “myths of global warming”, as head of his EPA transition team. He is also reportedly considering venture capitalist Robert Grady; lobbyist Mike Catanzaro, whose company’s clients include oil and natural gas companies; and lobbyist Jeffrey Holmstead, who was a deputy EPA administrator for George W Bush.

Defense secretary

Two names raised to lead the Pentagon are Stephen Hadley, a former national security adviser to George W Bush, and Tom Cotton, a hawkish Arkansas senator and veteran who earned notoriety and derision for a threatening letter to the leaders of Iran. Jim Talent, a former Missouri lawmaker, has also been named by an anonymous source to Defense News as a possible nominee.

Ruled out

New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a former prosecutor and early Trump supporter, is probably out of the running for the attorney general post. He was removed from Trump’s transition team, reportedly by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose father was prosecuted by Christie for tax evasion and witness tampering.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a prominent supporter throughout the campaign, has ruled himself out for a cabinet position. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has also said he would not serve in Trump’s cabinet, citing his lack of government experience. Carson endorsed Trump after dropping his own bid for president.


Alan Yuhas

The GuardianTramp

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