How the nominees for Trump’s cabinet contradict the themes he set during his campaign


"Trumpworld has started a with a mandate to hire from the private sector whenever possible"-AP Photo

Luke Dalessandro, Politics Editor

After winning the presidential election, the responsibility falls on President Trump to select the choices for his cabinet. Trump has already tapped many of his choices for vital cabinet positions, while few still remain unannounced. Positions for Attorney General, Director of the CIA, Defense Secretary, Labor Secretary, and Secretary of State have already been chosen, while U.S Trade Representative and Secretary of Veterans Affairs are among the positions still currently undecided. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has been picked for Attorney General, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) has been chosen for Director of the CIA, and more recently former Commander of the United States Central Command and former Marine Corps general James N. Mattis, as Defense Secretary.

As U.S Attorney General, Sessions would be the head of the U.S Department of Justice, the chief law enforcement officer and chief lawyer of the U.S government. Sessions has been one of the most vocal critics to marijuana legalization, which per the Supremacy Clause of the U.S Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2), would give a Trump administration, and particularly Attorney General, the power to shut down progress made on marijuana legalization on a state level, as marijuana is still illegal on a federal level. This is especially troubling for proponents of legalization after the total number of states who have enacted legalization grew to eight on election day. These eight states being Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Maine.

While President Obama has failed to legalize recreational or medical marijuana on a federal level, he has not acted against state marijuana laws. Sessions, at a Senate drug hearing in April stated, “we need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.” He also went as far to say, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” However despite fears that as Attorney General Session’s would crack down on state marijuana laws, Trump’s comments on marijuana policies are in stark contrast to the hard line positions his pick for Attorney General has. During an appearance on The O’Reilly Factor in February 2016, Trump said “I know people who have serious problems and they did that they really- it really does help them.”

At a political rally in October 2015 Trump voiced a more libertarian position on marijuana legalization, saying “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state. Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen-right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.” Trump tapping Session’s as Attorney General while at the same time having a major disagreement with him on what he himself referred to as a “big thing”, could indicate how Trump goes about the earliest picks for his cabinet. Session’s was one of the first U.S senators to come out in support of Trump, becoming the first sitting senator to endorse him, doing so during a rally at a football stadium in February 2016. Many have pointed out this is a strong indicator that in Trump’s early cabinet picks, he appears to be rewarding loyalty.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, as Director of the CIA would be responsible for:

  • Collecting intelligence through human sources and by other appropriate means, except that he shall have no police, subpoena, or law enforcement powers or internal security functions;
  • Correlating and evaluating intelligence related to the national security and providing appropriate dissemination of such intelligence;
  • Providing overall direction for and coordination of the collection of national intelligence outside the United States through human sources by elements of the Intelligence Community authorized to undertake such collection and, in coordination with other departments, agencies, or elements of the United States Government which are authorized to undertake such collection, ensuring that the most effective use is made of resources and that appropriate account is taken of the risks to the United States and those involved in such collection; and
  • Performing such other functions and duties related to intelligence affecting the national security as the President or the Director of National Intelligence may direct.

Pompeo has long been an advocate of keeping open Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, a facility that has been under fire from human rights advocates throughout the world due to prisoners being detained indefinitely without trial, as well as a lack of due process. Out of the 60 detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay, the Obama administration is holding 29 of them indefinitely without trial. In spite of this Pompeo appears to feel very strongly about the benefits of the facility, saying in a statement on November 18th, “GTMO (Guantanamo Bay) has been a goldmine of intelligence about radical Islamic terrorism. I have traveled to GTMO and have seen the honorable and professional behavior of the American men and women in uniform who serve at the detention facility.”

