The open question of how Donald Trump will govern is being filled in with names of men – and five women, as of early January – floated for inclusion in his cabinet and for cabinet-level posts. Trump’s picks reveal a penchant for brass, political outsiders, Wall Street titans and… white men. The picks do not betray a particular faith in the value of prior government experience. Here’s the list so far:
State: Rex Tillerson, 64, outgoing chairman of ExxonMobil after 41 years with the energy giant. Has a history of close business ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin, who bestowed the Order of Friendship on Tillerson in 2013. He signed a 2011 agreement giving his energy company access to the huge resources under the Russian Arctic in return for giving the giant state-owned Russian oil company, OAO Rosneft, the opportunity to invest in ExxonMobil’s operations overseas. Climate change skeptic. According to regulatory filings, Tillerson retains a huge financial interest in the energy company, owning $151m in company stock. He may face questions from senators over the potential benefits to ExxonMobil from US foreign policy if sanctions imposed on Russia after its annexation of Crimea were lifted. Senators from both parties have also raised concerns about Tillerson’s lack of government experience and close ties to Putin. Read further.
: James N Mattis, 66, retired corps general. Led troops to combat in both Afghanistan and Iraq and rose to top commands. Stepped down as commander of US central command in 2013. Hawkishness especially on Iran put him at odds with the Obama administration. Has called for a “new security architecture for the Mideast built on sound policy … Iran is a special case that must be dealt with as a threat to regional stability, nuclear and otherwise”. Only three years out of active duty, would require a congressional waiver of a federal law requiring a seven-year cooling off period for . Nicknamed “Mad Dog”. Read further.
Homeland security: John F Kelly, 66, retired corps general. After a 45-year career, Kelly stepped down in January 2016 as commander of the US southern command, a role in which he was responsible for US activities and relationships in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the controversial detention facility at Guantánamo Bay. Has warned about border security. His son Robert, a first lieutenant in the , was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2010, making Kelly the most senior US officer to have lost a child in the “war on terror”. Read further.
CIA director: Mike Pompeo, 52, a third-term congressman from Kansas. After the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, Pompeo falsely claimed that US Muslim organisations and religious leaders had not condemned terrorism. He called those at the CIA who participated in torture “heroes, not pawns in some liberal game being played by the ACLU and [former intelligence committee chair] Senator [Dianne] Feinstein”. Opponent of closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, a vocal critic of the Iran nuclear deal and a supporter of NSA bulk data collection. Has called for “the traitor Edward Snowden” to be executed. Read further.
Treasury: Steven Mnuchin, 53, campaign finance chairman. Former Goldman Sachs, hedge funder and Hollywood producer (Sully, American Sniper, The Legend of Tarzan). Son of Goldman Sachs employee, Yale grad. Swooped on doomed IndyMac bank as it sunk in the 2008 housing crash, acquired it and scored when the federal government bailed out the bank. They call him the “foreclosure king”. Democratic senator Sherrod Brown said: “This isn’t draining the swamp – it’s stocking it with alligators.” Announced he would oversee “the largest tax change since Reagan” and said his “No 1 priority is tax reform”. Read further.
Attorney general: Jeff Sessions, 69, US senator from Alabama in his fourth term. Former US attorney, state attorney general. An immigration hardliner who was an early Trump adopter, becoming the first senator to back the eventual winner. Sessions’ last confirmation hearing, for a federal judgeship under Ronald Reagan in 1986, was derailed when former colleagues testified that he used the N-word, called a black assistant US attorney “boy” and joked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan were “OK until I found out they smoked pot”. Has emphasised “law and order”, seen by some liberals as a coded phrase for discriminatory policing of minorities. Read further.
US trade representative: Robert Lighthizer, 69, a former deputy US trade representative in the Ronald Reagan administration. Trump’s pick is intended to add muscle to US trade policy, particularly with regard to China. Lighthizer, in his current incarnation as a Washington trade lawyer with a top-flight corporate clientele, has testified before Congress that the US-China trade deficit is “a major threat to our economy” and recommended “a much more aggressive approach in dealing with China”. “Bob Lighthizer is very smart, very strategic and totally fearless,” a Washington attorney who has worked with him for three decades but asked not to be named told Reuters. “You can expect him to use every tool available to create leverage to get China and anyone else to stop the cheating. He is no fan of the [World Trade Organization].”
