President-elect Donald Trump does not have the traditional cadre of Washington insiders and donors to build out his Cabinet, but his transition team has spent the past several months quietly building a short list of industry titans and conservative activists who could comprise one of the more eclectic and controversial presidential Cabinets in modern history.
Trumpworld has started with a mandate to hire from the private sector whenever possible. That’s why the Trump campaign is seriously considering Forrest Lucas, the 74-year-old co-founder of oil products company Lucas Oil, as a top contender for Interior secretary, or donor and Goldman Sachs veteran Steven Mnuchin as Treasury secretary.
He’s also expected to reward the band of surrogates who stood by him during the bruising presidential campaign, including Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, all of whom are being considered for top posts. A handful of Republican politicians may also make the cut, including Sen. Bob Corker for secretary of state or Sen. Jeff Sessions for secretary of defense.
Trump’s divisive campaign may make it difficult for him to attract top talent, especially since so many politicians and wonks openly derided the president-elect over the past year. And Trump campaign officials have worried privately that they will have difficulty finding high-profile women to serve in his cabinet, according to a person familiar with the campaign’s internal discussions, given Trump’s past comments about women.
Still, two Trump transition officials said they received an influx of phone calls and emails in recent weeks, as the polls tightened and a Trump White House seemed more within reach.
So far, the Trump campaign and transition teams have been tight-lipped about their picks. (The Trump campaign has declined to confirm cabinet speculation.) But here’s the buzz from POLITICO’s conversations with policy experts, lobbyists, academics, congressional staffers and people close to Trump.
Secretary of state
Former House Speaker Gingrich, a leading Trump supporter, is a candidate for the job, as is Corker, current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Tennessee senator has said he’d “strongly consider” serving as secretary of state.
Trump is also eyeing former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.
Trump himself has indicated that he wants to give the Treasury secretary job to his finance chairman, Mnuchin, a 17-year-veteran of Goldman Sachs who now works as the chairman and chief executive of the private investment firm Dune Capital Management. Mnuchin has also worked for OneWest Bank, which was later sold to CIT Group in 2015.
Secretary of defense
Among the Republican defense officials who could join the Trump administration: Sessions (R-Ala.), a close adviser, has been discussed as a potential defense secretary. Former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) have also been mentioned as potential candidates.
Top Trump confidant retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, would need a waiver from Congress to become defense secretary, as the law requires retired military officers to wait seven years before becoming the civilian leader of the Pentagon. But Trump’s chief military adviser is likely to wind up in some senior administration post, potentially national security adviser. And other early endorsers, like Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), could be in line for top posts as well.
People close to Trump say former New York City Mayor Giuliani, one of Trump’s leading public defenders, is the leading candidate for attorney general.