Outsiders Selected by Trump Aim to Unnerve Washington

Outsiders Selected by Trump Aim to Unnerve Washington

They are President-elect Donald J. Trump’s disrupters.

Seven men and one woman named by Mr. Trump to run vast government agencies share a common trait: once they are confirmed, their presence is meant to unnerve — and maybe even outright undermine — the bureaucracies they are about to lead.

Some of those chosen — 17 picks so far for federal agencies and five for the White House — are among the most radical selections in recent history. Other presidents’ nominees, even when controversial, were often veterans of the Washington bureaucracy and generally believed in it. But a number of Mr. Trump’s most important selections have no experience in federal government and a great drive to undo it.

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Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma state attorney general who was picked to lead the E.P.A., rejects the established science of human-caused climate change and has built his career on fighting environmental regulations. At the Education Department, Betsy DeVos wants to steer government money away from traditional public schools. Rick Perry was picked to head the Energy Department — unless he eliminates it, as he once promised.

Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, the conservative Republican who was chosen as White House budget director, refused to back the 2011 deal to raise the federal debt limit and helped to bring the United States to the brink of default.

“Donald Trump ran to make the governing people uncomfortable,” said Andrew H. Card Jr., who served as chief of staff to former President George W. Bush and as transportation secretary for his father. “He clearly picked people to lead some of these departments who will be challenging to the insiders.”

As Mr. Trump finishes announcing his choices for cabinet and senior White House aides, a picture is emerging of an administration with little ideological cohesion and no single animating purpose. They are neither all hard-right conservatives, nor all mainstream conservatives. They are not all insiders or outsiders. Some have known Mr. Trump for years. Others met him in the weeks since he was elected.

Instead, Mr. Trump has recruited people to lead his government who can be roughly grouped into categories that appeal to the different parts of his psyche. In addition to the disrupters, there are the dealmakers, the loyalists, the establishment and the generals.

Mr. Trump’s administration so far reflects the people who worked for and advised him during the campaign. It is mostly men, and mostly white. Many of his picks are extraordinarily rich, though not all. Loyalty is at a premium — except when it isn’t. (Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s choice for national security adviser, was an early supporter who was rewarded. Todd Ricketts, who may become deputy commerce secretary, was a leader of the “Never Trump” movement.)

There is “no overarching theory,” said Pete Wehner, who was deputy director of speechwriting for Mr. Bush and a fierce critic of Mr. Trump during the campaign. “He’s not being driven by the usual impulses, which would be policy or ideology or political philosophy.”

Here is a look at the groups:

The Disrupters

Few things made Mr. Trump’s campaign supporters roar with approval more than when he hammered the “political class in Washington,” telling people at his rallies that the government had betrayed them, and vowing that change was coming.

At many agencies, it may soon arrive. In addition to Ms. DeVos, Mr. Pruitt, Mr. Perry and Mr. Mulvaney, the disrupters include Ben Carson, chosen to lead the Housing Department; Andrew Puzder as labor secretary; Representative Tom Price of Georgia to oversee the Health and Human Services Department; and Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama as attorney general.

The disrupters appear to have been picked in part for their singular ability to shake up the normal course of business at their agencies.

Mr. Sessions, whose 1986 nomination as a federal judge was rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate because of testimony from colleagues that he was a racist, is likely to push for wholesale changes at the Justice Department by imposing conservative positions on immigration, terrorism, crime, drugs and guns. He is almost certain to reverse Obama-era efforts to confront civil rights violations, sentencing disparities and police abuses.

Mr. Carson, a surgeon who has no experience in housing or running a large government agency, has already put housing advocates on notice that he does not think much of current programs for the poor. Mr. Puzder, who owns fast-food chains and is opposed to raising the minimum wage, is a longtime critic of his department’s approach. Mr. Price, who waged a crusade against the Affordable Care Act in Congress, could soon be in a position at H.H.S. to lead the drive to repeal and replace it.

Mr. Trump demonstrated his desire for a disruptive force when he named Mr. Pruitt to head the nation’s top environmental agency. While saying that his administration “strongly believes in environmental protection,” he previewed the kind of change he is looking for.

“For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs,” he said, adding that Mr. Pruitt “will reverse this trend.”

The Dealmakers

As he creates an administration in his own image, perhaps no category is more natural for the author of “The Art of the Deal” than the dealmakers.

