Who’s Who: Trump’s Cabinet

Article by Nick Zotalis 

After Friday’s inauguration, President Donald Trump is now officially the president of the United States of America. For better or for worse, the country has been divided over whether Trump will make a good leader, but what some may forget is that Trump is not the only new addition to the United State’s executive branch. With him, Trump is bringing an array of various politicians, “outsiders,” business leaders and many others to make up his council of advisors otherwise known as the Cabinet. Here are some quick profiles of the men and women who will be at Trump’s side for the next four years.

Rex Tillerson

Rex Tillerson is Trump’s pick for Secretary of State. Tillerson will be replacing John Kerry. The Secretary of State is the President’s chief advisor regarding foreign policy and is often considered to be the United States’ top diplomat. Tillerson is one of several Trump selections who is a true outsider, having never held a government position. Since 2006, he has been the CEO of ExxonMobil, the world’s second-most valuable corporation. As a senior member of the largest oil corporation in the world, Tillerson brings extensive experience in dealing with the Middle East and Russia. In 2014, he strongly opposed American sanctions against Russia following the crisis in Crimea. He is particularly known for his close ties with Russia and Vladimir Putin. Between 1998 and 2001, he was director of Exxon Neftegas, a joint American and Russian oil company. In 2013, Tillerson received the Russian Order of Friendship, and he is one of few Americans to do so.

Steven Mnuchin

Steven Mnuchin is Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Treasury. He will be replacing Jack Lew. The Secretary of the Treasury is the President’s chief financial advisor. He or she is responsible for handling government borrowing, structuring the tax code, and imposing sanctions on other nations, among other things. Mnuchin worked for Goldman Sachs from 1985 to 2002, ascending to the position of Chief Information Officer. He is estimated to have a net worth of at least $500 million and has contributed to both political parties in the past. Mnuchin has been heavily criticized for the behavior of his bank, OneWest, following the 2008 financial crash and subsequent bailout.

James Mattis

James “Mad Dog” Mattis is the new Secretary of Defense, replacing Ash Carter. Confirmed by an overwhelming 98-1 margin in the Senate, Mattis has a long and distinguished military career. He is a retired Marine Corps Commanding General, having served in the military from 1969 to 2013. He is not a member of either political party and has served in high level positions under both President Bush and President Obama. He has held the positions of Supreme Allied Commander of Transformation, Commander of the United States Joint Forces Command, and Commander of United States Central Command. Mattis is a critic of Israel’s conduct in the Middle East and takes a hardline stance against Iran and Russia. He strongly opposes the use of torture.

U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama speaking to supporters at an immigration policy speech hosted by Donald Trump at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Image Credit: Gage Skidmore

Jeff Sessions

The next Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is hardly an outsider, having served in various government positions since 1981. Sessions will replace Loretta Lynch. The Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer and lawyer of the United States government. He or she represents the United States in any Supreme Court case necessary. In 1981, he was appointed by Ronald Reagan to the position of United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. He held this position until 1993 before he became the Attorney General of Alabama in 1995. In 1997, he assumed position as a United States Senator from Alabama, where he has remained. Sessions also served in the United States Army from 1973 to 1977. He is known as one of the most conservative members of Congress, having advocated for the Iraq war and opposed illegal immigration and same-sex marriage. Sessions has faced controversy throughout his career in the form of accusations of racism.

Ryan Zinke

Ryan Zinke will be the next Secretary of the Interior, replacing Sally Jewell. The Department of the Interior is responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources. Zinke served in the United States Navy as part of the now-famous SEAL Team 6 from 1986 to 2008. He entered politics in as a member of the Montana Senate from 2009 to 2011. He has been a senator from Montana since 2015. Zinke is a climate change skeptic, but he has, at one point, sounded the alarm on climate change.

Sonny Perdue

Sonny Perdue is the nominee for Secretary of Agriculture. He will replace Acting Secretary Michael Scuse. Carrying similar responsibilities to Ministers of Agriculture in other countries, this position is the head of the Department of Agriculture, which encapsulates the United States Forest Service as well as the Food Stamp Program, among others. Sonny Perdue has been in politics for a long time, serving in the Georgia Senate from 1991 to 2001 and as Governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011. Perdue has extensive agricultural ties, having grown up on a farm, graduated with a veterinary medicine degree, and ran a fertilizer company. He is another climate change skeptic among Trump’s selections.

January 9, 2017 – Hundreds rallied (in the rain) outside Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office at 1 Post Street in San Francisco (with similar actions happening in 75 cities across the country), to send a clear message to every US Senator: reject Donald Trump’s reckless climate denying (big oil) cabinet nominees… Image Credit: Peg Hunter

Wilbur Ross

Wilbur Ross is an investor and former banker who is Trump’s pick for Secretary of Commerce. He will replace Penny Pritzker. The Secretary of Commerce’s mission is “to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce.”  Ross is nicknamed “The King of Bankruptcy” due to his history of restructuring failed companies. He was in the news for his alleged role in the Sago mining disaster. He has supported both political parties but was an early supporter of Donald Trump, to whom he has a history.

