Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson
Rex Tillerson, 64, is currently CEO of Exxon Mobil, and has been with Exxon since 1975, through mergers, acquisitions, and oil spills. Exxon has operations in about 50 countries, including Russia, where the company has billions of dollars worth of deals that are being held up by U.S. sanctions against Russia resulting from the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, according to this New York Times report. Tillerson is on record with his opposition to the sanctions. The key question with respect to Tillerson’s candidacy for Secretary of State rests upon how many shares of stock he owns in Exxon Mobil and how that would affect his decisions about whether to end the sanctions. He favors the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump opposes, favors a carbon tax to reduce emissions, but sees no alternative to the continued use of fossil fuels, which is surprising since Exxon Mobil is now investing heavily in alternative energy sources. Tillerson reportedly maintains a close relationship with Vladimir Putin, who conferred Russia’s Order of Friendship on Tillerman in 2013. He holds a degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas, but has no actual legislative or diplomatic experience.
Secretary of the Treasury: Steve Mnuchin
If he is confirmed by the Senate, Steve Mnuchin, 53, will be the third Goldman Sachs alumnus to become Treasury Secretary, following Bill Clinton appointee Robert E. Rubin and George W. Bush appointee Henry M. Paulson Jr. Mnuchin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale, where he was a member of the secretive Skull and Bones Society. He has no government experience, but he did own OneWest Bank (formerly IndyMac,) which foreclosed on 36,000 homeowners during the Housing Crisis. His partners in that venture included George Soros, Michael Dell, and John Paulson. He served as Trump’s campaign finance chairman during the 2016 campaign. He has a well-deserved reputation as a wheeler-dealer and corporate raider, but has no known international financial experience since leaving Goldman Sachs in 2002. His former business partner at OneWest, John Paulson, was a key player in the machinations that led to the financial meltdown in 2008, during which Paulson pocketed almost $4 billion. Mnuchin himself still owns $97 million worth of CIT Group stock which he received as partial compensation for his OneWest holdings. CIT Group is currently being investigated for redlining activities, the process of refusing to write mortgages in certain low-income neighborhoods and failing to write mortgages for minority consumers. He has no previous government experience.
Secretary of Defense: James Mattis
Retired four star Marine General James Mattis, 66, may in fact be one of Donald Trump’s best picks. A well-seasoned combat soldier, known as an intellectual among his peers, he was the supreme allied commander of NATO for nearly three years and replaced David Petraeus in the Middle East, a position from which he was subsequently removed by Barack Obama because Mattis continued to push for a military confrontation with Iran. He believes that US involvement with Iraq is was “probably a mistake.” His own big mistake, and the one upon which his Senate confirmation may hang, is his involvement with the Theranos blood-testing company, whose products he promoted to the US military before he retired….and then joined the board of the troubled company, which leads to obvious conflict of interest questions. No lover of Obama, Mattis, if confirmed, might be the leavening that the Trump administration needs…or he could also get us into a war with Iran.
Attorney General: Jeff Sessions
The best thing that can be said about the possible appointment of Alabama’s Jeff Sessions as Attorney General of the United States is that it will get him out of the U.S. Senate, where he has been for the past 20 years. Sessions has been a U.S. Attorney, Alabama Attorney General, and a U.S. Senator, but he also has credentials of questionable veracity when it comes to his public statements. One example: He has claimed that he filed desegregation lawsuits in Alabama, but researchers at The Atlantic have been unable to substantiate that claim. Back in 1986, his nomination to the federal bench was withdrawn by President Ronald Reagan when Senator Joseph Biden informed the president that the nomination would fail on the basis of public statements that were considered racist, according a report in The New York Times. He is a hard-line conservative on fetal issues, minimum sentencing, criminal justice reform, immigration and is considered the fifth most conservative member of a very conservative Senate. With no record for impartiality on the issues, Sessions was probably a polarizing choice for AG, but because he is a member of the Senate, his approval is pretty much guaranteed.
