President Trump’s top White House adviser is about to be someone who once called him a “terrible human being.”
After Trump announced on Twitter that Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney would be his “acting” chief of staff, the insult resurfaced.
It was shortly after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape was released by The Washington Post before the 2016 election, when Mulvaney, then a congressman, was asked in a debate whether he was supporting Trump for president.
“Yes, I am supporting Donald Trump, but I’m doing so despite the fact that I think he’s a terrible human being,” Mulvaney said, according to a video first obtained by the Daily Beast.
But as shocking as it might be to have a president’s right-hand man be someone who so publicly disparaged him, it’s not all that strange for Trump. For as thin-skinned as the president has shown himself to be, he also seems to have a fairly high tolerance for people who have a change of heart about him.
Mulvaney’s comments were harsh, but other people invited inside Trump’s orbit have made even sharper rebukes of Trump the candidate.
So, in light of this revelation regarding Mulvaney’s about-face on Trump, here’s a brief trip down memory lane of the people who spoke against a Trump presidency two years ago but have now embraced him.
1. Sen. Ted Cruz
During the 2016 campaign, no two opponents had a more vicious relationship than Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). Trump famously floated a rumor that Cruz’s father was somehow involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and retweeted an unflattering photo of Cruz’s wife that compared her looks to Melania Trump’s. At one point during the campaign, Cruz said angrily, “It’s not easy to tick me off. I don’t get angry often. But you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that’ll do it every time. Donald, you’re a sniveling coward. Leave Heidi the hell alone.” At another point, the senator called Trump “a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen.” The rivalry reached its peak when Cruz refused to outright endorse Trump in a speech during the Republican National Convention, instead encouraging Republicans to vote their conscience.
But in the past two years, tensions between the two have simmered down. So much so, in fact, that Trump went down to Texas ahead of the midterm elections to headline a rally for Cruz’s reelection campaign.
2. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham
Cruz and Trump may have had the most contentious 2016 relationship, but no one was more acerbic toward Trump than Graham (R-S.C.). During a television appearance in 2016, Graham called Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot.” At another point, Graham said of Trump: “I think he’s a kook. I think he’s crazy. I think he’s unfit for office.”
But now, Trump has perhaps no better ally in the U.S. Senate than Graham. In a dizzying turnaround, Graham decided not only to support Trump’s agenda but to go out of his way to befriend him and defend him personally. First bonding as golfing buddies, Graham’s genuflecting has raised a lot of eyebrows. Playing loyal soldier, it’s Graham whom Trump really has to thank for Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation after Graham yelled red-faced about the unfairness of the process looking into the allegations that the judge sexually assaulted a teenage girl when they were both in high school. It changed the trajectory of Kavanaugh’s testimony and allowed Republicans to cast him as the victim. Some believe Graham is sidling up to Trump to shield himself from a primary challenge in his own reelection campaign in 2020.
3. Energy Secretary Rick Perry
Early in the GOP presidential primary, shortly after Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, Perry, who was also running for the White House, launched into a scathing attack on Trump’s character. “He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued. Let no one be mistaken — Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.” Trump, for his part, tweeted that Perry “should be forced to take an IQ test before being allowed to enter the GOP debate.”
But by spring 2016, bygones were bygones and Perry had endorsed Trump. He was duly rewarded with the job of U.S. secretary of energy.
4. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley
Haley, then governor of South Carolina, made it clear during the 2016 campaign that she was not a Trump fan. As the Republican tasked with giving the response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union that year, she said, without naming names, that “during anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices.” She also said she that would not support Trump and that he represented “everything a governor doesn’t want in a president."
Haley was then tapped as Trump’s U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and as someone who represented the administration to global leaders, she defended him and instead dressed down his critics.
5. Deputy press secretary Raj Shah
After the “Access Hollywood” tape, Shah, then a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, sent emails to a colleague disparaging Trump. In private messages obtained by New York magazine, Shah wrote that he was “kinda enjoying this, some justice. I honestly don’t think it’s the worst thing he’s done but he somehow got passes for the other acts.” He also called Trump “deplorable.”
But after Trump won the presidency, Shah was an early hire for the White House press team and has since appeared many times in front of the cameras as a Trump surrogate.