Political Appointments

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Recent Updates[edit]

  • 2/1/2017: Democratic Senators on the Environmental and Public Works panel boycotted today's session for EPA Chief nominee Scott Pruitt.
  • 2/1/2017: Republican lawmakers on the Finance Committee were faced with another boycott by Democrats and voted to suspend the rules of the committee so they could send to the senate floor Steve Mnuchin for Treasury secretary and Tom Price for Health and Human Services secretary.[1]
  • 1/24/2017: The Senate confirmed the nomination of Nikki Haley to be US Representative to the United Nations with a vote of 96-4. [2]
  • 1/23/2017: The Senate confirmed Mike Pompeo (R-KS) for CIA Director. [3] There had been an effort to quickly confirm Pompeo because the previous Director had already left and there were worries about leaving the position empty. There were supposedly plans to hold the vote on the 20th, but Senator Wyden of Oregon called for more time to debate and consider Pompeo, so the vote was postponed until the 23rd. On Twitter, reporter Jamie Dupree reported (see tweet) that 15 Democrat Senators joined the 51 Republican Senators in the vote, making the final tally 66-32 (two Democrat Senators were unable to make the vote because of the weather). The 15 Democrat Senators are as follows: Donnelly, Feinstein, Hassan, Heitkamp, Kaine, King, Klobuchar, Manchin, McCaskill, Reed, Schatz, Schumer, Shaheen, Warner, Whitehouse. Human Rights Watch expressed serious concerns about Pompeo because of his failure to disavow torture and mass surveillance as well as his ambiguous attitude towards torture[4].
  • 1/23/2017: Many of Trump's nominees are beginning the confirmation process despite not having completed the conflict of interest review.[5] Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) insisted in 2009 that appointees submit all financial disclosures before their confirmation hearing are scheduled, stating "we affirm our commitment to conduct the appropriate review of these nominations...regardless of which political party is in the majority." [6].
  • 1/23/2017: Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon nominee to head Dept of Housing and Urban Development has cleared his committee hearings with votes in his favor by Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown.
  • 1/23/2017: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted along party lines to approve former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as President Trump’s secretary of state, setting up a full Senate vote as early as next week Political Appointee Tracker

Trump Political Appointments[edit]

Confirmed[edit]

Waiting Senate Confirmation[edit]

  • Secretary of Treasury - Steven Mnuchin, Former Trump Campaign Finance Chairman
  • Secretary of Commerce - Wilbur Ross, private equity investor[11]
  • Secretary of Labor - Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants[12]
  • Secretary of Energy - Rick Perry, Former Governor of Texas
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development - Dr. Ben Carson[13]
  • Secretary of Interior - Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT)[14]
  • Secretary of Agriculture - Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue[15]

Trump Advisors and High-Profile People within His Administration[edit]

  • Chief of Staff - Reince Priebus, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee[16]
  • Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor - Steve Bannon, former Chairman of Trump's Campaign & former Executive Chairman of Breitbart News
  • National Security Advisor - Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency
  • Senior White House Advisor - Jared Kushner
  • White House Counsel - Donald McGahn, former Chairman of the Federal Elections Commission, former Chief Counsel to National Republican Congressional Committee[17]
  • Counselor - Kellyanne Conway, former Trump Campaign Manager[18]
  • Senior Advisor, Policy - Stephen Miller, Senior Policy Advisor to Trump's Campaign & former Communications Director for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
  • Press Secretary - Sean Spicer, former Chief Strategist and Communications Director of the Republican National Committee[19]
  • National Trade Counsel Director - Peter Navarro, Professor of Economics and Public Policy, UC Irvine[20]
  • Special Advisor on Regulatory Reform - Carl Icahn, billionaire investor[21]
  • Director of Legislative Affairs - Marc Short, former aid to then U.S. Representative Mike Pence and former employee of Freedom Partners, a non profit associated with the Koch brothers [22]
  • White House Counselor - Donald McGahn, former Federal Elections Commission chairman [23]
  • Chair of the Federal Communications Commission -Ajit Pai, former FCC Republican Commissioner[24]

The Case Against The Nominees[edit]

Steven Mnuchin[edit]

Steven Mnuchin, "failed to disclose nearly $100 million of his assets" to the Senate Finance Committee. He also did not mention "his role as a director of an investment fund located in a tax haven." [25] Critics also point to Mnuchin's time as CEO of OneWest, which was called a "Foreclosure Machine," as proof he will not be a Treasury Secretary for all Americans.

