The hot picks for Trump’s cabinet
and what drives them.

Rex W. Tillerson

  • Big oil: He was the chairman and CEO of US oil giant ExxonMobil, which generated profits of $16 billion in 2015.
  • Russia: President Vladimir Putin awarded him the 2013 Order of Friendship and he has extensive business experience in Russia. Tillerson also opposes economic sanctions against Russia.
  • Boy Scouts: He led the US-based organisation from 2010 to 2012 and led the push to let openly gay boys join the group.
  • Climate: Accepts that man-made climate change is occurring and argues for the introduction of a carbon tax.

James M. Mattis

  • “Mad Dog Mattis”: A nickname earned due to his outspokenness, including infamous comments such as, “it’s quite fun to fight…guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil”.
  • “Warrior-monk-intellectual”: Another moniker for the voracious reader with a personal collection of around 7,000 books on military history.
  • Hostile to Iran: He opposes the nuclear deal with Iran, a country, that he believes seeks the nuclear bomb at all costs.
  • Obstacle: He was a soldier just two years ago. A tacit rule is that the Defense Secretary has not been in the military for at least seven years.

Wilbur Ross

  • “The king of bankruptcy”: Nickname earned for his legendary knack of buying troubled companies cheap and selling them for profit, earning him an estimated $2.9 billion fortune.
  • History in casino business: First encountered Trump in the 1990s when bondholders were gunning for the casino tycoon’s assets after Trump failed to pay back his loans. Ross helped Trump retain control of the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City.
  • Disgruntled writer: After his studies, he contemplated writing novels, but a Wall Street internship convinced him to pursue a career in finance.
  • Opportunistic: After the 2008 financial crisis, he invested in several troubled banks in the UK, Greece and Cyprus.

John F. Kelly

  • Four-star general: During his 40-year military career, he has commanded troops in both South America and the Middle East.
  • The wall: Like Trump, he supports the construction of a wall on the Mexican border to fight drug trafficking and illegal immigration.
  • Women in the army: Hostile to the presence of women in elite combat units and has criticised the Obama administration's moves to allow more women to serve in combat roles.
  • Pro-Guantanamo: He also believes conditions in the infamous detention camp are “not hard".

Mike Pence

  • The Convert: Born into an Irish Catholic family, he embraced Evangelical Christianity during his university years when he met his future wife. In politics, Pence also went against the family’s Democrat-supporting grain to become a Republican.
  • The Koch brothers: The influential billionaire brothers made Pence one of their favorites. During his 2013 Indiana gubernatorial race, they contributed $300,000 to the ultra-conservative candidate’s campaign.
  • “Pravda on the plains”: As Indiana governor, Pence tried to start a “state-run taxpayer-funded news outlet that will make pre-written news stories” for the media. The project, dubbed “Pravda on the plains,” was abandoned.
  • Radio: In the 1990s, he hosted the talk radio programme, “The Mike Pence Show”.

Scott Pruitt

  • Climate change sceptic: He said the debate on global warming “is far from settled”.
  • Anti-EPA: A self-described “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” he has sued the agency four times as Oklahoma’s attorney general.
  • Friend of the energy lobby: CHis close ties to energy lobbyists is well-known. A 2014 New York Times investigation found energy lobbyists had drafted letters that Pruitt sent to various departments highlighting the economic hardship caused by environmental regulations.
  • Baseball fan: He was co-owner of the Oklahoma City RedHawks team.

Betsy Devos

  • Billionaire’s daughter: Her father, Edgar Prince, was the founder of the Prince Corporation, the giant automobile parts supplier.
  • Billionaire’s wife: She is married to Dick DeVos, multi-billionaire heir to the Amway direct sales fortune, estimated at $5.4 billion.
  • Controversial brother: Erik Prince, a former US Navy Seal and founder of Blackwater, the private mercenary company that played a substantial, controversial role in the Iraq War.
  • Education: Her four children are enrolled in private religious institutions.

Tom Price

  • Anti-choice: Has never voted pro-choice, has co-sponsored a bill in the House to define human life as beginning at conception and supports the “conscience clause” which allows medical practitioners to deny reproductive care in keeping with their religious beliefs.
  • Anti-gay marriage: Supports a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a “union between a man and a woman”.
  • Anti-Obamacare: Considered one of the fiercest opponents of Obama’s law on affordable healthcare.
  • The doctor: He was an orthopedic surgeon for 20 years before entering politics.