Secretary of Commerce: Wilbur Ross
Surprise, surprise. Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, 79, is a corporate raider and bail out artist who helped bail Trump out of his Atlantic City Disaster. A Yale undergraduate with a Harvard MBA, Ross spent 24 years at Rothschild, Inc., where he specialized in bankruptcy restructuring, which is probably how Trump learned the fine art of bankruptcy manipulation. A real multi-billionaire, Ross is a prime target for concerns about conflicts of interest because he is invested in steel companies (Mittal Steel Company,) textiles (International Textile Group,) automotive parts (International Automotive Components Group,) and coal (The international Coal Group.) The interconnected businesses put him into numerous potential regulatory issues. He is involved in joint ventures with CIT Group, which puts him together with Steve Mnuchin, and has business interests in many countries, including China. There are so many things wrong with Ross as Commerce Secretary that it is difficult to decide where to begin. Companies owned and operated by him have been accused of stock fraud, mortgage fraud, failed banks, and he is of course in favor of big corporate tax cuts. As Commerce Secretary, Ross would almost inevitably end up investigating himself and it is virtually impossible for him to put his assets into blind trusts without liquidating everything he owns, which will never happen.
Secretary of Labor: Andrew Puzder
If you speak Yiddish, or you just happen to know what the word putz means, Andrew Puzder’s unfortunate name describes him to a T. Puzder, 66, is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, where he is currently embroiled in several class action lawsuits concerning wages and employee treatment. He opposes increases in federally mandated minimum wage rules, opposes overtime for wage earners, and believes the Affordable Care Act led to what he calls, without evidence, “a restaurant recession.” He favors increased automated on the retail level. At the very least, he would have to be graded as the least “worker-friendly” Labor Secretary to occupy that post in recent memory. A lawyer by training, he seems to spend a good deal of his time as a defendant instead of legal advisor. Like several other nominees, he would be in a situation in which his rulings could have dramatic effects on his business interests, raising questions about his appropriateness for the position to which he has been nominated.
Secretary of Health and Human Services: Tom Price
Georgia Congressman Tom Price, 62, currently chairman of the House Budget Committee, is already one of the most powerful men in America since he controls the purse strings of the nation. Price, a physician specializing in orthopedic surgery, opposes abortion, Planned Parenthood, and the Affordable Care Act, wants to “restructure” Medicare and Medicaid, supports “doctor-shield” legislation that would exempt doctors from malpractice lawsuits against them, favors laws exempting doctors from submitting reports required by hospitals for evaluation programs. As a member of Congress, he voted against National Public Radio funding, the Emergency Mortgage Relief Program, and is a budget hawk who wants to impose a stranglehold on the federal government through the power of the purse. The only good thing we can say about this appointment is that at least he is a doctor, but we’re not sure you would want this doctor operating on you since he wants doctors to be exempted from personal responsibility from damages resulting from their bad acts. Rest assured that he will move against any attempts to regulate the medical industry or challenge the AMA’s stranglehold on the practice of medicine in the United States.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Ben Carson
We thought we were safe from Ben Carson when he recently declined a cabinet post on the grounds that he had “no government experience” despite the fact that none had yet been offered to him. It seems to us that he should have thought of that before he decided to run for president this year, which would have saved us all some time and mental anguish trying to figure out what he was doing on that stage.
Having proven that he wasn’t presidential material, Carson, 65, should have quit while he was ahead instead of seeking and securing the HUD job on the basis of having grown up in public housing, which turns out wasn’t the case to begin with. Under a Carson administration, HUD will probably start dismantling public housing. Expect to hear the word privatized in this context. He believes that public housing is a failed social experiment and believes that poverty is a choice not a circumstance. We tried to find something positive to say about Carson as a potential HUD secretary, but we couldn’t come up with anything. Can you?
Secretary of Transportation: Elaine Chao
Elaine Chao, 63, is probably unstoppable insofar as Senate confirmation is concerned, which is all right because she is another high quality pick. First of all, she was Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, so she is very much a Washington insider. More importantly, however, she is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Who is going to vote against her with that kind of clout backing her up?
Chao comes equipped with a B.A. from Mount Holyoke and an MBA from Harvard. She also comes equipped very successful stints at the Department of Transportation, where she headed the Federal Maritime Commission, served as Deputy Secretary of Transportation under George H.W. Bush, and later served as a highly successful Peace Corps Director. She was spent four years as president of United Way of America, where she restored the luster to a scandal tarnished institution. She was the only cabinet secretary to serve the full eight years under George W. Bush.
Some people collect art. Chao collects honorary doctorates: she has 36 of them. She also has a couple of skeletons in her closet. During her stint as Secretary of Labor, She was implicated in the Sago Mine disaster when she allowed the mine to stay in operation despite more than 200 safety violations at the troubled coal mine where 12 miners (and three rescue workers) lost their lives in a 2006 mine disaster. (Note that Secretary of Commerce candidate Wilbur Ross also has questionable ties to the Sago Mine disaster.)