Though the president of the United States is generally the face of the United States government, most of the actual work done by the executive branch could not be accomplished without the work of the President’s cabinet. The cabinet members serve as the heads of the federal agencies that make up the executive branch, and answer to the President as well as Congress. Additionally, they hold the position of advisors to the president, though the extent to which they are consulted for that purpose is dependent on the temperament of the president. Since he was declared the president-elect of the United States, Donald Trump has turned his cabinet selection process into something close to a reality television show. He captures media attention by parading candidates through Trump Tower, seemingly gauging the response to the potential choice. Trump has made significant progress in his choice of cabinet members, with only four spots currently without a choice. His choices so far have caused a litany of controversies ranging from the character of his cabinet picks to the lack of diversity to the complete disregard of his past claims that he would “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and career politicians. Here are some of the biggest names in his cabinet and the reason for their controversy:
- Jeff Sessions: Sessions has been picked for the position of Attorney General by Donald Trump. Sessions has served as a senator in Alabama for nearly 20 years, placing him quite deep into the “swamp” of Washington insiders that Trump vowed to destroy. He was previously denied a position as a judge due to previous racist statements made by him, which included referring to an NAACP lawyer as “boy” and saying that he didn’t think the Ku Klux Klan was very bad until he found out that some of them smoke marijuana. His extreme positions on immigration and criminal prosecution along with his overtly racist actions have made many Americans fearful that they will face criminal prosecution simply for being a part of a group of participating in an activity that is personally disliked by Sessions.
- Scott Pruitt: Pruitt has been chosen by Trump for the position of EPA Administrator. This choice has astounded many Americans as Scott Pruitt still believes that the debate over climate change is “far from settled”. He has a history of suing the EPA, notably over Obama’s Clean Power Plan which seeks to curtail emissions and decrease the United States’ contribution to global climate change. While he has stated that he plans to balance clean air and water with supporting businesses, many worry that he will break down the EPA to the point where their power to protect the environment will be nonexistent. Still, rules exist that prevent administrators from running their agencies like tyrants, so for the time being his power will still have limits.
- Mike Pompeo: Pompeo, Trump’s choice for CIA Director, has reflected very extreme positions regarding civil liberties. He has called for increased monitoring of American citizens by the NSA and has gone as far as saying that taking extra measures to encrypt data could be a red flag, and that Muslim leaders who do not do enough to condemn acts of terrorism could be considered complicit in it. These positions are worrisome when considering the breadth of personal information at the disposal of Pompeo, which many worry could be used to attack opponents of the administration.
Though some of these names are cause for concern, the agencies of the executive branch do not have unlimited power, and can be checked. The path that the Trump administration will go down remains to be seen, and only time will tell if major changes to the policies of these agencies are in store.