Steven Mnuchin

  • Campaign financier: He led Trump’s campaign fundraising efforts.
  • Financier in real life: A Wall Street veteran, former Goldman Sachs banker and hedge fund co-founder.
  • Cinema mogul: He has invested in several Hollywood films, including “Avatar”.
  • “White saviour” fiancée: He is engaged to Scottish actress Louise Linton whose self-published memoir, “In the Congo’s Shadow”, about her gap year in Zambia was slammed for its patronising “jungle narrative” inaccuracies.

Linda McMahon

  • The Wrestler: Her husband, Vincent McMahon, is the co-founder of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). She served as WWE CEO from 1997 to 2009.
  • Unmatched generosity: She donated $6 million to support Trump's candidacy, making her a major campaign contributor.
  • Political failures: She ran for Senate in 2010 and 2012 from Connecticut under the Republican ticket, but failed both times.
  • Criticism of Trump: She felt during the campaign, Trump did not help “to put women in the best light”.

Jeff Sessions

  • The loyalist: He was the first Republican senator to support Donald Trump.
  • Racism: He was denied a federal judgeship in 1989 after lawmakers heard testimony that he had used a racial slur. At his confirmation hearing, he rejected allegations that he once supported the Ku Klux Klan as “damnably false”.
  • Immigration: A fierce opponent of comprehensive immigration reform in Congress, he opposes the creation of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and wants to limit legal immigration to the maximum.
  • Climate-sceptic: He famously said carbon dioxide is “plant food. It’s not a pollutant in any normal definition”.

Elaine L. Chao

  • From Bush to Trump: Served as George W. Bush’s Labour Secretary.
  • The Immigrant: Born in Taiwan, Chao arrived in the US aged 8.
  • The Murdoch empire: She is a frequent commentator on the conservative Fox News channel and sits on the News Corp board of directors.
  • Political insider: A Washington DC insider, she is married to Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican for Kentucky and majority leader.

Mike Pompeo

  • Pro-NSA: An ardent defender of the NSA's spying powers, he deems it “vital to defeat radical Islamist terrorism”.
  • Cavalry in Berlin: After graduating from West Point, he served as a cavalry officer patrolling the Berlin Wall before its 1989 fall.
  • Hostile to Iran: He is a fierce critic of the Iran nuclear deal and supports regime change in Tehran.
  • From business to politics: He founded Thayer Aerospace and Private Security, which he sold in 2006. He then became president of an oilfield equipment company before being elected three times to the House of Representatives.

Andrew F. Puzder

  • Businessman: The fast-food mogul is CEO of CKE Restaurants and is estimated to earn 300 times more than the average worker in his company.
  • Sexism: When criticised for his group’s sexist TV ads, he said, “I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis”.
  • Minimum wage critic: An outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s labour protection measures, Puzder is against raising the minimum wage.
  • Pro-robot: Has threatened to replace workers with machines when confronted with a minimum wage requirement. “They're always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late,” he said.

Reince Priebus

  • Longevity: He had been chairman of the Republican National Committee since 2011, becoming the longest serving head of the Republican apparatus.
  • Saving Paul Ryan: He is close to the House speaker and is set to serve as an intermediary between the so-called "angry" Trump team and the GOP.
  • Musician: He plays the piano and won several competitions in his youth.
  • Women and minorities: After Mitt Romney’s defeat in the 2012 race, he wrote a report arguing that the Republican party must reach out to women and minorities. But then he supported a candidate that didn’t.

Nikki Haley

  • Indian origin: Daughter of Indian Sikh immigrants, she was born Nimrata Randhawa.
  • Entered the national spotlight: In 2010 when she became the first woman to be elected governor of South Carolina.
  • Anti-Trump: A Marco Rubio supporter on the campaign trail, she called Trump’s anti-immigrant discourse “irresponsible” and added, “I will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the KKK”. She did stop however.
  • Inspired by Hillary Clinton: She has said she decided to enter politics after hearing a 2003 speech by the Democrat.