On Guantanamo Bay, Pompeo has also stated, “The detainees at GTMO are treated exceptionally well- so well that some have even declined to be resettled, instead choosing to stay at GTMO. It is delusional to think that any plan the president puts before Congress to relocate radical Islamic terrorists to the U.S, and potentially Fort Leavenworth Kansas, will make our country safer. The reality is that this proposal will ultimately put Kansas and Americans in danger.” The potential proposal Pompeo references here, is a Department of Defense document that showed the Obama administration had spent thousands to asses whether detainees could potentially be relocated from Guantanamo Bay, a Cuban territory, to Fort Leavenworth Kansas. Despite Pompeo’s comments on the efficiency of Guantanamo Bay, federal courts have generally shown themselves to be far more efficient at prosecuting terrorism cases. Since the attacks on September 11th 2001, there have been 578 terrorism related cases relating to jihadist ideas that have been prosecuted in U.S federal courts.

In the same time frame, the military commissions at Guantanamo have only completed 7 cases. While Pompeo refers to GTMO as a ‘goldmine of intelligence about radical Islamic terrorism’ Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) documents leaked by Wikileaks are in stark contrast to his bold statement. What the documents reveal is that despite approximately 85% of the detainees at Guantanamo being brought to Cuba for the explicit purpose of ‘providing information,’ nearly two thirds did not give any information at all about other detainees. Also in the leaks, in nearly a quarter of all detainees there is no suspicion of relation with any terrorist organization. The percentage of detainees brought to face prosecution for terrorist activities against the U.S sits at less than 2%. Overall, what leaks reveal is that the amount of information that could not be obtained otherwise is nearly non-existent, contrary to Pompeo’s comments.

Many would also question Pompeo’s assertion that “the detainees at GTMO are treated exceptionally well.” GTMO has been a constant point of contention for human rights advocates, due to both its nature of voiding due process to assure that detainees have terrorist affiliation, and its treatment of detainees. Waterboarding, sleep deprivation, mock burials of family members, being held in stress positions while shackled, and being subjected to constant flashing lights and loud music,  were all ‘interrogation’ techniques employed at Guantanamo Bay. Furthermore, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in 2003, approved 24 classified interrogation techniques for use on detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Despite the claims of Pompeo that ‘the detainees at GTMO are treated exceptionally well.” However President elect Trump, who was both criticized and praised for being a strong proponent of waterboarding, and as he said in a March interview, “I’d go further, I’d listen to the military people, but I’d go further. And by the way torture works.” However, despite being one of his most well known campaign promises, Trump has reneged this promise. On a statement released November 23, Trump backed away from this pledge, saying that it was his nominee for Defense Secretary James Mattis who persuaded him that torture is an inferior method of gaining intelligence to building a trust and positive rapport with detainees. This does appear to put the president elect at a stark contrast to his pick for Director of the C.I.A.

On Gen. James Mattis, one of the most recent announcements made by Trump, it was originally announced at a Cincinnati rally on December 1, he enthusiastically stated, “We are going to appoint ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our secretary of defense,” and later praising Mattis as one out of “great, great generals.” He said this much to the applause of is audience. However, Mattis was not officially announced until December 5. When it first became clear in November that Trump was considering Mattis for the role, initial opposition came from the Zionist Organization of America, an organization strongly opposed to a two state peace deal to the Israeli Palestinian conflict in Israel. The current conflict in Israel has resulted in a situation where, according to the United Nations OCHA, has resulted in over 67% civilian casualties for Palestinians killed in Gaza. The reasoning for this was that Mattis has been a consistent proponent of a two state peace deal in Israel, as has president elect Trump. At a  2013 appearance at the Aspen Security Forum not long after he retired as chief of U.S Central Command Mattis said, “I paid a military security price everyday as the commander of CentCom (Central Command) because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel.” He went on to say, “Either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote-apartheid. That didn’t work too well the last time I saw that practiced in a country.”

