A Guide to Trump’s D.C. Game of Musical Chairs, Part I

Steve Russell

President-elect Donald J. Trump reportedly was too superstitious to worry about staffing his administration until after he won the election. He now has hundreds of appointments to make very quickly, most of whom will be chosen by somebody he delegates.

President-elect Trump’s first personal act was to jerk back the authority he had delegated to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to head up the transition team. Christie was one of the first establishment Republicans to endorse Trump, and Christie’s appointment came before some of his closest aides and appointees were convicted of felonies for shutting down traffic on the busiest bridge in the U.S. to punish a small town mayor for failing to endorse Christie’s reelection.

The criminal prosecution was vigorously contested, but the one thing the defendants from Christie’s team and the prosecutors agreed about was that Christie knew about the political shutdown, and approved. Christie denies that and he has not been charged in the scandal. Any speculation that Trump demoted Christie for show was crushed when the people Christie had brought with him were reassigned and replaced by staff from Christie’s replacement, Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Christie remains, unless he gets charged in the bridge closing scandal, what we call in the political world a “must hire,” one who has carried so much water for the boss that he is entitled to a government salary, whether or not there is real work attached to it.

In an article titled, “The Trump Cabinet is Shaping Up to be a Total Sausagefest,” New York reported, “loyalty is the golden ticket into the Trump administration.” Since Trump had to fight the Democrats and establishment Republicans to get elected, it’s understandable that he wishes to reward the few, the proud, the Trumpistas.

Trump’s inner circle is his family, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump. Also playing an outsized role is Jared Kushner, aka Mr. Ivanka Trump.

When Christie was a federal prosecutor, he got Kushner’s father Charles a year in the Club Fed for making illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering. New Jersey.com reported that when Christie had the inside track for Trump’s Vice President, it was Jared Kushner who sunk him.

Powerful as the Trump offspring are, they cannot play Washington musical chairs themselves because of a law passed after Republicans went ballistic over John F. Kennedy turning to his brother Robert F. Kennedy for an Attorney General he could trust. The current crop of Republicans could repeal the ban on nepotism in the Cabinet, but there has been no move in that direction.

From out here in fly-over country, it appears that Trump is trying to reward the people who stood for him. In the service of rewarding those who carried his political water, the same names come up on everybody’s list.

Christie is mentioned for Attorney General, Secretary of Homeland Security or Secretary of Commerce, according to Buzzfeed, CNN and Newsmax.

Newsmax is probably the best-connected outlet trying to cover this story. Like Fox News, it has a right-wing political agenda and current and former board members are a who’s who of politicians too far “out there” for the mainstream but not quite enough for Breitbart. Newsmax not only presumes to rank the candidates, it asserts that Secretary of the Treasury has been “promised” to Trump’s finance chairman, Steve Mnuchin, formerly of Goldman, Sachs.

Goldman, Sachs is the behemoth investment bank that managed to turn a profit on the Great Recession because the taxpayer bailout of investment banks to save the commercial banking system was designed to pay off the exotic obligations that caused the crash 100 cents on the dollar.

The political left dubbed the bank “Golden Sacks” and complained loudly about many high-ranking government officials who had just walked through a revolving door between Goldman, Sachs and the government. That revolving door continued to turn whether the boss was George W. Bush or Barack Obama, and Goldman, Sachs was one of the venues where Hillary Clinton gave her famously expensive speeches.


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