Michael Flynn

  • A Democrat: A registered Democrat, he was the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency under Barack Obama.
  • Islamophobia: His anti-Muslim pronouncements, such as Sharia law is spreading in the US, are so well known, they were dubbed “Flynn facts” in the Defense Intelligence Agency.
  • Axis of Evil revisited: In his book, "The Field of Fight”, he said North Korea, Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela were allied with “radical Islamists”.
  • Pro-Erdogan: His consulting firm Flynn Intel Group’s client list includes Kamil Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman with close links to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ben Carson

  • Failed bid: He ran against Trump for the 2016 Republican presidential candidacy.
  • Respected surgeon: He became director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital at 33.
  • Serial blundering: While defending the right to bear arms, he said, “the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed”.
  • Cinema: The TV movie “Gifted Hands” is based on his life from 1961 to 1987.

Stephen Bannon

  • Breitbart: Former boss of right-wing Breitbart news site, which openly campaigned for Trump.
  • Seinfeld: Has a financial stake in five TV shows, including Seinfeld.
  • Lenin: Calls himself a Leninist because, “Lenin wanted to destroy the state and that’s my goal too.”
  • Anti-elitist elite: A Harvard graduate, he worked for over a decade at Goldman Sachs.

Rick Perry

  • Anti-Energy Department: When he was candidate for the 2011 Republican primary, the former Texas governor declared he would abolish the Energy department. He even forgot the department’s name during a debate.
  • Flip-flopper: He began his career as a Democrat before becoming a Republican. He was among the first to jump on the Tea Party bandwagon.
  • Rebooting: His cowboy boots, nicknamed “liberty” and “freedom”, have earned media fame.
  • Cheerleader: He was a cheerleader in Texas A&M University’s all-male team. Their final act was to squeeze their private parts so as to share the players’ pain.

Dan Coats

  • Berlin, 2011: He was appointed US Ambassador to Germany three days before September 11, 2001. He remained there until 2005.
  • Anti-Putin: He is a virulent critic of Moscow, unlike Trump. In 2014, he was among a group of Congressmen banned from Russia due to US sanctions. “I won’t be able to go on vacation with my family in Siberia,” he joked.
  • Washington Veteran: He won his first Congressional election in 1980 and has served in both houses of parliament.
  • Gays in the army: He was one of the authors of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that required LGBT soldiers to remain discreet about their sexual orientation.

Ryan Zinke

  • Military service: He served as a US Navy Seal for 23 years, doing tours in Iraq and winning awards for meritorious service in combat zones.
  • Pro-Keystone pipeline: He is in favor of the controversial TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, which was blocked by President Barack Obama.
  • Flip-flopper: In 2010, he argued that global warming would have a "catastrophic" effect on the global economy. In 2014, he became a climate change skeptic.
  • Shady check: In 2014, his Congressional election campaign received a $500 donation from Earl Holt, a white supremacist and suspect in the Dylan Roof murder case. He later donated the sum to a fund for victims of the Charleston shooting.

Robert Lighthizer

  • Anti-China: In 2011, he accused Beijing of “manipulating exchange rates” and “intellectual property theft”.
  • Anti-WTO: Trump’s pick to defend the US in the World Trade Organization once claimed “anti-American bureaucrats” ran the institution.
  • Déjà vu: He is one of the few on the Trump team with government experience. He was Ronald Reagan's deputy trade representative in the early 1980s.
  • Lawyer: He is a specialist in negotiating trade agreements for major groups, such as the US steel industry.

Herbert Raymond McMaster

  • A thinker: Before his appointment, the three-star general was in charge of planning and preparing US forces for future armed conflicts.
  • Field experience: He made a name for himself during the first Gulf War, Desert Storm, in 1991, but also in Afghanistan in 2010. He is known for showing local populations deep respect.
  • Politically independent: He has no known political leanings. He has criticised the US military strategy employed in Vietnam as well as the 2003 US military campaign in Iraq.
  • Second choice: President Donald Trump nominated former vice-admiral Robert S. Harvard as his top pick for the job, but Harvard turned the offer down, citing family and financial reasons.


Journalist Sébastian Seibt - France 24
Design and development Studio Graphique France Médias Monde
Photos AFP