OneWest earned this reputation by being responsible for 39% of all foreclosures nationwide between 2009 and 2014. [26] During Mnuchin's time as CEO, OneWest foreclosed on 36,000 families in California and 24,000 other families across the country, according to third party studies. [27] OneWest entered into a "loss-share" agreement with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC), which meant "the agency would partially reimburse the bank for handling foreclosures." A Freedom of Information Act (FIOA) request showed that the FDIC paid OneWest more than $1 billion for at least 36,000 foreclosures. After purchasing it for $1.9 billion from the FDIC, Mnuchin and his fellow investors in OneWest turned their predatory practices into profit and sold OneWest for $3.4 billion in 2015. [28]

In addition to aggressively foreclosing on Americans' homes in the past, changes Mnuchin advocates will make it tougher for American families to own homes in the future. He has stated that the federal government should give up control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. However, a Forbes article notes that Fannie and Freddie current practice of buying up banks' mortgage loans keeps Americans' mortgage rates low and "allows borrowers to finance homes at fixed rates for as long as thirty years…Any significant change to that special guarantee relationship could send U.S. home financing costs higher." [29]

Scott Pruitt[edit]

Wilbur Ross[edit]

Trump’s pick for Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross is an investor that made his billions buying and reviving companies in failing industries, such as steel, coal, telecommunications, foreign investment, and textiles[30]. He worked as a bankruptcy adviser on Wall Street for 24 years, before starting his own firm in 2000, and has since acquired over 3 billion dollars in assets and wealth. [31] A Billionaire with traceable DNC connections[32], he became an economic adviser to Trump during the 2016 Presidential campaign. While he signed a letter in support of TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) in 2015[33], he has since been an advocate for trade restrictions, as he vocally opposed free trade on an interview with Lou Dobbs, on 8 August 2016 [34] Although the position of Secretary of Commerce is not high profile, the fact that Ross was a primary contributor to Trump’s policy on trade during the election [35] would imply he will have a huge influence over future policy & proposals.

Andrew Puzder[edit]

  • Puzder opposes expanding access to overtime pay. His own companies, Hardee's and Carl's Jr. were not paying overtime to employees and has paid out millions of dollars over the past decade in wage theft cases.[36]
  • Puzder opposes raising the minimum wage.[37]
  • Puzder opposes basic workplace safety protections. His own restaurants violate these protections. Since 2000, Hardee's and Carl's Jr. have received over 90 safety violations including 36 "serious" violations that could result in death or serious harm to employees.[38]
  • Puzder built his brand on objectifying women for profit. He admits the brand has taken on his personality, one that likes beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis to sell his product. And he is in line to run an agency responsible for investigating claims of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.[39]
  • Puzder wants to replace jobs with a machine to avoid having to worry about respecting workers' legal rights.[40]

Rick Perry[edit]

James Richard "Rick" Perry is Trump's pick to run the Department of Energy, a Department he pledged to abolish on the 2012 Presidential campaign trail. [41] Perry initially believed that the role of Secretary of Energy would be a "global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry," learning after he accepted that he would actually be responsible for the development and maintenance of the country's nuclear arsenal. [42]

Mr. Perry has described climate change as "a contrived, phony mess." [43] Earlier this year, President Trump's transition team circulated a 74-point questionnaire on climate change at the Department of Energy, leading many to speculate that the administration plans to scrap climate change research and clean energy programs in favor of nuclear power and commercialized research. [44]

Perry is a veteran of the United States Air Force and was the longest-serving Governor of Texas. [45] He mounted two campaigns for the Republican nomination for President in 2012 and 2016. Mr. Perry holds a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University in animal science and previously served as Texas Commissioner of Agriculture. [46]

Dr. Ben Carson[edit]

Ryan Zinke[edit]

Sonny Perdue[edit]