Labor: Andrew F Puzder, 66, restaurant executive operating fast-food chains including Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s. Vehement critic of government regulation and staunch opponent of minimum wage laws and the Fight for $15 movement. Blames Obamacare for increased labor costs and has diagnosed a “government-mandated restaurant recession”. Read further.
Health and human services: Tom Price, 62, six-term Republican congressman from Georgia. Orthopedic surgeon staunchly opposed to Obamacare. Became chair of the House budget committee in 2015. Attempted in 2015 to defund Planned Parenthood through a budget maneuver. Seen as opponent of women’s health programs. Described as having “a 100% pro-life record”. Read further.
Energy: Rick Perry, 66, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, former two-time presidential candidate and Dancing with the Stars contestant. Perry, along with secretary of state pick Rex Tillerson and EPA administrator pick Scott Pruitt, is a climate change skeptic. Perry attempted in a 2011 presidential debate to say that he would as president eliminate the department of energy, but he forgot the name of the department. Once called Trump “a cancer on conservatism”. Read further.
Housing and urban development: Ben Carson, 65, retired pediatric neurosurgeon. His mother, one of 24 children, raised Carson and a brother in poverty in Detroit and then in Boston, occasionally relying on food stamps and other programs. Carson, a critic of government welfare, has called for private charities to shoulder welfare needs. Ran department of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins for 30 years but no government experience. A purveyor of bizarre conspiracy theories and a provocateur who compares abortion to slavery and same-sex marriage to pedophilia. His bestseller Gifted Hands was made into a movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr. Read further.
Environmental protection agency: Scott Pruitt, 48, Oklahoma state attorney general. A climate change denier and longtime enemy of the EPA, whose rule he has called “unlawful and overreaching”. Part of legal action waged by 28 states against the EPA to halt the Clean Power Plan, an effort by Barack Obama’s administration to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. On the overwhelming scientific evidence that human activity is causing the planet to warm: “That debate is far from settled,” he said in May. “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.” Environmental groups say that Pruitt has been a “puppet” of the fossil fuel industry. Read further.
Commerce: Wilbur Ross, 79, billionaire investor known for aggressive moves to agglomerate and sell failing steel- and coal-industry interests. Like Trump, a critic of US trade deals who has lamented the decline of American manufacturing. Net worth of $2.9bn, according to Forbes. Dubbed a “vulture” and “king of bankruptcy” because of his knack for extracting a profit from failing businesses. Helped Trump keep control of his failing Taj Mahal casino in the 1990s by persuading investors not to push him out. An explosion at a mine in West Virginia, which his company had bought a few weeks earlier, killed 12 miners in 2002. Read further.
Transportation: Elaine Chao, 63, former secretary of labor and deputy secretary of transportation. Married to the senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. Daughter of a shipping magnate, she made more than $1m from serving on the boards of News Corp, Wells Fargo, Ingersoll Rand and Vulcan Materials in 2015, public records show. Read further.
US ambassador to the UN: Nikki Haley, 44, governor of South Carolina. Youngest governor in the country, first woman and first Indian-American to hold the job in the Palmetto state. Fluctuating popularity. Praised for signing legislation to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the state capitol and for leadership after 2015 mass shooting at a historic African American church in Charleston. Endorsed Marco Rubio in the Republican primaries and jabbed at Trump in a reply to the State of the Union address she delivered for the Republican party in January 2016. Read further.
Interior: Ryan Zinke, 55, is a Montana congressman in his second term, former Seal commander and decorated Iraq combat veteran. Born in Montana, he is described as a lifelong outdoorsman. A conservationist who favors the protection of federal lands and access for recreational use – but who also has voted in favor of oil and gas drilling projects on federal lands and who has supported controversial energy projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline. Read further.