Andrew Puzder

Andrew Puzder is the nominee for Secretary of Labor. He will replace Thomas Perez. The Department of Labor suggests and enforces laws involving unions or business-employee relations. Puzder does not have political experience. He is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which is the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. He has been peripherally involved in Republican politics and has donated to various Republican candidates, including Mitt Romney. He has been criticized for his opposition to substantially increasing the minimum wage.

Tom Price

Tom Price is set to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. He will replace Kathleen Sebelius. This position has seen its significance greatly increase since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and even more since the implementation of Obamacare. The Department of Health and Human Services advises the President on matters of health, welfare, and social safety net programs. Since the War on Terror began, the department also seeks to protect the food supply from potential attack. Price, a former practicing orthopedic surgeon, is a longtime politician. He was a member of the Georgia Senate from 1997 to 2005 and has been a U.S. Representative from Georgia since 2005. Price is highly conservative, opposing government involvement in healthcare. He has faced questions of ethics in his career.

Ben Carson

Ben Carson is Trump’s selection for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He will replace Julián Castro. The department’s mission is “to increase homeownership, support community development and increase access to affordable housing free from discrimination.” Carson rose to political prominence during the last Republican presidential primary, ending his campaign for the nomination after Super Tuesday. Although he has never held a government position, he was a highly distinguished neurosurgeon. From 1984 to 2013, he was the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Having been 33 years old, he was the youngest person to hold this position in the United States at the time. He has received more than 60 honorary doctorate degrees and has made over 100 neurosurgical publications. Carson is widely known for being the only neurosurgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins. In 2008, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Dr. Ben Carson speaks to the attendees at his Family Festival at Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Image Credit: Matt Johnson

Elaine L. Chao

Elaine L. Chao will replace Anthony R. Foxx as Secretary of Transportation. She is a lifelong Republican who previously served as Deputy Secretary of Transportation under George H.W. Bush and as Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush. The Department of Transportation’s mission is “to develop and coordinate policies that will provide an efficient and economical national transportation system, with due regard for need, the environment, and the national defense.” She is a successful businesswoman, having held positions at United Way of America and Shueisha as well as being a Distinguished Fellow with the Heritage Foundation.

Rick Perry

Rick Perry is the nominee for Secretary of Energy. He is one of the most controversial selections, but if confirmed, he will replace Ernest Moniz. The Secretary of Energy is responsible for developing new and more efficient means of energy production, energy education, and environmental maintenance. Perry was part of the Texas House of Representatives from 1985 to 1991, Agricultural Commissioner of Texas from 1991 to 1999, and Governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015. He also served in the Air Force from 1972 to 1977. His governorship of Texas was controversial, and there is debate over whether or not it was a success. He previously stated that he wanted to abolish the Department of Energy, the same department that he may head, and now claims to regret that statement.

Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos is an extremely wealthy businesswoman and philanthropist who is the nominee for the office of Secretary of Education. She will replace John King Jr. The Secretary of Education is the President’s principal advisor on federal policies related to education in the US. She and her family have been highly criticized for donating large amounts of money to Republican politicians over the past 20 years. She has been a prominent member of the Michigan Republican Party since 1992, serving as chairwoman from 1996 to 2000 and again from 2003 to 2005. DeVos is a popular selection for Secretary of Education among prominent Republicans, with Jeb Bush calling her an “outstanding pick.” She is strongly in favor of states making their own decisions regarding education.

David Shulkin

David Shulkin will be the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs, replacing Bob McDonald. This position is concerned with veterans’ benefits, health care, and national memorials and cemeteries. He will be the first person to hold this position who has not served in the military. He is a successful physician, having served as president and CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center. He has been Chief Medical Officer of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and has published over 25 peer-reviewed journal articles. He will be the only person to serve in Trump’s cabinet who is a holdover from the Obama administration.

John Kelly

John Kelly has already been confirmed as the Secretary of Homeland Security, replacing Jeh Johnson. The Department of Homeland Security is primarily concerned with counterterrorism and protects the security of American citizens. Kelly has served in the Army in various capacities since 1970, attaining the rank of General in 2007. He is not particularly partisan and served as Commander of the United States Southern Command, which is less combat-focused than other positions. As a result, he was more involved in humanitarian and disaster relief work than warfare. He lost his son in Afghanistan, which is reportedly one of the reasons Trump selected him.

Mike Pompeo

Mike Pompeo is Trump’s pick to replace John Brennan as the Director of the CIA. Pompeo graduated at the top of his class from West Point in 1986 and served in the United States Army until 1991, serving in the Gulf War. He founded Thayer Aerospace and Private Security. In 2011, he entered politics as a representative from Kansas. He is known as a hardline conservative who opposes abortion, climate change science, gun control, and the Affordable Care Act. He criticizes the Iran nuclear arms deal, supports the National Security Agency’s surveillance, and opposes the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

Feature Image Credit: Matt Wade

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