If there is one thing that unites the first group of choices for top jobs in a Trump Administration, it is loyalty. Whether for White House Chief of Staff, or U.S. Attorney General, or CIA Director and more, all of those picked so far by President-Elect Donald Trump have been solidly behind him and his candidacy for the White House.
“I like how Trump’s going to his most loyal supporters first. That’s the way it should be,” said Rick Shaftan, a conservative pollster and GOP media consultant.
Let’s take a look at Trump’s picks so far:
1. Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Sessions was the first Senator to back Trump, doing it at a gigantic rally outside of Huntsville, Alabama in late February. Most political know-it-alls at the time still gave Trump little chance of winning the GOP nomination, let alone the White House, as Sessions took some flak for joining up with Trump. But Sessions stayed by Trump’s side throughout all of his mini-crisis points during the summer and fall, and became a trusted lieutenant of Trump along the way. The Alabama Republican was once rejected by the Senate for a federal judgeship in 1986 amid charges of racism; now he is poised to be the nation’s top law enforcement official.
2. Reince Priebus as White House Chief of Staff. Through all of the hand-wringing in the GOP about Donald Trump, Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus tried his best to keep Trump on the right path to the Republican nomination. He slapped him publicly at times, but also encouraged him privately. Priebus made sure there was no insurrection at the GOP convention against Trump as well. Ultimately, Priebus was not only helping Trump from afar, but traveling with him on the campaign trail, speaking at rallies and urging other Republicans to get on board. Now he can help run the Trump White House starting in January.
3. Rep. Mike Pompeo as CIA Director. Most people have probably never heard of Pompeo, who was elected to Congress from Kansas in the Tea Party wave of 2010. Pompeo has served on the House Intelligence Committee, and was a very sharp critic of Hillary Clinton and Democrats over the Benghazi attacks, as well as other issues inside the Intelligence Community. After the Republican convention, Pompeo did a lot of leg work for Trump at some of the Presidential debates, joining other Trump surrogates in the Spin Room to get out the Trump message, and especially to zero in on Clinton. Pompeo first supported Rubio, but once Trump clinched the nomination, he was on board. And Pompeo is even getting praise from Democrats.
4. Stephen Bannon as chief strategist. Democrats howled when the chief of Breitbart News was brought on board by Trump to run his campaign in mid-August, as many Republicans thought the move was proof that Trump has lost his mind, and would lose the race. But that didn’t happen. Bannon has been a thorn in the side of Establishment Republicans, a crusader among conservatives with his Breitbart News website, as well as someone who led the charge to get rid of Speaker Paul Ryan. Democrats have tried to make Bannon into a political pinata, accusing him of encouraging anti-Semitic and pro-white nationalist beliefs, but those attacks don’t seem to have made much impact so far.
5. Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser. In the final months of the campaign, Flynn was not only a key adviser to Trump on national security issues, but also a prominent speaker at many Trump rallies, where he was highly critical of Hillary Clinton and foreign policy choices of the Obama Administration. Like Trump, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency believes the U.S. should be less assertive when it comes to relations with Russia; he was even labeled “Russia-loving” by the RT network, the Kremlin controlled TV station. During the campaign, Flynn also readily embraced some of the more outlandish attacks against Clinton, including those which involved accusations of child sex trafficking and more.
Of these picks, only Sessions and Pompeo will require Senate confirmation.
For now, Flynn does not require a Senate hearing, but there is a provision in a major defense policy bill in Congress that would require that to change.