Everything You Need to Know About Donald Trump’s Cabinet Thus Far

trump cabinet

At one of the fastest rates in history, President-elect Donald Trump has begun choosing his cabinet. He plans on meeting with more candidates this week in order to decide who his administration team and Secretary of State will be.

Rumors have it Mitt Romney is the most likely potential candidate for Secretary of State after praising Trump post-dinner Tuesday night. I guess we’ll have to wait and see and at this rate – it doesn’t seem to be long.

Here’s what we do know.

The following are a list of Senate-confirmed cabinet members:

National Security Adviser

While not a formal member of the cabinet, the National Security Adviser is known as the “gatekeeper” for policy proposals from the State Department, Pentagon and other agencies. The role of this adviser is to aide the President and their cabinet on national security issues and our foreign policy. Many see this as an important role and function due to Trump’s lack of experience in government and office. He has selected a retired Army lieutenant general and former director of Defense Intelligence Agency, Michael T. Flynn. Not only has Flynn been a passionate supporter of Trump throughout his campaign, but he has advocated his fear of Muslims and “radical Islam” numerous times. Despite having close financial and lobbying relationships with Turkish and Russian interests, he recently even claimed China and North Korea are pro-jihadist and anti-Western conspirators, adding to his list which includes Cuba and Venezuela. Alongside Trump’s lack of experience in office, this appointment raises red flags, both nationally and internationally, because of its importance to foreign policy and especially Flynn’s highly depicted Islamophobia and “sympathy” for white supremacy.

White House Chief Strategist

A non-traditional White House role, the White House Chief Strategist serves as another senior adviser to the President. While there are no known administrative duties, he/she is to take on a long term view on presidential strategy. The role allows for one to control the message of the or image of the President, including their social media strategy. Originally considered for Chief of Staff, Trump elected Stephen K. Bannon as his White House Chief Strategist. Described as a right-wing media executive and the chairman of Trump’s campaign, Bannon not only represents racist but sexist views and ideology. Known for once suggesting only property owners should vote, Bannon has numerously stated his opinion publicly of the “genetic superiority” of some people over others. Alongside many disturbing comments about Jews and Blacks, trending now is an interaction between Bannon and one of his former colleagues, Julia Jones.

Recounting her interactions with Bannon, former colleague Jones has reported to various news outlets such as the Daily Beast, and reporter Scott Shane’s conversations regarding generic superiority including the following:

“I said, ‘That would exclude a lot of African-Americans,’” Ms. Jones recalled. “He said, ‘Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.’ I said, ‘But what about Wendy?’” referring to Mr. Bannon’s executive assistant. “He said, ‘She’s different. She’s family.’”

[Read Related: You Cannot Designate Yourself an Ally by Wearing a Safety Pin]

White House Chief of Staff

The White House Chief of Staff is responsible for directing and planning all administrative, financial, and operational activities for the organization’s President, CEO, and/or Board of Directors. Meaning his/her role is to supervise White House Staff, set strategy, executive the vision of the President, control Presidential access and be the all-knowing advisor to the President. He/she plays the role of not only overseeing actions of the White House but is the main contact between not only management but important officials in Washington. Trump has elected Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, to steer his agenda and maintain his relationships. Priebus has recently announced that the denial of climate change will be the “default position” of the White House.

Although they still require Senate confirmation here are the current and latest list of Trump’s cabinet nominees:

Transportation Secretary

elaine-l-chao[Photo Source/Wikipedia]

Elaine L. Chao

Former Labor Secretary in the George W. Bush Administration, Chao will oversee Trump’s promise to increase infrastructure in rebuilding bridges, airports, roads and other transit systems. Chao became the first Asian-American woman to be named to a Cabinet post in 2001, heading the Labor Department for eight years. She is to play a critical role as Transportation Secretary, if Trump sticks to his promise of investing $1 trillion in transportation restoration. There is controversy on Chao’s nomination due to past incidents including two mining disasters in which 15 including miners and rescue workers had died. Chao had claimed that inspections were made, however from an inspector general report the following year, it was found the mines still went uninspected.