Profiles of Confirmed Appointments[edit]

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson[edit]

Secretary Tillerson has worked for his entire adult life at Exxon Mobil, a company with a record of human rights abuses and destruction to the environment. Interviewed in 2015 about the possibility of working for the U.S. government, Tillerson replied, “Probably not qualified.” [47] When asked about dealing with other world leaders as head of Exxon, Tillerson stated, “I am not here to represent the United States’ government interests. I’m not here to defend it, nor am I here to criticize it. That’s not what I do. I’m a businessman.” [48] Tillerson also has a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has numerous ties to Russian interests. In 2013 Tillerson was awarded the Order of Friendship by Vladimir Putin. [49] Tillerson has questioned the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions against Russia. These sanctions directly impact Exxon Mobil's ability to profit from Russian oil. As such, Rex Tillerson would stand to benefit directly from the USA lifting sanctions against Russia [50]. Tillerson is currently in negotiations to divest his holdings in Exxon, and is looking to gain a massive tax break through this agreement. [51] Tillerson’s worldview has been shaped by his time in the private sector, specifically his positions towards science and risk assessment. Tillerson has expressed skepticism towards the science of climate change, explaining in 2016 that, “Words like climate consensus don’t mean anything to us… that’s an oxymoronic statement. You can’t have scientific consensus… Anyone who says they know is giving you an opinion.” [52] Tillerson has explained his position on climate change in terms of risk management: “We view it as a risk management problem… The question is how far do you want to go in mandated policy when the truth of the matter is that model could be wrong… I don’t think wrecking economies with what I consider to be extreme policies on which the basis is somewhat questionable [is advisable].” [53] Tillerson has also been an open advocate of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), and one of his first jobs at Exxon in 1975 was setting up fracking procedures in Carthage, Texas. [54] In a March, 2015 conversation, Tillerson stated, “We know of no documented cases” of contaminated freshwater from hydraulic fracturing [55]. Nearly a year earlier, USA today had reported of contaminated groundwater cases in 4 states. [56]

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos[edit]

Betsy DeVos's track record in education has several red flags. DeVos founded and directed All Children Matter, a PAC in Michigan which advocated charter school expansion. All Children Matter still has an unpaid fine of $5.3 million for breaking Ohio state laws in 2008. It illegally channelled $870,000 in contributions from its Virgina PAC to it's Ohio arm, violating a law capping contributions from a single source at $10,000.[57] She has also compared her work in education to a biblical battleground where she wants to "advance God's kingdom" and supports the use of millions of dollars on private and religious schools.[58]

Trump's Education Secretary and her family are known for having generously contributed to anti- equality groups such as Focus on the Family, a group that has pushed for conversion therapy and whose founder described the fight against LGBTQ rights as a “second civil war” according to Human Rights Campaign and the Southern Poverty Law Center[59][60][61]. Despite indications that she does not speak out against equality directly[62], Civil rights groups worry that civil rights protections extended to LGBTQ students under the Obama administration, including urging schools to extend anti-bullying policies to cover LGBT students; calling on them to allow LGBT student groups on campuses; and citing Title IX (a federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sex) to protect transgender students’ right to use the bathroom and locker rooms fitting their gender identity, will be dismantled under DeVos. These policies could be rescinded easily, as well as struck down by the courts as many states have sued the Obama administration over them. The Supreme Court has announced it would take up the case of a Virginia transgender student seeking to use the boy’s bathroom at his high school, but if the guidance was rescinded the Supreme Court would send the case back to a lower court for reconsideration.[63]

Attorney General Jeff Sessions[edit]

Jeff Sessions record on civil rights is in direct conflict with the responsibility of promoting justice and equality for all Americans. His record on voting rights raises many questions. Jeff Sessions fueled the myth of voter fraud on CNN, calling into question the US Presidential Election of 2000. [64] Jeff Sessions used his position as US Attorney for Alabama to target civil rights activists who registered black voters. In 1985, he charged civil rights activists Albert Turner, Evelyn Turner, and Spencer Hogue, known as the Marion Three, with mail fraud for sending elderly black voters' absentee ballots. It took just three hours for a jury to return a not-guilty verdict on all counts. More recently, Sessions cheered the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby v. Holder, which gutted and took the teeth away from the Voting Rights Act. He claimed, "But now if you go to Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, people aren't being denied the vote because of the color of their skin." [65]

