Donald Trump's cabinet: The CEOs, oil tycoons and sons that are being tipped to fill it if he wins the election

The Republican presidential candidate promises to turn Washington on its head

Rupert Cornwell
Wednesday 02 November 2016 17:17 GMT
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks on stage at a campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks on stage at a campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio (AFP/Getty Images)

No man can run a country alone, not even Donald Trump. That fact has been obscured by the outsize personality of the real estate tycoon turned political bulldozer, and his craving for the limelight. But if he wins Tuesday’s presidential election he will have to form a cabinet – and one that measures up to Trump’s promise to turn Washington on its head. The question is, who?

The man himself has given the odd clue, but given Trump’s short attention span and fondness for off-the-cuff replies, it’s hard to judge how much thought he has given to the shape of a future administration. But a couple of things seem clear. The priority will be on domestic, above all economic, affairs. And his cabinet could be one of the most big business-flavoured in US history.

Take the Treasury. The most widely tipped names are the investor Carl Icahn (even though Icahn has turned 80 and has let it be known he’s not thrilled at the prospect) and the former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch. Another possibility, according to reports, is Trump’s chief fundraiser Steve Mnuchin, once of Goldman Sachs.

However that background on Wall Street – the insider America that so many of Trump’s grass roots supporters object to – could be a problem. Fundraisers and big financial allies of winning candidates have often gone to the Commerce Department, and that could be where Mnuchin ends up in a Trump administration.

Of the other domestic agencies, the oil and gas tycoon Harold Hamm is on most lists of possible Energy Secretaries, a choice that would be consistent with Trump’s promise to “unleash” America’s domestic oil industry. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate and early Trump supporter, is also being mentioned either for the Energy Department or the Department of the Interior. Another option, reportedly, is Trump’s son, Donald Jr.

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But putting a CEO in charge of a big economic department has obvious pitfalls, above all possible conflicts of interest that could bedevil confirmation hearings, especially if Democrats were to regain control of the Senate. Indeed Trump himself would almost certainly face major conflict of interest issues if he wins next week.

Widely tipped as Health Secretary is Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon and 2016 republican presidential candidate who switched to Trump early and is a fierce opponent of Obamacare which Trump has vowed to repeal.

On the law enforcement and domestic security fronts, things are more straightforward, but only a little. Rudolph Giuliani, former mayor of New York and a key Trump surrogate, would be a natural fit for the Homeland Security Department. Joe Arpaio, who calls himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff’ has also been mentioned. But mounting legal problems, not to mention the fact he’s 84, surely rule Arpaio out.

The job of Attorney General though is up in the air. It had long appeared destined for Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who narrowly missed being Trump’s vice-presidential pick. But Christie is ever more deeply entangled in New Jersey's “Bridgegate” scandal. An alternative might be Alabama’s Jeff Sessions, the first Senator to endorse Trump back in February, and a former federal prosecutor and state attorney general.

Sessions, who has been an informal foreign policy adviser to Trump, could also feature in the national security team. He is frequently mentioned as a possible Secretary of State, along with John Bolton, the abrasive, ultra-conservative former US ambassador to the United Nations and senior State official under George W. Bush. Trump himself once said he was “seriously thinking” about choosing Bolton to the job.

The other top post to be filled is the Pentagon. The obvious candidate is retired general Michael Flynn, ex-head of the Defence Intelligence Agency, as outspoken and hardline as Bolton, and who has been Trump’s chief defence policy adviser during the campaign.

Keep an eye however on Stephen Hadley. National security adviser for George W. Bush, Hadley is about the only member of the traditional Republican foreign policy establishment who hasn’t come out against Trump. Quiet and a fixer by nature, Hadley could be the bridge between the disaffected grandees and the new boys aiming to take Washington by storm.

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