11/14/16 | Mark Kivimaki | Head Correspondent
On the Surface
Since Donald Trump’s surprise win last week, the media has been left guessing about the makeup of his cabinet and administration. Most rumored advisors have been close Trump confidants and supporters throughout his campaign. Names like Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and Chris Christie–all potential VP picks–are likely on Trump’s cabinet shortlist. On Sunday, the President-Elect finally broke the silence by announcing that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus will serve as his chief of staff, and Steve Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart, as his chief strategist. These selections reveal new insights about the makeup of Trump’s administration.
Secretary of State
Most of Trump’s rumored picks are anti-establishment loyalists, Tea Party subscribers, and campaign supporters. For Secretary of State, the main candidates are John R. Bolton, former ambassador to the UN, and Newt Gingrich, 2012 presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House.
A Bolton pick would indicate a shift toward conventional foreign policy. Bolton was appointed by George W. Bush, and is associated with the neoconservative foreign policy of that era. He worked as an advisor to Mitt Romney as well, and works with multiple Washington think tanks. Bolton would likely be an attempt to appease the traditional party elite and establishment leaders in the House and Senate.
The implications of a Gingrich appointment, however, remain unclear. Gingrich was neoconservative during his tenure as Speaker of the House, but in 2013 he told the media he was rethinking his views and since his endorsement of Trump. Recently, he has been more of an anti-establishment figure. Gingrich is perhaps less likely than Bolton since Gingrich has expressed interest in a more behind-the-scenes role.
Other Cabinet Offices
Other offices also show Trump’s preference for his supporters. The leading candidates for Attorney General are Chris Christie, who has supported Trump since he dropped out of the race, Rudy Giuliani, who has appeared many times on TV as a Trump surrogate, and Jeff Sessions, a senator from Alabama who gave Trump one of his first Congressional endorsements.
Possible Defense Secretaries include Kelly Ayotte, a departing senator from New Hampshire, Stephen Hadley, a George W. Bush advisor and, again, Jeff Sessions. Whoever leads the charge, Trump’s DoD is likely to heighten the conflict with the Islamic State and roll back Obama’s directives requiring integration of women and transgender soldiers into the military.
For Treasury Secretary, Trump seems to be looking at more establishment options. The candidates include Thomas Barrack, a private equity investor and chairman of Colony Capital, and Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive. These picks are likely to disappoint diehard Trump supporters who hoped to see Trump reject the influence of Wall Street in politics as he promised. However any of these choices would bring essential experience to Trump’s table.
The Bannon-Priebus Team
The selections of Bannon and Priebus reveal the eclectic nature of Trump’s future administration. Bannon’s Breitbart News appeals to the alt-right movement, which has earnestly supported Trump online and rejects traditional establishment politics. Priebus seems to be the opposite. He heads the RNC, which Trump condemned during his primary run, making him one of the most establishment picks possible. These two selections seem to be an early clue about what a Trump administration will look like: a balanced combination between establishment politicians and insurgent outsiders. However, this is only the first of many appointments, and only time will tell exactly how Trump’s cabinet will look.