Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Trump Tower Transition Team (T-4): Nominee Status Report

Key Agency Slots Almost Filled – Only a Few Remain
(Agriculture, Transportation, OMB)

A few familiar faces
[click image to enlarge]

My score sheet to date follows. More names and notes will be posted as info is available and refined to fit here.

Introduction and Background on the 15 Departments and Heads: The Executive Branch is the President and Vice President and few others who do not require Congressional approval (e.g., Chief of Staff, special advisers, et al).

There are 15 executive departments with Secretaries who require Senate confirmation (not in this order – this is alphabetical): 1. Agriculture, 2. Commerce, 3. Defense, 4. Education, 5. Energy, 6. Health and Human Services, 7. Homeland Security, 8. Housing and Urban Development, 9. Interior, 10. Justice (the AG). 11. Labor, 12. State, 13. Transportation, 14. Treasury, and the 15. VA.  


1.  Vice President
2.  Speaker of the House
3.  Pres. Pro Tempore of Senate      
4.  Secretary of State    
5.  Secretary of the Treasury  
6.  Secretary of Defense
7.  Justice Department (the AG)
8.  Secretary of the Interior
9.  Secretary of Agriculture    
10.  Secretary of Commerce   
11.  Secretary of Labor 
12.  Secretary of HHS   
13.  Secretary of HUD
14.  Secretary of Transportation      
15.  Secretary of Energy
16.  Secretary of Education    
17.  Secretary of VA     
18.  Secretary of DHS

 1.  Rex Tillerson (ExxonMobil CEO) – Secretary of State: Tillerson has very close personal ties to Putin… but weakly explained one way by Kellyanne Conway who defended him arguing that his knowledge of Russia could be an advantage adding: “We look at it as an asset, not a liability in that it's not that he's hanging around with Vladimir Putin on the weekend at dinner parties.” (On CBS’s This Morning). Further, Moscow awarded Tillerson their “Order of Friendship” (image here) in 2013 after he made a deal benefiting Exxon’s access to certain Arctic resources and Russia reported to be worth some $500 billion. That deal is now on hold due to economic sanctions. The deal was between ExxonMobil and the Russian state-controlled oil giant Rosneft. The friendship award is Russia’s highest honor for a non-Russian citizen.

2.  Former TX Gov. Rick “Oops” Perry – Energy Secretary. He advocated elimination of this same department during failed 2012 WH run with his now-famous “oops” moment when he could not name the 3rd agency he said he would eliminate. Asked later, he said “the Energy Department” and added: “oops.” One for the history books. He also has called Trump a “Barking Carnival Act.” So, another “oops” moment, um, Rick?

3.  Tom Price – Sec. of HHS:  He advocates legislation to ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Yes or No on Federal funding of Planned Parenthood?
Total US: 57% yes
DEMS: 82% yes
GOP: 27% yes
Price is also a strong opponent of abortion. He has voted to ban health coverage and federal funding for abortion, and was a co-sponsor of a bill that would grant a fetus equal protection under the 14th Amendment. Yes or No should Abortion should be legal in most or all cases:
Total US: 64% yes
DEMS: 84% yes
GOP: 35% yes

4.  Mike Pompeo – Director of CIA: He would advise Trump on intelligence collection. He has urged Congress to re-establish the bulk collection of Americans’ domestic calling records, pushing for “a fundamental upgrade to America’s surveillance capabilities.” Yes or No should government monitoring communications of American citizens be allowed (in all cases)?
Total US: 57% no.
DEMS: 55% no.
GOP: 59% no.

5.  Betsy DeVos – Sec. of Education: Outspoken proponent of school vouchers to allow students to attend any school, public or private, using taxpayer money. Yes or No should tax dollars go from public schools to vouchers for private or religious schools? (Once supported common-core now says “Nope, no way”).
Total US: 57% no.
DEMS: 71% no.
GOP: 46% no (also split Yes/NO)

6.  Scott Pruitt – Sec. of EPA: Big anti-climate change advocate who as OK AG fought EPA regulations aimed at combating climate change. He is strong ally of the fossil fuel industry. Yes or No should there be limits on carbon emissions from U.S. power plants aimed at reducing future global warming?
Total US: 63% yes.
DEMS: 74% yes.
GOP: 53% yes.

7.  Sen. Jeff Sessions – for Attorney General: Some well-known Sessions facts. He became one of the first members of Congress to endorse Trump last February. Since, he has become a close adviser on almost every major decision and policy proposal Trump made during the campaign, such as:

— Helped Trump communicate his immigration policy.
— Chaired Trump’s national security advisory committee.
— Advised Trump on who to choose as VP (he had been in the running, too).

He has opposed nearly every immigration bill that has come before the Senate the past two decades and that also includes a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. He's also fought legal immigration, including guest worker programs for immigrants in the country illegally and visa programs for foreign workers in science, math and high-tech saying they are taking “our jobs.” In 2007, Sessions got a bill passed essentially banning for 10 years federal contractors who hire illegal immigrants.

He's a debt and military hawk:  He is known for touring Alabama with charts warning of the United States “crippling” debt. On foreign policy, Sessions has advocated a get-tough approach, once voting against an amendment banning “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” of prisoners.

He advocates significant spending ($1 trillion) on infrastructure: He also campaigned on a strong non-interventionist worldview claiming (inaccurately) that he opposed the Iraq War even before it started.

He's a climate change skeptic: Here is what he said in a 2015 hearing questioning EPA chief: “Carbon pollution is CO2, and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food, and it doesn’t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases.”

Accusations of racism have him for years: Actually, they almost derailed it. In 1986, a Senate committee denied Sessions, then a 39-year-old U.S. attorney in Alabama, a federal judgeship. His former colleagues testified Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.” By the time that testimony was finished, Sessions' “reputation was in tatters” (wrote Stanley-Becker in the Wash Post).

In 1986, Sessions defended himself against accusations of racism. “I am not the Jeff Sessions my detractors have tried to create,” he told the very same Senate Judiciary Committee he now sits on. “I am not a racist. I am not insensitive to blacks.”

Stop by later for updates.

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