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Meet Trump's Cabinet and Inner Circle

By Monali Sarkar
Last updated on: January 20, 2017 09:24 IST
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Incoming US President Donald Trump has assembled a core team that is -- not surprisingly -- overwhelmingly white and male.
Monali Sarkar introduces you to Team Trump.

Donald Trump

IMAGE: Donald Trump, the 45th US President. Photograph: Eric Thayer/Reuters

With Sonny Perdue's selection as Secretary of Agriculture on January 19, Donald Trump finalised his cabinet just a day before he was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

Perdue was another in a long line of picks who are just like Trump -- overwhelmingly white, male and rich.

Many believe that this cabinet is probably the wealthiest -- according to London's Independent newspaper, 'Trump's cabinet combined are worth more than the GDP of the world's 39 poorest countries' -- and the least diverse Presidential teams in modern American history.

Also according to the data compiled by the British newspaper, Trump and his vice- president, former Indiana governor Mike Pence, have taken cabinet diversity back to the 1980s.

If all of the choices are confirmed, this will be the first US presidential cabinet since the Ronald Reagan era to not have Latino representation.

And that is not the scariest part. The most worrisome aspect of the core team is the liberal dose of people who are known racists, Islamophobes, homophobes and protectionists.

And as The Guardian pointed out, 'The picks do not betray a particular faith in the value of prior government experience.'


General Mattis

Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson

Who is he? The outgoing chairman of Exxon Mobil.

Concerns? Business ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his huge financial interest in Exxon and according to The Washington Post, this is the first time in modern history that the secretary of state pick has no political or diplomatic experience.

Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters


Secretary of the Treasury: Steven Mnuchin

Who is he? Former Goldman Sachs hedge funder, Hollywood producer, and Trump's campaign finance chairman.

Concerns? Those concerned about the impact of Wall Street billionaires on the economy have pointed to his past, his dealings during the 2008 economic crisis, and his lack of government experience.

Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

General Mattis

Secretary of Defence: James Mattis

Who is he? A retired US Marine Corps general, who goes by the nicknames 'Mad Dog' and 'Warrior Monk'.

He last served as the commander of US Central Command.

Concerns? His blunt talk has got him into controversies, but he is one of the few Trump picks who is controversial not because of his track record but because of political precedence.

In recognition of civilian control over the military, the US bars military officers from becoming secretary of defence until 10 years after retirement.

Mattis' appointment requires a waiver, and the last time that happened was in 1950 under President Harry S Truman.

Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Jeff Sessions

Attorney General: Jeff Sessions

Who is he? The junior senator from Alabama.

Concerns? He is a hardliner on immigration and even supports Trump's idea of a wall at the southern border.

He is infamous for racist comments like he found the Ku Klux Klan 'okay until I found out they smoked pot.'

He has also said a white lawyer with black clients is a 'disgrace to his race.'

In an era when police atrocities against blacks and racial profiling of browns has grown in the US, his appointment as head of the US Justice Department is a huge, huge, concern.

Photograph: Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images


Secretary of the Interior: Ryan Zinke

Who is he? First-term Republican US Representative of Montana and a former Navy SEAL commander.

Concerns? Unlike most of his Republican party peers, Zinke wants to keep public lands under federal ownership, but is also known to be for drilling and mining on that land -- something Trump promised he would do as president.

He has also raised doubts about climate change and considers Putin a strong leader because of his annexation of Crimea and military incursions in Ukraine.

Photograph: Jim Urquhart/Reuters


Secretary of Agriculture: Sonny Perdue

Who is he? A former governor of Georgia who now serves on the Governors Council of the Bipartisan Policy Centre.

Concerns? Perdue has agricultural experience from the ground up, so the concern in his case is that he is a climate-change sceptic.

And according to a statement from Kari Hamerschlag, a deputy director with Friends of the Earth, 'Given Perdue's position with a global agribusiness trading company and his actions as governor, we are concerned that Perdue will use his position to prioritise the profits of big agribusiness and trade over the interests of American farmers, workers and consumers.'

Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

W Ross

Secretary of Commerce: Wilbur Ross

Who is he? The billionaire investor and head of the private equity firm W L Ross & Co, which is known for buying up failed companies.

His net worth was pegged by Forbes at about $2.9 billion.

As an economic adviser, he helped shape the Trump campaign's views on trade policy.

Concerns? He blames the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, which entered into force in 1994, and China's 2001 entry into the World Trade Organisation for causing massive US factory job losses. He is, however, among Trump's less controversial choices.

Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters


Secretary of Labour: Andy Puzder

Who is he? The CEO of CKE Restaurant Holdings, which owns the Carl's Jr and Hardees chains.

Concerns? He is against raising the federal minimum wage to $15 or anywhere above $9 and is viewed as bad news for low-income workers.

The ads for his burger chains have drawn criticism for commodifying women and his response to that has been, 'If you don't complain, I go to the head of marketing and say, "What's wrong with our ads?"'

Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Tom Price

Secretary of Health and Human Services: Tom Price

Who is he? A Congressman from Georgia and an orthopedic surgeon opposed to Obamacare.

Concerns? As chair of the House Budget Committee he tried to defund Planned Parenthood and is seen as an opponent of women's health programmes as well as same-sex marriages.

Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Ben Carson

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Ben Carson

Who is he? A retired pediatric neurosurgeon he ran for President this election cycle.

Concerns? He is against government welfare, and according to The Guardian, he is a 'purveyor of bizarre conspiracy theories and a provocateur who compares abortion to slavery and same-sex marriage to pedophilia.'

During his campaign trail he had said Muslims should not be President of the US.

Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters


Secretary of Transportation: Elaine Chao

Who is she? Labour secretary under President George W Bush for eight years and the first Asian-American woman to hold a Cabinet position.