Education: Betsy DeVos, education secretary. Daughter-in-law of Richard DeVos, co-founder of marketing company Amway. The family has a net worth of $5.1bn, according to Forbes. Her lobbying for school vouchers has been criticized for undermining public sector schools (which critics note neither she nor her children attended). DeVos’s brother is Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, a private security contractor notorious for its lucrative and deadly role in the Iraq war. Read further.
Small business administration: Linda McMahon, 68, entertainment executive. For decades ran the premier pro-wrestling league in the country, now called World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), with husband and founder Vince McMahon, whose net worth Forbes pins at about $1bn. Spent tens of millions of dollars on a couple of senate runs, only to be rejected by the voters of Connecticut. She donated millions to Trump’s campaign and has given millions to his foundation, too.
Cabinet-level jobs not requiring confirmation. The following positions do not require senate confirmation to fill.
National security adviser: Michael Flynn, 57, retired US amy general and former director of the intelligence agency. A close Trump adviser known for his scandalously broad-brush criticism of Islam and flirtation with conspiracy theories. A vocal critic of the Obama administration. Flynn has falsely claimed that Sharia law is spreading across the US and that the nation is in the midst of a world war with radical Islamists. “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL,” he tweeted earlier this year. Son recently booted from the Trump transition team after tweeting credulously about fake news. Read further
Chief of staff: Reince Priebus, 44, chairman of the Republican national committee. Wisconsin native and a steady hand when things get weird. Once criticized for a failure to stand up to Trump, in retrospect praised for winning over his party’s insurgent and ascendant president-elect. It’s pronounced Rynz like “pints” or “Eins” and Pree-bus. Read further
Chief strategist: Steve Bannon, 63, campaign CEO, former chairman of Breitbart News. Harvard, Goldman Sachs, documentary film-maker, and Seinfeld, of all things. Boasted that he made Breitbart the “platform for the alt-right”, in reference to the far-right movement in the US. His web site was a clearinghouse for hate speech of all kinds including white nationalism, anti-semitism, immigrant-hatred and misogyny. Seen as opponent of the institutional Republican party, a former sharp critic of House speaker Paul Ryan. Read further
Counselor: Kellyanne Conway, 49 (birthday is inauguration day), Trump’s former campaign manager. A Republican pollster who initially backed Ted Cruz for president, Conway joined the Trump campaign last July and quickly became one of her boss’s most visible – and tenacious – surrogates. Has friends in high places, in the form of conservative megadonors Bob and Bekah Mercer. Also has tic of making veiled threats – or weren’t those really threats? – against Trump’s political opponents. She is the first woman in history to run a successful presidential campaign.
Press secretary: Sean Spicer, 45, communications director of the Republican National Committee. In transition briefings, has been heard to refer reporters’ questions to his boss’s Twitter account. A pugnacious critic of the notion that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee or that the Trump administration’s trade policies are undercooked. Prepare for a punchy press room.
Regulatory czar: Carl Icahn, 80, founder of Icahn enterprises. Forbes estimates his net worth at $17.6bn. Like Trump, a Queens boy made good. Staunchly anti-regulation. Made a fortune as an “activist investor” using minority stakes in companies to do battle with corporate boards in order to wring out short-term profits. Said to advise Trump closely in his pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, which Icahn has criticized, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Trade Czar: Peter Navarro, 67, economics professor and former Trump campaign economics adviser. Author of Death by China, about the loss of US jobs at the hands of the Chinese, and director of a movie with the same title.
Homeland security adviser: Thomas Bossert, Former deputy homeland security adviser to president George W Bush. Senior cybersecurity fellow at the Atlantic council. Argued in a 2015 op-ed that the use of force in Iraq “was and remains just” and has argued for a more muscular approach in Syria, writing of Barack Obama: “He is seeking now to avoid in Syria the use of ground forces for full-scale occupation and stabilization. History will decide if unending civil war and global mass migration are less costly and disruptive.”
White House counsel: Donald McGahn II “Don.” Top counsel on the Trump campaign. A George W Bush appointee to the Federal Elections Commission, 2008-2013. Before that served as counsel for the National Republican congressional committee and the Illinois Republican party. Head of McGahn & Associates PLLC, based in Washington, specializing in election law. Read further.