Last updated on Nov. 30, 2016
Secretary, Department of the Treasury
The man in line to run the US economy has been picked on the basis of being a “Trump guy,” not on his credentials. Mnuchin is a hedge fund CEO, Hollywood producer, and former Goldman Sachs partner who had no political experience before becoming Trump’s campaign finance director in the spring. Taking that job reportedly baffled his peers, but he explained by declaring: “Nobody’s going to be like, ‘Well, why did he do this?’ if I end up in the administration.”
Mnuchin may face a tricky confirmation given his Wall Street background—so loathed by Trump supporters—and his checkered history during the financial crisis. Elizabeth Warren, the fiery Democratic senator, cut straight to the chase, saying “[Mnuchin] managed to participate in all the worst practices on Wall Street.”
Secretary, Department of Defense
It’s no great surprise that Trump and retired four star General James “Mad Dog” Mattis have hit it off—both men are brash, controversial, and rebellious. They also align on critical policy questions, sharing hardline stances on Iran and a rejection of Obama’s ISIL strategy.
Putting a soldier in a role designed to ensure civilian control of the military has raised eyebrows and will require a congressional waiver, though it may not be a bad thing for the inexperienced Trump to have a defense chief considered one of the great military thinkers of his generation. Case in point: Mattis has already eased Trump’s views on the efficacy of torture.
Attorney General, Department of Justice
The three-term senator from Alabama is in line to be the country’s top cop, despite a Republican Senate rejecting him for a federal judgeship in 1986. The reason then? A history of outright racist comments. He allegedly called an Alabama official a “nigger,” referred to a senior black prosecutor as “boy,” and joked he thought the KKK was “OK, until I found out they smoked pot.”
A Senate judiciary committee member and early Trump backer, Sessions favors cutting high-skilled immigration, upholding extremely strict drug sentences, and has opposed every recent Senate proposal to safeguard the LGBT community.
Secretary, Department of Commerce
Wilbur Ross Jr.
A billionaire replaces a billionaire: Trump’s “king of bankruptcy” Wilbur Ross, for Penny Pritzker, the hotel heiress from the Obama administration. An old friend of Trump’s, Ross spent two decades with the Rothschild Group before starting WL Ross & Co., a private equity firm that trades on his knack for making big bets on failing companies.
Seen as both hero and villain by the businesses he has taken over, 79-year-old Ross’s political views are not clear-cut. He’s in favor of cutting taxes for big businesses, but, like his new boss, has long aligned himself with labor unions by complaining about trade deals.
Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services
The choice of six-term Georgia congressman Tom Price is an early sign that Trump is sticking to his promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. The orthopaedic surgeon has been one of Congress’s most steadfast opponents of the program, proposing several replacement bills since Obamacare’s inception in 2009.
With close links to the Tea Party, Price also backs defunding Planned Parenthood, whose abortion practices he has called “barbaric.” Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer signalled that Democrats won’t let him be confirmed by the Senate without a fight, declaring Price’s nomination “akin to asking the fox to guard the hen house.”
Secretary, Department of Transportation
Trump would have struggled to find a better qualified transportation secretary. A longtime Washington insider, Chao was number two in the department under president George H.W. Bush. She then spent eight years as president George W. Bush’s labor secretary, gaining a reputation as a fearsome political operator.
Chao will play a lead role on Trump’s proposed trillion-dollar infrastructure project, and she’s connected to the hilt with the people who’d need to pass the project’s spending measures—starting with her husband, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. But putting Chao, the daughter of a maritime shipping magnate, in charge of transportation won’t do much to ease the clamoring about conflicts of interest.
Secretary, Department of Education
The choice of wealthy philanthropist DeVos signals that Trump plans to follow through on his promise to massively cut the level of power federal authorities have over education. DeVos is known as a fierce advocate for parent choice in schooling. A group she chairs reportedly helped craft the bill that Trump has backed to spend $20 billion on expanding charter schools and voucher programs. However, a billionaire cabinet appointee doesn’t do much for Trump’s promise to rid the government of elite influence.
Ambassador, United States Mission to the United Nations
Trump’s first pick from outside his inner circle, the South Carolina governor’s appointment shows much-needed magnanimity. Seen as a rising Republican star, Haley endorsed Rubio and was critical of Trump throughout his campaign. The first woman and person of color in the Trump’s cabinet gained national attention and praise for backing the movement to take down the confederate flag from South Carolina’s statehouse.
However, UN ambassador is a curious post for someone with precious little experience outside South Carolina—beyond heading a few state trade delegations. As for her foreign policy views? Aside from opposing the Iran nuclear deal, no one really knows.
Vice President, White House
If his relationship with Trump remains stable, Mike Pence looks set to be one of the most influential vice presidents in modern history. The former governor of Indiana, six-term congressman and ex-talk show host was chosen from a shortlist of candidates designed to help guide political neophyte Trump through the governing process.
So far, that hasn’t proven empty talk: almost immediately after the election, Pence usurped New Jersey governor Chris Christie as presidential transition team head. The Tea Party darling will also be perhaps the most conservative VP ever; with a record of virulent anti-abortion and anti-LGBT legislation, climate change denialism, and belief in creationism.
Chief of Staff, White House
The former Republican National Committee chairman has the unenviable job of running a White House that’s promising to take apart the political establishment. He is expected to play the role of rational angel on one of Trump’s shoulders, while chief strategist Steve Bannon will be the bomb-throwing devil on the other.
As a close friend of fellow Wisconsinite and House speaker Paul Ryan, Priebus is also likely be the administration’s link to congress. His merger of the RNC’s infrastructure with Trump’s shoestring campaign laid the groundwork for the candidate’s poll-defying victory. In the process, he showed he has the canny operating skills a successful chief of staff needs.