Health and Human Services Secretary

tom price[Photo Source/Wikipedia]

Tom Price

Sixth year Georgia Republican congressman and orthopedic surgeon opposed to the Affordable Care Act. His main role is to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act alongside heading a department that approves new drugs, dictates biomedical research, and operates Medicare and Medicaid, which insures more than 100 million Americans. Price’s support and policies seem to be “physician friendly.” Not only is Price against the Affordable Care Act, but Price also proposes individual tax credits to be based on age, not income. What does that mean? This would mean that those on government-sponsored health coverage, such as Medicare and Medicaid, could get a tax credit for opting out and purchasing different plans, in order to offset the cost of individual health coverage. The most important issue with his nomination is the potential effect on women’s reproductive rights. Not only has Price actively opposed access to free birth control but he has previously favored an amendment that would have allowed insurers to opt out of covering birth control due to religious or moral concerns. In 2015, he voted against a bill that prevented employers from firing workers for using contraception or seeking to terminate a pregnancy. Price has claimed all women can afford birth control and thus it does not need to be free. When asked about the access to birth control being limited to low-income women he stated to Think Progress, “Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one.” His lack of support of Planned Parenthood and history of supporting bills that not only oppose abortion but rights of those who use contraception shows his potential effect on women’s rights and reproductive health.

Commerce Secretary

wilbur ross[Photo Source/CNBC]

Wilbur Ross

Estimated by Forbes to be worth $2.9 billion. According to the New York Times, Ross has said the United States must free itself from the “bondage” of “bad trade agreements,” and has advocated threats to impose steep tariffs on China. The Commerce Secretary oversees the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Known as the “King of Bankruptcy”, Ross is a billionaire investor who would represent the interests of  U.S. businesses both domestically and internationally. His role would be to protect workers, focus on business globalization, and tackle the challenges faced by corporations.

[Read Related: ‘Not All Trump Supporters Voted for Racist Reasons’ but Here’s What They Did Do]

Education Secretary

betsy devos[Photo Source/Wikipedia]

Betsy DeVos

Seen as one of the worst and unqualified picks yet, Trump has selected DeVos, former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and “an education activist” as his nominee for Education Secretary. Not only does DeVos lack experience in Washington, she is an activist from Michigan, with experience in state policy. She has been a controversial pick as she has never attended nor sent her children to public school alongside advocating for profit schools. She spent nearly three decades trying to redirect American tax dollars away from public schools. Trump has said he plans to drastically change the Education Department as well as redirect responsibilities for curriculum research, development and educational aid to state and local governments. DeVos has been involved in many scandals in attempt to advocate her educational reforms including one involving Scott Jensen. Like many other current nominees, prior to her nomination she was not pro-Trump. Her lack of experience in education and teaching makes her a criticized candidate as the Education Secretary and not having a teaching background raises many red flags. Her lack of support for the common core curriculum and public schools also makes her a controversial candidate for this position.

UN Ambassador

nikki hayley[Photo Source/Wikipedia]

Nikki R. Haley

The UN Ambassador comes second to the secretary of state. This person represents the United States in the United Nations when discussing the country’s interests at Security Council meetings. Trump has selected governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley. Haley was known as a former critic of Trump during his campaign for Presidency which makes this another surprising pick. In an interview on the “Today” show on NBC, Haley had said, “Mr. Trump has definitely contributed to what I think is just irresponsible talk.” This was responded to with her being called weak on immigration and Trump claiming she had asked him for campaign contributions.  “She’s very, very weak on illegal immigration,” Trump said. “She’s very, very weak on illegal immigration. You can’t have that.” After this she had also condemned Trump for not speaking out against white supremacy, making her a strange pick for his cabinet. Haley has served in the South Carolina House of Representatives for six years from 2005-2011, representing Lexington County. She is been given credit for bringing more jobs to South Carolina as well as bringing the state’s unemployment rate to a 15-year low, according to Trump’s transition team. Criticisms arise with her nomination and while she has led trade missions overseas during her time as governor, she both lacks experience in foreign policy and has never held a federal governmental role.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

ben carson[Photo Source/Wikipedia]

Ben Carson

Trump is said to have extended a nomination to Carson, former neurosurgeon and presidential candidate. Carson has previously stated he does not want to work in government, however in other instances and on social media he has said: “After serious discussions with the Trump transition team, I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly to making our inner cities great for everyone. An announcement is forthcoming about my role in helping to make America great again.”

