President-elect Donald Trump made headlines this weekend when he named Reince Priebus, current chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Steve Bannon (head of alt-right publication Breitbart) as chief of staff and chief strategist respectively. The appointments have already raised a stir within the Republican party: moderates are disappointed with Bannon’s appointment, as he is known for making racist comments and purporting conspiracy theories in his publiction. Alternatively grassroots supporters are angry at Trump for snubbing Bannon for the chief of staff position. CNN reported that internal arguments over Trump’s many cabinet appointments have wracked his first week as president-elect, quoting an insider who called it a glorified “knife-fight” to pick the most powerful people in the West Wing. Eliot Cohen, a longtime Trump critic and previous advisor for the Bush administration, tweeted this just yesterday:
Trump had appointed his vice president Pence to run the transition team, which for those unfamiliar with the term is a group of advisors who help ensure that the transition of power from one administration to another is as smooth as possible. Going from President Obama, a left-leaning Democrat and first black president, to President-elect Trump, a far right conservative often decried for racist rhetoric was guaranteed to be a monumental task from the start. Pence’s first move was apparently to outlaw any lobbyists from being part of the transition team.
It’s important to note that Pence was not the original pick to head the team: Trump had first selected New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but then replaced him soon after the ‘Bridgegate’ saga came to a head Friday with two of Christie’s close aides being convicted of fraud. Trump is now reportedly distancing himself as far as possible from anything Christie-related, including “purging” anyone allied with the embattled governor from the transition team. As one source quoted in Politico put it, Christie “will still be around,” and I think we can all presume that does not bode well for his future in the administration, as he is now probably unlikely to get anything in the cabinet. Former Rep. Mike Rogers was one of the casualties of the Christie annexation, resigning from the transition after he reported a “Stalinesque” environment following his ally Christie’s departure.
And then of course there’s the matter of Trump’s children and extended family, and their controversial involvement in his administration. There is actually a congressional law on the books, 5 U.S. Code § 3110 or the ‘anti-nepotism’ law as it’s usually referred to, that bars a president or any elected official for that matter from appointing any relatives to his/her own “agency” which in this case would be the West Wing. This came into question when Trump alluded to the fact that his children would continue to hold unofficial advisory roles within the administration, and then went even further to request national security clearance for son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kushner has no national security experience, unlike Gen. Michael Flynn who is the likely pick for Trump’s national security advisor role, and it seems unlikely that he will even receive the clearance especially with this law in place.
All of this simply goes to show that from the starting gate this presidency has been an unorthodox one to say the least. The admonitions from both parties, in-fighting and Trump’s tendency to favor friends and family over conceivably more qualified and experienced individuals, it all spells trouble for Trump’s first 100 days in the White House.