President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday broke his streak of white, male appointments with the addition of two women to his nascent Cabinet.
Since his shock win earlier this month, political observers have closely watched Trump’s every move as he goes about the task of filling the thousands of political appointee jobs, with acute interest in the makeup of his Cabinet.
Before Wednesday, there was a distinct pattern. The more than 80 people who had called on Trump’s Manhattan office and rural New Jersey getaway over the past two weeks were very much alike: Most were white men.
Only 14 women and 15 people of color were among the stream of visitors potentially vying for a job in the president-elect’s administration, according to a POLITICO analysis of pool reports since Election Day.
Senior Trump officials have defended the makeup of his personnel appointments and promised that the ultimate composition of his Cabinet and senior White House ranks will be diverse, despite the homogeny of his first five picks — Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, Mike Pompeo and Jeff Sessions.
Trump made progress on that front Wednesday by nominating South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, an Indian-American, as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Michigan philanthropist Betsy DeVos as education secretary. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who is black, is expected to be tapped as secretary of housing and urban development.
Haley, 44 and South Carolina’s first female governor, drew bipartisan praise in 2015 for signing a law to remove the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds following a mass shooting at a black church in Charleston. In the months afterward, her national profile rose, and some Republicans came to view her as a sign of a more diverse generation emerging within the party.
DeVos, a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, is a longtime advocate of school choice and vouchers programs.
Still, even with those appointments, the ethnic, racial and gender balance of Trump’s administration is likely to continue to be watched closely, given that some of his most strident rhetoric during the campaign was aimed at Hispanics, his pitch to African-Americans rankled many in the community and he has faced multiple allegations of sexual harassment.
The list compiled by POLITICO excluded staff, Trump’s family, foreign leaders, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Barack Obama.
The president-elect has met with a “high-caliber and broad and diverse group” of people who could join his administration, Trump spokesman Jason Miller told reporters Tuesday. The executive branch “will be very broad and diverse, both with the Cabinet and the administration.”
Of the 13 non-white individuals Trump has met with since his victory, seven have been African-American, including former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, former Oklahoma House of Representatives Speaker T.W. Shannon, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow and BET founder Robert Johnson. Trump met Saturday with Bob Woodson, whose name has been floated to be secretary of housing and urban development, at his Bedminster golf resort in New Jersey.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is the only Trump visitor of Hispanic descent to be noted by the transition pool.
Trump’s relationship with minority communities was often rocky throughout the campaign. He kicked off his White House bid by calling undocumented Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, adding that “some, I assume, are good people.” He also pledged to build a wall along the country’s southern border and force Mexico to pay for it, a plan deeply unpopular with many Latinos, and he accused a Mexican-American judge of being unable to hear a case against him.
The president-elect made a concerted pitch to African-American voters on the campaign trail, but the tone of his message often didn’t sit well. His “What the hell do you have to lose?” sales pitch, in which he portrayed black communities as blighted by unemployment, poverty and crime, was poorly received by many African-American leaders, in part because they were often delivered before mostly white audiences at his rallies.
Former Washington, D.C., public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, who is Korean-American, also met Saturday with Trump at Bedminster, accompanied by her husband, Sacramento Mayor and former NBA player Kevin Johnson, who is black. Rhee was one of five individuals who were either born in Asia or are of Asian descent to meet with President-elect Trump, joining Haley, Fox News personality Jeanine Piro, Oracle executive Safra Catz, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and Patrick Soon-Shiong, a surgeon and businessman.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who met last Monday with Trump in his Manhattan skyscraper, is of American Samoan descent. Other women to visit the president-elect’s team include Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, former national security official K.T. McFarland, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin. Newt Gingrich’s wife, Calista Gingrich, accompanied the former speaker during his visit to Trump Tower on Monday.
On the same Tuesday conference call on which Miller promised a “very broad and diverse” Trump administration, the Manhattan billionaire’s former campaign manager and current senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said the incoming president has also sought an array of opinions and positions in the meetings he has scheduled to this point in his transition.
“Diversity means meeting with people across the aisle who are traditionally more Democratic, who are coming together and wanting to offer him advice, perhaps vie for a spot in his Cabinet,” Conway said. “But willing to give him counsel and willing to share experiences and have candid conversations about their views and their backgrounds.”
To that end, Trump has already appointed one registered Democrat, Flynn, to be the incoming national security adviser, a high-level White House position. The real estate mogul also met with Gabbard, an endorser of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for president who characterized her meeting with the real estate mogul as “frank and positive” in a statement released by her office. Rhee and her husband Johnson are both Democrats, as is New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who met last week with Trump, and billionaire John Gray, with whom the president-elect met last Sunday at Bedminster.
Gray is one of at least 13 billionaires, including media mogul Rupert Murdoch, FedEx CEO Fred Smith and NFL team owners Woody Johnson and Robert Kraft to have met with Trump since he was elected.
Not everyone who has met with Trump will end up in his government, Conway said Tuesday morning in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and indeed, not all of them are even seeking a position. Instead, she said, many are simply interested in having the president-elect’s ear.
“These have been incredibly inspiring meetings for him, because not everyone will end up in the Cabinet or the government and most of them are not even seeking that, I have to tell as somebody who is there. They are seeking to talk to the president-elect early in his formation, and giving advice and counsel.”
Powered by WPeMatico