At a Republican debate in March 2016 Trump said on resolving the conflict in Israel, “I will tell you, I think if we’re ever going to negotiate a peace settlement…I think it would be more helpful as a negotiator, if I go in and say I’m pro-Israel, but at least let the other side know I’m somewhat neutral to them so we could maybe get a deal done.” However, on Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mattis and Trump differ greatly. During the campaign Trump repeatedly claimed that he wanted to de-escalate with Russia, and potentially work with Russia to eliminate the threat of international terrorism, particularly ISIS, in the Middle East. However at a Washington conference sponsored by The Heritage Foundation in 2015, Mattis claimed he believed that one of Putin’s primary strategic goals is to, “break NATO apart.” Mattis has also spoken against aggressive Russian policy in Syria, Ukraine, and The Baltic States. While at the same time, Trump praised Putin for fighting ISIS in Syria, saying “I can say this: If we get along and Russia went out with us and knocked the hell out of ISIS, that’s OK with me folks.” Similar to his picks for Attorney General and Director of the CIA, the choice for Secretary of Defense made by the president elect at the least give the appearance of being in stark contrast to statements and promises made on the campaign trail.

Among the many positions where nominations have already been made, is Andrew F. Puzder for Labor Secretary. Puzder, who is CEO of CKE restaurants(try to hyperlink), was a top donor to the Trump campaign and an opponent to many labor policies enacted by President Obama. In a statement released by Trump after the announcement, he said “Andy Puzder has created and boosted the careers of thousands of Americans, and his extensive record fighting for workers makes him the ideal candidate to lead the Department of Labor.” When it comes to the minimum wage, Puzder has the appearance of having a conservative leaning history. According to Business Insider, Puzder has been quoted as saying “This is the problem with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, and progressives who push very hard to raise the minimum wage.” Going on to say, “Does it really help if Sally makes $3 more an hour if Susie has no job.” Largely, both Democrats and Republicans in government have failed to increase the minimum wage at a federal level so it would be on par with each state’s living wage and inflation. However Puzder is in agreement with Trump in leaving the minimum wage as a largely state issue, currently, 29 states along with Washington D.C have adopted a minimum wage that is above the federal minimum. Puzder has also supported Trump’s plan to cut corporate taxes to 15%. In an opinion piece written by Puzder for ‘The Hill’  Puzder  wrote in the article, “To stop inversions and protect American companies from takeovers, Congress must reform the U.S. corporate tax code to bring it in line with international norms. That means significantly lowering the tax rate to be competitive with countries like Ireland and ending the double taxation, which forces U.S. companies to pay tax twice, once abroad and again at home.” He went on to say, “On the international playing field, the company with the lowest costs (including taxes) is in a competitively superior position as it can charge less for it’s products while dedicating more to research and development on other capital projects.”

While Puzder has been in agreement with the president elect on the issues of corporate tax reform and the minimum wage, his past positions on the issue of immigration do have the appearance of challenging what Trump has said throughout the campaign trail. In 2013, at an American Enterprise Institute Conference   Puzder said ” They’re very hardworking, dedicated, creative people that really appreciate the fact they have a job. Whereas in other parts of the country you often get people that are saying, I can’t believe I have to work this job, with the immigration population you always have the ‘Thank God I have this job’ kind of attitude. So you end up with a real different feeling.” The argument Puzder seems to be using here was a similar argument to what was leveled against the president elect’s immigration policy on the campaign trail.

However at a state level, there have been attempts at driving out the illegal immigrant population from areas with a dense immigrant population. Georgia, for example, passed House Bill 87 in 2011, a bill which required all employers in Georgia to confirm legal status of all job applicants, and strengthens all sanctions against illegal immigrants in the state, as well as giving police the power to request immigration documents from a suspect detained for any other violations. The bill did have the intended success of lowering the then population of 425,000 undocumented immigrants in Georgia, however long term effects on the state’s economy were nearly entirely negative. Agriculture is a vital industry in Georgia, and much of the industry in Georgia was compiled of immigrants many of whom were illegal. There were not nearly enough Georgians to fill the void in labor left by HB 87 taking effect, as despite the high unemployment rate in the state, many Georgians, who are unskilled in the agricultural field, do not want to work such a back breaking job for low wages. As said by president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Grower’s Association, Dick Minor, “immigrants are pretty much professional harvesters.” Large scale deportation as well as reallocating of funds to encourage self deportation, while not being employed at the federal level, has been employed at the state level, and when tried has been shown to be a net failure in terms of its effects on labor and the economy. Nevertheless, what has been said by the president elects Labor Secretary on the effects of immigrant labor has the appearance of being vastly against his promises of creating a mass deportation force during his presidential campaign.