Created in 1960, the department is in charge of insuring more than $1 trillion in housing loans alongside managing billions of dollars in public housing money, rental assistance, and homelessness programs. It works alongside the Department of Justice to investigate claims of discrimination in housing and in the past has fought discrimination on behalf of nearly 100,000 Americans.

Carson seems to lack political experience, aside from his previous presidential run. His role would include overseeing fair-housing laws, the development of affordable housing and access to mortgage insurance. The Housing and Urban Development department has the ability to help poor and low-income Americans obtain good and affordable housing. It is unclear how his nomination and potential role will affect the fight against poverty, education and poor health associated with housing instability and urban development, though many seem to think he will do as little as possible to contribute to the causes.

[Read Related: Americans Aren’t the Only Ones Who Will Miss President Obama]

Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

mike pompeo[Photo Source/Wikipedia]

Mike Pompeo

According to the C.I.A website, the primary mission of the Central Intelligence Agency is to “collect, analyze, evaluate, and disseminate foreign intelligence to assist the President and senior U.S. government policymakers in making decisions relating to national security.” The role of the Director is to collect, correlate and evaluate intelligence related to national security and provide appropriate dissemination of such intelligence. He/she is also in charge of performing other functions and duties that relate to intelligence and affect national security as the President or Director of National Intelligence may direct.

Trump has selected Mike Pompeo, a Representative of Kansas and former Army officer as his nominee. Pompeo is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and is a strong critic of the Iran nuclear deal, stating on Twitter that he is “looking forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.” Pompeo has also heavily supported online surveillance programs. Regarding NSA contractor Edward Snowden, he has notably said, “I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence” because he “put friends of mine, friends of yours who serve in the military today at enormous risk because of the information he stole and then released to foreign powers.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has also accused Pompeo of Islamophobia after multiple statements he has made including one following the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Pompeo is a controversial and uneasy nominee for this position, making many uncomfortable with the ideology he might bring to the C.I.A.

Attorney General

jeff sessions[Photo Source/Wikipedia]

Jeff Sessions

The attorney general is the top law enforcement official and lawyer for the government. The nominee has the ability to change how civil rights laws are enforced and has authority on how the President’s law and order platform is carried out.

Trump has selected Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama as his nominee. Sessions has a strong opposition to immigration, with a passionate stance towards strict immigration enforcement. He is an advocate for reduced spending and “tough-on- crime” measures. He is best known for unsuccessfully prosecuting three civil rights activists for voter fraud. His nomination for a federal judgeship in 1986 was rejected because of racially charged comments and actions when he referred to the NAACP as “un-American.” He has also made many disturbing comments about students with disabilities. In a speech before Congress, he dismissed the Disabilities Education Act, claiming it was preventing teachers from executing the proper discipline to students. “We have children we cannot control because of this federal law,” he said. He is also said to have made comments on the Voting Rights Act claiming it is “an intrusive piece of legislation.” Much of what Sessions has said has caused many to see him unfit to be Attorney General. These alongside many other comments affecting marginalized groups have raised a red flag on his nomination. He has even brought up issues dealing with the War on Drugs, including insisting that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

More to come as we patiently wait for:

  • Secretary of State: Potential Mitt Romney
  • Defense Secretary
  • Director of National Intelligence
  • Interior Secretary
  • Agriculture Secretary
  • Labor Secretary
  • Energy Secretary
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs
  • Homeland Security Secretary
  • Environmental Protection Agency Administrator
  • U.S. Trade Representative
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By Aysha Qamar

Aysha Qamar is a writer, poet and advocate based in the tri-state area. She currently serves as BGM’s News and … Read more ›

Op-Ed: An Open Letter to President Biden in Light of Prime Minister Modi’s Visit to the States

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit
The following open letter is written by Hindus for Human Rights, an organization advocating for pluralism, civil and human rights in South Asia and North America, rooted in the values of Hindu faith: shanti (peace), nyaya (justice) and satya (truth). They provide a Hindu voice of resistance to caste, Hindutva (Hindu nationalism), racism, and all forms of bigotry and oppression.

