A new leak from within the Trump administration is creating news today.
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Documents from the Trump transition team that were leaked to Axios reveal what was on the minds of the incipient administration as the then-incoming president sought to fill out his cabinet and hire senior White House advisors and department heads.
Compiled by young and inexperienced transition staffers who were brought on board quickly after Trump fired his initial choice for leading his transition team, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R), the leaked documents outline what the people vetting potential administration members considered to be their pros and cons.
What they included in each column for the job candidates displays the mindset of the Trump administration — what they felt were disqualifying factors, what they saw as political advantages, and what they were willing to overlook to achieve their political aims.
Axios featured some of the highlights of the transition teams evaluations in its weekly program on HBO as well as on its website and they make for some fascinating and highly prophetic reading.
For instance, former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt — who left his position after allegations of financial and ethical violations — was noted to have “allegations of coziness with big energy companies” that did not stop him from being hired.
Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price — another former Trump cabinet member who was forced to resign after his extravagant use of private jets created a controversy — was cited as facing “criticisms of management ability” and had a section of his evaluation entitled “Dysfunction And Division Has Haunted Price’s Leadership Of The House Budget Committee” about the former congressman’s role in that assignment.
Mick Mulvaney — the former Freedom Caucus representative who now serves as Trump’s acting Chief of Staff — “has a striking assortment of “‘red flags,’ including his assessment that Trump ‘is not a very good person,’ according to Axios.
The documents also provide insight as to why certain people were never brought into formal administration roles.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was rumored in the early days of the Trump transition to be under consideration as Secretary of State — a role befitting his reputation as the “anti-Hillary.” That prospect was so worrying to the transition team researchers that they “created a separate 25-page document titled ‘Rudy Giuliani Business Ties Research Dossier” with copious accounting of his ‘foreign entanglements,'” according to the news organization
Former CIA Director General David Petraeus was one of the few prospective Trump administration employees who emerges from the leaked evaluations of his suitability for the Secretary of State and National Security Adviser positions that he was being considered for with a better reputation than he began with.
He was likely nixed for those roles because of the fact that the administration considered his opposition to torture as a red flag against his participation in the Trump cabinet.
The list goes on with what many would consider libelous indictments of some of the top figures in Republican politics if the facts they presented turned out to be less than completely accurate descriptions of their behavior, character, and opinions.
Rex Tillerson — who went on to become Trump’s first Secretary of State before making the fatal mistake of calling Trump “a f*cking moron” — was described as having “deep” ties to Russia, apparently not enough of a red flag to prevent his confirmation as the nation’s top diplomat, albeit so briefly.
Fox News host Laura Ingraham was under consideration as White House press Secretary apparently, at least until her comment about how she thought “people should wear diapers instead of sharing bathrooms with transgender people” was uncovered by the transition team’s vetters.
Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had to settle for a role leading the short-lived voter fraud commission rather than heading the Department of Homeland Security after his ties to white supremacist groups were revealed.
A few lucky future Trump cabinet members made the cut despite having their earlier negative comments about the then-candidate plastered at the top of their evaluations,
Nikki Haley became UN Ambassador despite having said that Trump is everything “we teach our kids not to do in kindergarten.”
Energy Secretary Rick Perry was installed in a job that he didn’t understand or want even after saying that Trump’s philosophy was a “toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition.”
Even another one of Trump’s most discredited cabinet members, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, was able to get hired after calling the president “un-defendable” — the same word that was used to describe Zinke once his outrageous waste of taxpayer dollars became public.
The seeds of the Trump administration’s corruption were visible from the very beginning, even to their own vetting team. How this country allowed such a corrupt and incompetent regime to take charge remains one of the major failures of American democracy to date.
Let’s hope that the results of the 2016 election debacle will be rectified as soon as possible and that all of the damage that the Trump administration has caused will fade into the recesses of our memories like a dimly-recalled nightmare.
You can watch a segment of Axios’ HBO program about the Trump transition team’s vetting in the excerpt below.
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Original reporting by Jonathan Swan, Juliet Bartz, Alayna Treene, and Orion Rummler at Axios.