Just four months after charging the Marion Three, Jeff Sessions was nominated by President Reagan for a federal judgeship. His confirmation hearings made his poor civil rights record clear. Coretta Scott King, an activist and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s wife, wrote a letter opposing Jeff Sessions' appointment as a federal judge based on his record opposing voting rights.[66] Thomas Figures, a black assistant US attorney under Sessions, testified that Sessions joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he was "ok" with the KKK until he found out some of them smoked marijuana. He also testified that Sessions claimed civil rights organizations including the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, are "unAmerican" and taught "anti-American values".[67] J.Gerald Herbert, a Justice Department lawyer, also testified that "Sessions told him the NAACP and ACLU were 'un-American' and 'Communist-inspired.'" [68] The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 against Sessions' nomination. [69] Sessions track record on this issue shows he will not be as committed to enforcing civil rights protections for all.

Trump's nominee for Attorney General also has an alarming track record on LGBTQ equality. In 2013, he voted against a bill which would have prohibited workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity [70], and in 2009 he voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act [71] , which expanded federal hate crime protections to people under threat because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Sessions has also previously voted in favor of a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality [72]and against the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. As Attorney General, Sessions could, and most likely will, refuse to litigate states and officials who impose anti-LGBTQ laws on their constituents, or what current Attorney General Loretta Lynch reffered to as "state-sponsored discrimination." [73]

Jeff Sessions's voting record as an Alabama senator also raises red flags. Sessions voted against the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2001. Sessions voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. Sessions was a sponsor of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Sessions also opposed the bipartisan immigration reform that passed the Senate in 2013 and the DREAM Act. He fought against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Sessions voted against the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. [74][75]

CIA Director Mike Pompeo[edit]

Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo, a former Army tank officer, is Trump's pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency. [76] As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Pompeo has been sharply critical of Hillary Clinton: following the committee's report that found "no evidence of wrongdoing" in the Benghazi incident, Pompeo wrote a 48-page report in which he claimed that the State Department was “seemingly more concerned with politics and Secretary Clinton’s legacy than with protecting its people in Benghazi.” [77] Pompeo has also been highly critical of the Iran nuclear deal. In a since-deleted tweet, he referred to the agreement as a "disastrous deal" and referred to Iran as "the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism." [78] Pompeo has expressed disapproval over President Obama's desire to close Guantanamo Bay, his decision to shut down CIA black sites, and his requirement that interrogations adhere to the rules of the Army Field Manual. [79]

Pompeo is a vocal supporter of expanding the government's surveillance powers. [80] In an editorial for the Wall Street Journal, Pompeo detailed a plan for removing "impediments to surveillance," declaring that "Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database." [81] In an earlier editorial for the National Review, Pompeo criticized Republicans who oppose expanded surveillance as "weak," saying that "Those who today suggest that the USA FREEDOM Act, which gutted the National Security Agency’s (NSA) metadata program, enables the intelligence community to better prevent and investigate threats against the U.S. are lying." [82]

Pompeo graduated first in his class at West Point and was deployed in Germany during the Cold War. Upon his return, he attended Harvard Law School and was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. [83] He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2011 as part of the Tea Party movement. [84]

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao[edit]

Elaine Chao, the former Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush and wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has been selected to lead the Department of Transportation. [85] Chao has been on the board of Wells Fargo since 2011 and stands to receive about $5 million in cash payouts for deferred stock options from the company. [86] Chao received bipartisan support in her Senate confirmation, with six Democratic senators voting against and her husband voting "present." [87]

Chao worked for Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and the Heritage Foundation and was a frequent commentator on Fox News. She also sits on the board of directors for Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. [88] Upon her departure from the Labor Department in 2009, Chao faced mixed reviews for her work. Chao and her supporters noted that workplace fatalities and injuries had declined, while union representatives criticized the lack of new workplace protections enacted under her tenure. [89]

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price[edit]