Leaked vetting documents showed that Trump's vetting process for picking high-level Cabinet nominees was an utter 'clown show.'
When he was running for office in 2016, Trump declared he would "surround myself only with the best and most serious people." Like so many other Trump promises, that turned out to be false.
Axios obtained a trove of nearly 100 leaked "vetting docs" — documents generated by Republican National Convention (RNC) employees during their examination of possible Trump nominees. They paint a picture of a man utterly unconcerned with personnel matters, and who had done no thinking about how a transition of power would occur, in a way that would have been disqualifying for any other president.
Roughly two dozen RNC employees, most only in their 20s, were tasked with researching Trump's candidates. That alone was a sharp departure from previous administrations, which spent several months before the election designing a transition team and highlighting the most likely candidates. Under Trump, he "[made] announcements on the fly, and his team scramble[d] to catch up."
This slipshod process — or complete lack of process — was described by some RNC vetters as "a disaster and "a shit-show."
Much of the vetting consisted of whether someone had ever said mean things about Trump. John Bolton, Trump's current national security adviser, got red-flagged because he said Trump's stance on NATO would "encourag[e] Russian aggression." Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she had concerns about Trump "as a person" and worried about his demeanor.
Other red flags were much worse. Fox News host Laura Ingraham was in the running to be press secretary, but she'd previously made outrageous statements like "people should wear diapers instead of sharing bathrooms with transgender people." Vetters were concerned the potential Homeland Security head Kris Kobach had ties to white supremacist groups.
Even the candidates who made it all the way through to confirmation had significant issues.
The red flag for former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was that his Russia ties "go deep." Seema Verma, the now-head of Administrator of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was an ethics nightmare. While advising Indiana about issues related to how the state would spend Medicaid funds, she was also getting paid by a client that received those funds. Ousted Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who had a bad habit of using taxpayer money to pay for private jets, had been flagged for problems with his management ability.
Trump's RNC researchers often did little more than briefly look at public records rather than doing an in-depth background check. Perhaps that's why they missed that Trump's candidate for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, had faced credible allegations of domestic violence in his past.
These vetters often didn't even know what positions they were vetting people for, but they knew possible candidates were poor choices no matter what the job. As one vetter said about Ben Carson, now head of HUD, "Oh gentle Ben is unqualified and thinks that pyramids store grain or whatever. Great. At least he's not beating his wife and his wife's not appearing on Oprah."
When your own vetters describe the vetting process as a "clown show," it's tough to get the "best people." But Trump didn't care.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.