Donald Trump, almost two weeks after winning a surprise victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, has named his first cabinet picks and selections for his top advisers — and the selections have caused an immediate backlash as they appear to indicate that a Trump administration will take a hard line on such issues as race relations, terrorism, Iran and other controversies.
“There is a growing and alarming trend among the individuals President-elect Trump is naming to key positions in his administration,” Cory Booker — a Democratic senator from New Jersey and potential 2020 presidential candidate — said in a prepared statement. “Some have degraded and demeaned Americans. Others actively promote dangerous fringe ideologies. Still more have threatened Americans’ rights, and attacked the privileges of citizenship.”
Here are the five Trump cabinet and adviser picks that have been announced so far. The cabinet picks — for attorney general and Central Intelligence Agency director — will require confirmation by the United States Senate. The other advisory picks do not need to be confirmed.
JEFF SESSIONS — ATTORNEY GENERAL
Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III is the 69-year-old junior senator from Alabama who is Trump’s selection to become the top law enforcement official in the United States — even though Sessions was once denied a federal judgeship due to his history of racist remarks and opposition to civil rights for African-Americans.
Sessions has described the 1965 Voting Rights Act as “a piece of intrusive legislation,” and once called a white civil rights attorney “a disgrace to his race.”
As an Alabama U.S. attorney in the 1980s, he prosecuted three civil rights activists on allegations of “voter fraud” when the trio led voter registration drives in heavily black populated counties. According to the testimony of a former colleague, Sessions said he believed that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as “un-American” and “Communist-inspired.”
Another U.S attorney, who is black, testified that Sessions called him “boy” and warned him to “be careful what you say to white folks.”
“Given some of his past statements and his staunch opposition to immigration reform,” Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said this week, “I am very concerned about what he would do with the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice.”
Sessions supporters however note that he voted in favor of extending the Civil Rights Act, and once took part in a march with civil rights leader and congressional representative John Lewis.
REINCE PRIEBUS — CHIEF OF STAFF
At 44-years-old, Reinhold “Reince” Priebus — a native of Kenosha, Wisconsin — has spent his career as a Republican party operative, serving as chair of the Republican National Committee since 2011, earning a promotion from the RNC general counsel position at that time. As chief of staff, Priebus is expected to control access to Trump as president, and take a strong hand in setting the Trump administration’s legislative agenda.
As a longtime Washington “insider,” Priebus represents the same Republican “establishment” that Trump repeatedly blasted on the campaign trail. But whether Priebus will be expected to help bring more Trump’s policies closer to the establishment point of view, or to simply sell Trump’s hard-line to congressional Republicans remains to be seen.
Political experts also expect that Priebus will likely find himself frequently feuding with the other man Trump has named as a top adviser — Steve Bannon.
STEVE BANNON — CHIEF STRATEGIST
Stephen K. “Steve” Bannon has been, at least until the naming of Sessions, the most incendiary of Trump’s picks so far, and has already displayed a taste for tweaking his critics, comparing himself in a recent interview to Dick Cheney, Darth Vader and Satan.
“Darkness is good,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “That’s power.”
Bannon, a 62-year-old former investment banker, remains executive chairman of Breitbart News, an ultra-right wing political site that has been characterized as the online voice of the so-called “alt-right” movement — which has been termed “the new white supremacy” by the Anti-Defamation League of B’Nai Brith.
Bannon himself denies that Breitbart and the alt-right give a voice to racist extremism, saying in a Wall Street Journal interview that, “our definition of the alt-right is younger people who are anti-globalists, very nationalist, terribly anti-establishment.”
But Bannon himself has been described as anti-Semitic and overly friendly to white supremacists.
MIKE POMPEO — CIA DIRECTOR
— Mike Pompeo (@RepMikePompeo) November 19, 2016
A 52-year-old Kansas Congressman and Army veteran, Michael Richard “Mike” Pompeo was elected to congress as part of the Tea Party movement in the 2010 midterm elections — and six years later he has been named chief of the nation’s top intelligence service.
Pompeo has been a harsh critic of the Obama administration’s deal with Iran to end that country’s nuclear weapons program saying that, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal.” Additionally, he has accused Clinton of a “cover-up” in the 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, and attacking Clinton as “morally reprehensible.”
Trump’s pick for CIA director is also a strong supporter of the National Security Agency.
“I believe that program has proven to be a very valuable asset for the intelligence community and for law enforcement.”
The massive extent of the NSA spying program was exposed in 2013 by leaker Edward Snowden, who now lives in Russia to avoid possible prosecution. But Pompeo has called for Snowden to face the death penalty.
MICHAEL FLYNN — NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER
Michael Thomas “Mike” Flynn is the 58-year-old former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a retired Lieutenant General, who was a close adviser to Trump during the presidential campaign and is now best known for his extreme and derogatory statements regarding the Muslim religion — which he described as “sick” and “a malignant cancer.” Flynn has also described fear of Muslims as “rational.”
While the National Security Adviser has no official authority — unlike the CIA director or secretary of state who control large bureaucracies — the position has generally held a strong influence over the president’s decision-making process when it comes to the commander-in-chief’s most solemn responsibility, the use of the American military. But critics believe that Flynn, who was fired from the DIA for leadership that has been described as “inept”, is simply not up to the job.
In addition to his over-the-top statements about Islam, Flynn has worked for the Russian propaganda news outlet RT, even though Flynn’s time as head of the DIA saw Russia embark on an unprecedented military buildup, with Russian fighter jets in the Balkans frequently flying dangerously close to NATO territory, forcing U.S. and NATO fighter jets to intercept them.
— CNN (@CNN) November 18, 2016
He has also shown gullibility with fake online news, once posting a phony story to his Twitter account stating that Hillary Clinton was facing arrest for “sex crimes with minors,” and at the Republican National Convention led the audience in a chant of “lock her up” directed at Clinton.
He has also claimed in a published book that “radical Islamists” have formed alliances with the governments of North Korea, Russia, China, Cuba, and Venezuela — a claim for which there is no known evidence.
[Featured Image By Drew Angerer/Getty Images]