Most new Republican administrations are filled with experienced hands from a previous government — a few governors and members of Congress, a prominent corporate chief executive or two. That’s not likely with Donald Trump; look instead for fellow deal-makers, political pals and fervent early supporters.
More than any modern president, Trump doesn’t come from the party establishment and owes it nothing. Some conservative think tanks will rush to fill the void, but with limited interest in policy, Trump is likely to continue to rely on instinct.
That’s what led to his upset victory and is likely to be the model for assembling an administration.
Trump has already signaled his intention to name Steve Mnuchin, his chief fundraiser and a former Goldman Sachs executive, as Treasury secretary. He was one of a smattering of Wall Streeters to support Trump; he has no Washington background.
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The New York billionaire has talked openly about tapping fellow deal-makers Carl Icahn and Wilbur Ross for prominent roles in his administration.
It’s not certain that these wealthy investors would be interested in government jobs, especially if faced with grilling at Congressional confirmation hearings and forced to divest some of their extensive holdings.
It was once assumed that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who jumped on the Trump bandwagon after his presidential primary campaign collapsed and runs the candidate’s transition-planning team, was in line to be attorney general. But that prospect may be dimmed by the conviction last week of two ex-Christie allies over a 2013 scheme to close access lanes to the George Washington Bridge to punish a political foe. Witnesses at the trial said Christie knew about the closings, which he has denied.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump confidant and vitriolic critic of Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, might be considered to lead the Justice or Homeland Security departments. One candidate for a number of possible posts would be Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, an early Trump supporter who provided policy advice.
Newt Gingrich, who became an avid Trump enthusiast, has told acquaintances that he envisions himself as secretary of State or Defense under Trump. If that’s too much of a reach for the erratic former House Speaker, a lesser post may be in the offing.
More likely for a top national security position is John Bolton, the right-wing foreign policy expert who served in the State Department and as United Nations ambassador under President George W. Bush.
Diversity isn’t likely to be a top priority for Trump. But one black Republican is a prime candidate for secretary of Health and Human Services. That’s Ben Carson, a renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, presidential primary candidate and Trump neighbor in Florida.
The White House staff would be an open question. It’s not unusual to bring campaign operatives into top staff jobs. But there were no policy or political heavyweights in the Trump entourage. There is talk of Republican National Committee chair Reince Preibus, a Trump cheerleader in the campaign, as chief of staff.
But Donald Trump got to the White House by running his own show. That’s the way he’s likely to govern.
©2016 Bloomberg News