Dear President Biden,

As Indian-Americans, human rights organizations, and concerned allies, we are writing to urge you to engage publicly and meaningfully to push back against the Indian government’s escalating attacks on human rights and democracy, especially ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the United States.

Despite objective evidence that India’s democracy is under critical attack, you have not spoken out about this crisis. In early 2023, Indian authorities conducted retaliatory raids on the BBC’s Delhi and Mumbai offices for releasing a documentary about Prime Minister Modi. The week before the Summit for Democracy, the Indian government made three successive attacks on Indian democracy. First, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party expelled Rahul Gandhi from Parliament. Second, the Indian government shut the internet down in Punjab, severely impacting the rights for Sikhs to peacefully organize and protest. And third, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that Indians can be found guilty by association for terrorism. And yet, not one representative from the Biden Administration said anything about even one of these developments. Instead, while Islamophobic violence gripped India in late March, you invited Prime Minister Modi to speak at the Summit for Democracy. Mr. Modi visits DC at a time when the state of Manipur has experienced heavy communal and anti-Christian violence after Modi’s ruling party pushed an initiative to undermine Indigenous rights in the state.

Even when confronted with questions by Indian reporters about human rights in India, your administration has only had private two-way conversations about how both of our governments can always improve. Quite frankly, we find it unacceptable to see such equivocation on Indian democracy from an administration that has been strident in its defense of American democracy and the rule of law. 

India is one of the fastest autocratizing nations in the world, mostly thanks to the current government. Freedom House has rated India as a “partly-free” country for the past three years, and has blamed Prime Minister Modi’s government for a rise in discriminatory policies, including persecution against Muslims and caste-based violence against Dalit and Adivasi communities; harassment of civil society, protestors, academia and the media, and the targeting of political opponents. It has also rated Indian-administered Kashmir as “not free,” citing violations of human, civil, and political rights after the Modi government revoked the territory’s autonomous status. In Reporters Without Borders press freedom ranking, India has dropped to 161 out of 180 countries in 2023. India has appeared in the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Impunity Indexwhich examines accountability for unsolved journalists’ murders — every year for the past 15 years and currently ranks in 11th place worldwide. According to PEN America’s Freedom to Write Index, in 2022, India was one of the top 10 countries that jailed writers globally. The Varieties of Democracy Institute characterizes India as an “electoral autocracy” and blames India’s descent into autocracy on Prime Minister Modi. And the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has said India has been one of the top 15 countries at risk for a mass atrocity event every year since 2017, which reflects the toxicity of Indian politics under Modi. 

Given the magnitude of this crisis, we ask you to engage directly with Indian-American and human rights civil society leaders to explore solutions to address India’s human rights crisis. We also ask you to employ the tools at your disposal to ensure that the Indian government cannot attack Indians’ human rights with impunity. As the 2022 Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor report details, several government individuals have committed human rights violations that, under U.S. law, would qualify them to be sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act. Indian security forces that have engaged in human rights violations should have security assistance rescinded, under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. 

Finally, we urge you to publicly call on the Indian government to honor its commitments to human rights, including calling on Prime Minister Modi and his cabinet to halt the use of anti-terror laws to arbitrarily detain political critics. You can publicly denounce the rising numbers of political prisoners and the weaponization of the rule of law in India to shut down criticism. Even if you are not willing to personally criticize the Prime Minister, you have ample opportunity to criticize the Indian government’s misuse of public trust and public institutions to consolidate power and undermine the will of the Indian people.

As President of the United States of America, you hold a unique position to lead the fight against authoritarianism. Prime Minister Modi will listen to you when you speak. But he and his allies will only change if you take a stand publicly. We urge you to listen to those of us who care about India and ensure that one man cannot steal the futures and the rights of our loved ones in India.

— Signed by countless organizations and individuals leading the charge (linked here).