Mr. Trump, who puts a premium on the ability to negotiate in business and finance, has chosen Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor, to lead the Commerce Department; Steven Mnuchin of Goldman Sachs to lead the Treasury Department; and Rex W. Tillerson, the chairman of Exxon Mobil, who has a longtime relationship with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, to be secretary of state.

“To me, a great advantage is he knows many of the players, and he knows them well,” Mr. Trump said last week during an interview about Mr. Tillerson on “Fox News Sunday.” “He does massive deals in Russia. He does massive deals for the company — not for himself — for the company.”

Mr. Mnuchin made a fortune through financial deals and now becomes the nation’s top financial official. Mr. Ross, a “vulture” investor on Wall Street, bought nearly dead companies and made huge profits when his turnaround strategies worked.

The Loyalists

Like most future presidents, Mr. Trump has also positioned loyal, trusted aides to be close to him at the White House.

Four of the loyalists — Reince Priebus, who will be White House chief of staff; Stephen K. Bannon, chief strategist; Donald F. McGahn II, White House counsel; and Mr. Flynn, national security adviser — will occupy the most coveted real estate in the West Wing.

The president has also tapped Linda McMahon, the former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, to oversee the Small Business Administration. Ms. McMahon has known Mr. Trump for years, long before he considered running for president. In 2007 on W.W.E., Mr. Trump took down Vince McMahon, Ms. McMahon’s husband and the chairman of the organization, in what was billed as the “Battle of the Billionaires.”

All five loyalists stuck by Mr. Trump during the toughest of times in the campaign. Mr. Priebus, the departing chairman of the Republican Party, came late to joining the Trump team, but refused to waver publicly when the Washington establishment was rushing to condemn Mr. Trump during various scandals, particularly a leaked “Access Hollywood” recording that captured Mr. Trump boasting about grabbing women by their genitals.

Mr. Bannon, who has been accused of embracing white nationalist views as the head of Breitbart News, was always there, whispering advice to Mr. Trump in the background, if not officially in charge of campaign strategy. Mr. Flynn and Mr. McGahn are veterans of Mr. Trump’s campaign world, having secured their posts in the administration through longevity.

Loyalty goes only so far, however. Four of Mr. Trump’s most avid supporters so far have no role in the new administration: Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey; Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker; Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas; and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City.

The Establishment

If there was one group Mr. Trump repeatedly derided on the campaign trail, it was the establishment.

It was filled with the “stupid” people who ran the government poorly, Mr. Trump said. It represented the Washington swamp that he pledged to drain. When it looked like he might not win, he blamed them.

But Mr. Trump hasn’t shunned the establishment as he sets up his government. He has chosen Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, as his envoy to the United Nations; Representative Michael Pompeo of Kansas for C.I.A. director; and Elaine Chao as his secretary of transportation.

Ms. Haley, a rising star in the Republican establishment, endorsed Senator Marco Rubio of Florida during the primaries.

Mr. Pompeo, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, is well-connected in the nation’s capital.

And there are few people who define the Republican establishment more than Ms. Chao, who, in addition to having served in cabinet posts during both Bush administrations, is married to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader.

The Generals

Ultimately there may be no more direct expression of Mr. Trump’s psyche in his administration picks than the generals.

Despite saying during the campaign that he knew more about the Islamic State than generals did, Mr. Trump is now embracing the retired leaders of America’s military.

That explains Gen. James N. Mattis, who was responsible for American military operations in the Middle East as head of United States Central Command, or Centcom, and is now Mr. Trump’s pick for defense secretary. It also explains Gen. John F. Kelly, who oversaw American military operations in Central and South America as head of United States Southern Command and is now Mr. Trump’s choice for homeland security secretary. It also may help frame his choice of Representative Ryan Zinke of Montana, a former Navy SEAL commander, to be interior secretary. While not a general, Mr. Zinke served in Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo and the Pacific. His autobiography, “American Commander,” was published recently.

Mr. Trump particularly likes “Mad Dog Mattis,” the former Centcom commander’s nickname.

“Mad Dog Mattis!” Mr. Trump said to a roar of applause at a recent rally in Fayetteville, N.C. “Mad Dog plays no games, right?”

Mr. Trump called General Mattis, who led a Marine division to Baghdad during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, one of “the most effective generals that we’ve had in many, many decades.”

Published at Sat, 17 Dec 2016 17:10:07 +0000