President-elect Donald Trump is poised to reward members of his inner circle with top roles in his administration, ensuring he is surrounded by familiar loyalists as the work of governing begins.
Trump’s staunchest defenders during the campaign, such as former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, are considered shoo-ins for Cabinet positions or senior advisory roles at the White House by sources familiar with personnel discussions.
The sources, who requested anonymity in order to discuss matters meant to be confidential, expect other close Trump advisers such as Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon to be offered high-ranking jobs. Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted Thursday that she may also accept a White House role, saying one had already been offered to her.
Trump spent the day meeting with advisers at Trump Tower in Manhattan after visiting the White House and Capitol Hill on Thursday. “Busy day planned in New York,” he tweeted at 8:33 a.m. Friday. “Will soon be making some very important decisions on the people who will be running our government!”
Republican circles are abuzz with speculation as Trump’s campaign and transition teams begin the messy work of joining forces to launch an administration by Jan. 20, roughly 70 days from now. Insiders have also begun the perennial Washington exercise of floating names and hypotheses about the new administration in the press, heightening the already intense media spotlight on the process.
Trump’s transition, consumed by post-election chaos, already reflects the insularity of his singular and often unusually run campaign. There has been just a single instance of on-the-record communication from the transition team apart from the website launched Wednesday, GreatAgain.gov — the announcement that Vice President-elect Mike Pence will take over leadership of the transition from Christie.
A look at the list of confirmed and potential candidates for administration roles reveals a largely homogeneous circle of middle-aged white men, often wealthy, of open ambition and large personality. Many carry their own level of political celebrity, nurtured by media appearances and prior runs for office. It’s a group that seems almost destined for internal rivalry.
The jobs currently generating the most speculation are White House chief of staff (Priebus is said to be the leading candidate, according to people familiar with the deliberations), secretary of state (Gingrich; former United Nations ambassador John Bolton and Sen. Bob Corker are in the mix, those sources said), secretary of defense (Sessions and ex-national security adviser Stephen Hadley are among the possibilities), secretary of the treasury (banker Steve Mnuchin is a reportedly a maybe) and attorney general (sources said it’s Giuliani’s for the taking, although some think he would prefer to be secretary of state).
One-off news reports have floated possibilities: House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) and JPMorgan Chase chairman Jamie Dimon as potential candidates for treasury secretary were stories that both broke Thursday. A wave of secondary reports tamped down speculation on both.
There’s a chance some more colorful figures could be invited to join the administration. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, Kansas secretary of state and immigration hard-liner Kris Kobach, Trump foreign policy adviser Walid Phares and billionaire investor Peter Thiel have all been rumored as potential appointees. Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, known for his campaign call for “pitchforks and torches,” is seen as a possible secretary of homeland security, alongside more conventional possibilities such as Christie or Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Tex.). Other likely additions include former Trump primary opponents Ben Carson (secretary of education or health and human services are considered possibilities, sources said) and Mike Huckabee (a potential secretary of commerce). Family Research Council senior fellow Ken Blackwell, a prominent social conservative, is leading the transition’s domestic policy efforts, positioning him for a similar White House role.
Only a few women — and even fewer minorities — are under consideration by Trump’s team. Carson and Blackwell are among the only African Americans whose names are in the mix. In addition to Palin, a possible but unlikely secretary of the interior, former Arizona governor Jan Brewer, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Rep. Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo.) have been mentioned for the same role.