With Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., named secretary of Health and Human Services and former Bush administration Labor Secretary Elaine Chao was tapped to be secretary of transportation, Donald Trump has moved along at a faster pace than most recent presidents-elect to fill key slots in his administration.
With less than seven weeks before Trump takes office, there are still many positions within his Cabinet and the executive office of the president remain unfilled.
The most critical positions of secretaries of state and defense, for example, are still the subject of widespread speculation — not to mention some good, old-fashioned Washington, D.C., infighting among potential Cabinet members.
In addition, Trump has yet to name a director of OMB — the Office of Budget and Management — or a single ambassador anywhere. Here is where the prospects for some key slots stands at this date:
Secretary of state —While Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani have both appeared to be the leading candidates, Trump has expanded well beyond them. A transition source tells Newsmax that Romney will not get state. His appointment will antagonize Trump’s core base, and though the rapprochement is real between the two, Trump can’t pick him for the top job.
Trump is said to have strong loyalty to Giuliani, but Vice President-elect Pence has argued that Giuliani is not ready for the job and that he simply doesn’t have the stamina for the globe-trotting job. Trump has seemingly bought into that view, and the search has broadened.
Trump likes generals. In the last few days, speculation has begun of a new contender for State: former CIA Director and retired General David Petraeus.
Once on everyone’s list of future presidents, Petraeus was forced to leave the CIA during Obama’s tenure following allegations of improper handling of classified material. Trump is looking also at former Marine Gen. John Kelly.
A wildcard named that has been floated by some Senate Republicans to Trump is their former colleague Joe Lieberman. Lieberman retired from the Senate in 2014, but is liked by conservatives on foreign policy and defense matters.
Secretary of defense — Smart money says there is only one contender, and it’s a matter of time before his appointment is announced: retired four-star Gen. James Mattis (USMC), commandant of U.S. Central Command until his retirement in 2013. “Mad Dog” Mattis is an outspoken critic of the Iran nuclear deal and is, in Trump’s words, following their first meeting, “a general’s general.”
Some insiders have cautioned Trump not to pick a general to affirm civilian control over the military, and not place a military insider at the top of the Pentagon totem pole. One source says that Romney could get defense as a consolation prize.
Secretary of the interior — Signs are strong that Oklahoma’s two-term Gov. Mary Fallin will get interior. A former U.S. Representative and lieutenant governor, Fallin reportedly impressed Trump with her co-chairmanship of their party’s platform committee at the national convention this summer and kept controversy out of the platform proceedings.
Secretary of agriculture — Rick Perry, former Texas governor, commissioner of agriculture, and family farmer, is still the favorite for the job. Perry, a one time Trump critic, was one of the few establishment GOP figures to endorse Trump early.
Secretary of labor — Trump’s secretary of labor, one Washington wag quipped, “will delight Marx Mix [head of the National Right to Work Committee] and drive [AFL-CIO President] Rich Trumpka nuts.” Two mentioned for that assignment are Victoria Lipnic, a member of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, and Peter Kirsanow, U.S. Civil Rights Commission member and past member of the National Labor Relations Board.
Secretary of Homeland Security — The appointment of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was once seen as a cinch. But one of the nation’s best-known experts on illegal immigration, Kobach to Homeland Security would underscore Trump’s commitment to securing the border and to deporting criminals in the U.S. illegally.
Trump is being pushed to pick a national security expert. Fran Townsend, former homeland security advisor in the Bush White House is being considered. Stephen Hadley, national security advisor to George W. Bush, is also being looked at by Trump transition officials.
Chairman of Council of Economic Advisors — Larry Kudlow, economist, former Reagan administration Treasury official, and CNBC commentator, still remains the favorite for the position. Kudlow, an early supporter of Trump, he authored Trump’s tax policy and gave the plan credibility. He is well respected by his economist and financial colleagues.
Office of Management and Budget director — Robert Grady, who has had a long career in private equity and venture capital, is a candidate for OMB. Grady had served as Associate Director of OMB during the administration of George H.W. Bush.
Veterans Affairs secretary — Trump could pull off a major coup, several veterans say, if he convinces retired Maj. Gen. Angela Salinas. Another candidate being discussed is Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor who played a pivotal role in Trump’s early primary wins.
One of the highest-ranked women ever to serve in the U.S. Marine Corp and the highest Hispanic woman to be a general officer, Salinas is now CEO of the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas. Also mentioned for the job is retiring Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Committee.
As for key ambassadorships, the name of former Sen. Alphonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., a close friend of Trump, comes up increasingly as a possible U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. Edward Cox, Republican state chairman of New York and son-in-law of Richard Nixon, has been pegged for ambassador to France and his son, New York attorney Christopher Nixon Cox, has been talked about for the China ambassadorship. Richard Nixon remains a revered American to the Chinese for his opening to their country.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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