One of the most recent picks announced by Trump, as well as potentially the most important cabinet position to a Trump administrations foreign policy, the president elect has chosen CEO of Exxon Mobil Rex W. Tillerson as Secretary of State. Tillerson, CEO of the multinational oil and gas corporation since 2006, is bound to retire from Exxon if he is confirmed through the Senate or not, as he will reach the mandatory retirement age for Exxon, 65, in March 2017. Tillerson does have ties that raise a large question that if conflicts of interest such as these will influence his job as the nation’s top diplomat if he is passed by the Senate. In 2011, on behalf of Exxon Mobil, signed a deal to develop oil fields in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. This decision was a certainly controversial one, as under Iraqi law corporations are forbidden from dealing directly with Iraqi Kurdistan.

Despite this, Tillerson’s ties with Russia and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have been the source of far more concern both within and outside of Congress. A friendly relationship with Vladimir Putin has been suggested to be true by people who have worked closely with Tillerson, John Hamre, the President and CEO for Center for Strategic and International Studies, an organization in which Tillerson is a board member, has been quoted as saying Tillerson “has had more interactive time with Vladimir Putin than probably any other American, with the exception of Dr. Henry Kissinger.” His personal relationship to Vladimir Putin extended in the form of being awarded the Russian Order of Friendship in 2013, for his contributions to developing cooperation in the energy sector. Documents released in December 2015 from 2001 Bahamas revealed Tillerson was a director of a joint U.S Russian oil company which was reported to be registered in the ‘Tax Haven of the Bahamas.’ He ceased being director of the company in 2006, when he became CEO of Exxon Mobil. In 2011, Tillerson signed an agreement for drilling in the Arctic with Russia, a deal that could be valued at up to 300 billion. In the summer of 2014, the company began drilling in the Kara Sea, and it was only after sanctions were put on Russia after sanctions were put on Russia for the annexing of Crimea that the project was put to a halt. At the same time, Tillerson has been open about his opposition to sanctions, stating that, “we do not support sanctions, generally, because we don’t find them to be effective unless they are very well implemented comprehensively and that’s a very hard thing to do.” Overall, Trump, who’s campaign delivered a message of ‘America First’ at least has the appearance of contradicting that message by nominating the CEO of a multinational corporation as the top diplomat of the country and the head of the State Department.

Trump has already announced his pick for the overwhelming majority of cabinet positions, among them, former NAVY Seal commander Ryan Zinke for Interior Secretary, former Texas governor Rick Perry for Energy Secretary, former chief of World Wrestling Entertainment Linda McMahon for Small Business Administration, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruit for E.P.A Administrator, retired Marine General John F. Kelly for Homeland Security Secretary, former Goldman Sachs executive Steve Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary, labor secretary under George W. Bush Elaine L. Chao for Transportation Secretary, Republican Congressman Tom Price for Health and Human Services Secretary, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross as Commerce Secretary, education activist Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, governor of South Carolina Nikki R. Haley as U.N Ambassador, and neurosurgeon Ben Carson for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Among the positions chosen by Trump that do not require Senate confirmation, former Breitbart executive Steve K. Bannon as Chief Strategist, RNC chairman Reince Preibus as White House Chief of Staff, retired Army lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn as National Security Adviser, as well as Washington lawyer Donald F. McGahn II as White House Counsel. Picks for Director of National Intelligence, Agriculture Secretary, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and U.S Trade Representative remain unannounced.