Oak Creek: A Story of Hate, Hope and Healing

Every year on August 5th, the Sikh American community remembers one of our community’s most devastating tragedies in recent memory — the Oak Creek massacre. On this day in 2012, a white supremacist gunman entered the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, a gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin where he shot and killed six worshippers and severely injured others. This violent attack was the deadliest mass shooting targeting Sikh Americans in U.S. history, and at the time, was one of the worst attacks on a U.S. house of worship in decades. Six worshippers — Paramjit Kaur Saini, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Prakash Singh, Suveg Singh Khattra, and Satwant Singh Kaleka — were killed on that horrific day. An additional community member, Baba Punjab Singh, was severely paralyzed and ultimately passed away from complications related to his injuries in 2020. Others, including Bhai Santokh Singh and responding police officer and hero, Lt. Brian Murphy, were seriously wounded during the shooting. 

[Read Related: Oak Creek Gurdwara Massacre’s 4th Anniversary: Young Sikhs Express Optimism for the Continued Struggle Against Hate and Ignorance]

In 2022, the community came together to demonstrate that we are undaunted. My organization, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) joined in supporting the anniversary observance at Oak Creek: a remembrance event centered around the theme of “Heal, Unite, Act.” The Oak Creek Sikh community hosted a series of in-person events, including the 10th Annual Oak Creek Sikh Memorial Anniversary Candlelight Remembrance Vigil on Friday, August 5, 2022. The program included a representative from the White House, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, Oak Creek Mayor Dan Bukiewicz, and representatives of the families who lost loved ones. Being there in Oak Creek 10 years after the tragedy was deeply meaningful — both to see the inspiring resilience of this community and to remember how much remains to be done.

In D.C., SALDEF continues to fight for policies that improve the lives of Sikh Americans. I had the honor of chairing the most recent iteration of the Faith-Based Security Advisory Council at the Department of Homeland Security, providing recommendations at the request of Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. Consequently, the three subcommittees published a report that emphasized the importance of greater accessibility, greater equity, and greater transparency in counterterrorism efforts that for too long revolved around surveilling populations like the one that was senselessly attacked at the Oak Creek gurdwara in 2012. Leading the FBSAC as a Sikh woman, and representing a community that was highly targeted alongside Muslims by both white supremacists and in post-9/11 counterterrorism profiling, was an opportunity to push the Council to advocate more fiercely for further information-sharing between communities and law enforcement, extending grant opportunities for security for Gurdwaras and other houses of worship, and building trust between the government and Sikh communities. In addition, I advocated for accountability for the damage needlessly caused to Muslim, Arab, South Asian, and Hindu (MASSAH) communities by federal agencies historically pursuing “counterterrorism” objectives which has resulted in eroded trust rather than the development of strong partnerships. 

Although we have made great strides in this country, there is still more to do. Through our work we have partnered with many across the nation to come together and find solutions through tenets central to Sikhism and America — unity, love, and equality. SALDEF continues to strongly endorse the policy framework articulated across the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 350 / S. 963); Justice for Victims of Hate Crimes Act; and the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) Improvement Act (H.R. 6825). We believe strongly in mandating federal agencies to create dedicated offices to investigate domestic terrorism; allowing prosecutors to feasibly indict perpetrators of hate crimes; and allowing religious nonprofits to access federal funding to enhance their own security.

[Read Related: Anti-Sikh Hate is on the Rise: Here’s What we can Do]

While 11 years have passed, the effects of the Oak Creek shooting are never far from the minds of Sikh American advocates and the community we serve. SALDEF will not stop taking a stand against senseless violence and hate crimes. We continue to work in unity with our community and movement partners, and fight for better policies that will actively keep all of our communities safe. Through tragedy, we find hope. We know there can be a world where people from all backgrounds and cultures can practice their faith freely and, even though it has eluded the Sikh American community in the past, we still believe this world is possible.

Photo Courtesy of Amrita Kular

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By Kiran Kaur Gill

Kiran Kaur Gill is an accomplished professional with exemplary executive experience. In her role as Executive Director, she is responsible … Read more ›