There are 67 days until Donald Trump’s inauguration, a fact that seems to have surprised the president-elect – who reportedly never thought he’d remain in the race past October 2015 – as much as anyone. According to the Wall Street Journal, not only was Trump “surprised by the scope” of the president’s duties when President Obama explained them to him in private last week, but his aides were unaware they would need to hire an entirely new White House staff.
On Sunday, his transition team got to work, announcing its first two hires. Unfortunately for anyone still waiting for the mythical Trump pivot, the president-elect is poised to stock his cabinet with many of the same unsavory characters who enabled his unlikely rise. The Trump White House’s first two employees are Breitbart News Executive Chairman Steve Bannon and RNC Chair Reince Priebus.
Hatewatch groups immediately denounced the selection of Bannon as “chief strategist” to President Trump. “It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ – a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists – is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. The Southern Poverty Law Center called Breitbart “a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.” Members of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, were also said to be “apoplectic” about the hire.
Priebus’ appointment as chief of staff, meanwhile, was welcomed by establishment Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan, who tweeted he was “very proud and excited for my friend Reince.” Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio state official and transition team member, accidentally made an unfortunate comparison to the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini: “Reince is going to utilize his personal connections with the speaker and others, to make the trains run on time,” Blackwell said.
The New York Times has a shortlist of candidates vying for other administration positions, and it’s not pretty. Chris Christie, who performed a mock trial of Hillary Clinton in an RNC speech that, depending on your perspective, was either rousing or “an open rejection of ethical norms for lawyers that disqualifies him to be a prosecutor of any kind, let alone the nation’s top one,” is reportedly in the running for attorney general. His competition for the job is Clinton health conspiracy theorist Rudy Giuliani.
Outspoken climate change denier Myron Ebell is leading the EPA transition, and is a top pick to replace Gina McCarthy as the agency’s administrator. But if President Trump follows through on his campaign promises, there may not be much left for Ebell to administrate – Trump said in March he was going to “get rid of [the EPA] in almost every form. We are going to have little tidbits left but we are going to take a tremendous amount out.”
Sarah “Drill, Baby, Drill” Palin is being floated for secretary of the interior – the official in charge of oil, coal and gas exploration.
Lt. General Michael Flynn, a fierce defender (and occasional dinner guest) of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been mentioned as a possible defense secretary and national security adviser. He has called President Obama a “liar” and led “Lock her up!” chants about Hillary Clinton.
Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, famous for illegally ordering his officers to racially profile individuals, and one of the country’s most prominent “birthers” (after the president-elect, of course), is reportedly a candidate for secretary of homeland security. Among his competition is Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, who intimated Hillary Clinton’s head should be cut off and called for “pitchforks and torches” if she was elected.