She is a director at Ingersoll Rand, News Corp and the Vulcan Materials Company.

Concerns? She is among the least controversial Trump picks.

The only red flag raised about her has been the criticism the Department of Labour faced during her tenure for favouring business over worker safety.

Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

Rick Perry

Secretary of Energy: Rick Perry

Who is he? A two-time presidential candidate and the longest serving Texas governor.

Concerns? He is a climate change sceptic and in a presidential debate he had intended to say he would eliminate the department of energy as president, but could not remember the name of the department.

Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


Secretary of Education: Betsy Devos

Who is she? Billionaire, former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, and school choice advocate.

Concerns? Public school unions are worried and angry over this appointment because she is a proponent of charter schools.

DeVos has sought to steer money away from public schools and into private and parochial schools, according to Kary Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, Marie Claire reported.

Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images


Secretary of Veteran Affairs: David Shulkin

Who is he? A physician, who currently serves as Under Secretary for Health in the Veterans Affair's office -- a post he was appointed to by President Barack Obama.

Concerns? He is not a controversial choice; the only wrinkle here has been precedence -- the VA secretary is usually a veteran.

Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

John Kelly

Secretary of Homeland Security: John Kelly

Who is he? A retired US Marine Corps general, who last served as the commander of the US Southern Command.

Concerns? Apart from concerns over another recently retired military top brass in the cabinet, there is the fact that Kelly opposed the intended closure of Guantanamo Bay and he oversaw a press blackout after a hunger strike with detainees.

According to The Guardian, 'Kelly's Guantanamo experience has created a deep well of suspicion among human rights campaigners.'

He has also been criticised for his opposition to allowing women into combat roles.

Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters


Chief of Staff

White House Chief of Staff: Reince Priebus

Who is he? Chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Concerns? The chief of staff is the highest-ranking White House employee and he lacks experience in governance.

Considering Trump's own lack there, this is a serious concern.

Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Scott Pruitt

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator: Scott Pruitt

Who is he? Oklahoma state attorney general.

Concerns? He doesn't believe in global warming, dislikes everything that the EPA stands for and has sued the agency multiple times.

Photograph: Nick Oxford/Reuters

Nikki Haley

United Nations Ambassador: Nikki Haley

Who is she? Former South Carolina Governor.

Concerns? She is one of the more promising Trump choices and the only concern about her seems to be her lack of foreign policy experience and her refusal to accept Syrian refugees in her state.

Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Dan Coats

Director of National Intelligence: Dan Coats

Who is he? A former diplomat, former Congressman and former Senator.

Concerns? The concern is that his equation with Trump, who has so far dismissed the intelligence community, will be fraught.

Interestingly, he is no fan of Russia and believes he is still banned from entering the country -- a ban that came into play when he was in the US House of Representatives.

Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

USTR Robert

US Trade Representative: Robert Lighthizer

Who is he? Lighthizer is a partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom, and served as deputy USTR in Ronald Reagan's administration.

Concerns? He supports Trump's criticism of free trade and is expected to take a hardline approach, just like the boss.

Photograph: Wikimedia Commons


Director of the Office of Management and Budget: Mick Mulvaney

Who is he? A four-time US Congressman from South Carolina.

Concerns? He wants to defund Planned Parenthood, prevent Syrian refugees from entering the US and has demonstrated that he'd rather have a political shutdown than a compromise that allows the government to keep functioning.

Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Linda McMahon

Head of Small Business Administration: Linda McMahon

Who is she? Co-founder and former CEO of the WWE wrestling franchise, and a two-time unsuccessful Senate aspirant.

Concerns? According to Sports Illustrated,'WWE's "relentless warfare" on smaller wrestling companies "all but destroyed its serious competition".'

Photograph: Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images


Steve Bannon

Chief Strategist and Senior Adviser: Steve Bannon

Who is he? Former chairman of the far-right Breitbart News and CEO of the final leg of the Trump campaign.

Concerns? If there was a list of Trump's worst picks, Bannon would tie the top spot with Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions.

He ran a Web site that published headlines like 'Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy' and 'There's No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews.'

His ex-wife charged him with domestic abuse -- though the charges were later dropped -- and according to Marie Claire, she claimed he didn't want his children to attend a particular school because of the number of Jewish students enrolled.

He has also gone on record with the Daily Beast, saying, 'I'm a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the State, and that's my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today's establishment.'

Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump

Senior Advisor to the President: Jared Kushner

Who is he? CEO of Kushner companies, owner of the Observer and, more significantly, Trump's son-in-law.

He is married to the influential Ivanka Trump, the President's elder daughter.

Concerns? His lack of experience is secondary to the fact that it's unclear whether it is even legal for him to take this job as there is a federal anti-nepotism law in place since 1967.

Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters


Counselor to the President: Kellyanne Conway

Who is she? A seasoned political operative and Trump's campaign manager in the final months.

Concerns? She has repeatedly played down Trump's terrible behaviour and earned the title 'Enabler in Chief'.

She also recently said that it was a 'bad idea, bad idea, bad idea, bad idea for mom going inside' the White House.

Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Mike Pompeo

CIA Director: Mike Pompeo

Who's he? Army veteran, businessman and US Congressman from Kansas.

Concerns? He supports the CIA's use of torture, deep government surveillance and wishes a death sentence upon NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Michael Flynn

National Security Adviser: Michael Flynn

Who's he? Retired lieutenant general and former director of the Defence Intelligence Agency.

Concerns? He was fired as head of the DIA in 2014. Islamophobic and, according to The New York Times, 'all else is secondary' for him.

He also led chants of 'lock her up' against Hillary Clinton and, as Salon put it, 'he's enmeshed in the deepest reaches of the right-wing fake-news fever swamps.'

Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reutes

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Monali Sarkar /