Some of Trump's biggest political donors are vying for plum overseas positions
Trump may be strategic and pick one or two Democrats for his Cabinet
Donald Trump faces challenges in filling key global diplomatic posts. Might the President-elect add a Democrat or two to his Cabinet? And there’s a debate swirling over who should lead the Republican National Committee.
These stories and more are all part of this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast, where we give you a glimpse of tomorrow’s headlines today.
1) Drain the swamp or reward the donors?
Rewarding big campaign donors with plum ambassador slots is a time-tested, bipartisan tradition. And despite his “drain the swamp” campaign mantra about shaking up Washington, there are early indications that Trump and his administration will follow the norm.
Julie Pace of The Associated Press shares reporting about how big GOP donors, including some who were at first reluctant to join Team Trump, are now angling for an overseas stint in, say, Paris, Rome or London.
“Some of these big Republican donors who came around and donated to his campaign in the general election are expressing interest in jobs, ” Pace explains. “I’m told they’re getting a pretty warm reception. When it comes to ambassadors, this is one of those areas where every time you have a new president you get complaints about the influence of money in our politics, and yet it always seems to play out the same way.”
2) A candidate for China ambassadorship?
The Trump victory tour includes a visit to Iowa this week, and one question is whether the President-elect will dramatically shake up the state’s politics.
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny reports that veteran Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is under consideration to be ambassador to China – a critical job perhaps made even more so now that Trump has irritated Beijing by taking a phone call from the leader of Taiwan.
Why Branstad? Well for starters he was on board with Trump from the moment it was clear the businessman would be the GOP nominee.
But there’s more, Zeleny says.
“Terry Branstad, the long-serving Republican governor, has long-standing relations with China….I talked with a couple of people in the Trump transition – they said he is indeed on the very top of the list for that. President Xi Jinping lived in Iowa for a time. Watch for that.”
3) Democrats in Trump’s Cabinet?
As President-elect Trump closes in on more Cabinet picks this week, there is talk of adding a Democrat or two. And – surprise – the choices may involve political gamesmanship.
Two Democratic senators from states carried by Trump – Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – are said to be among the prospective cabinet members. Both Heitkamp and Manchin also are up for re-election in 2018. They would be tough to beat, but if they were not on the ballot because they had Trump administration jobs, the GOP would likely be favored in both races.
Jonathan Martin of The New York Times says that math is not lost on top Trump advisers. But there is still the issue of whether the president-elect wants to bring in one or both, and the additional question of whether he is willing to offer a job the senators want.
“I’m told that the Trump folks want to make Joe Manchin the energy secretary,” Martin reports. “This is the brainchild, I’m told, of Reince Priebus … one complication though, my understanding is that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp prefers Interior or Energy. So there could be some haggling.”
4) Can Trump stay different as President?
Some Trump campaign promises are right out of the Republican playbook, like his pledge to cut taxes and regulation. Others, though – like big infrastructure spending or renegotiating trade deals to make them more favorable to American workers – are better fits on a Democratic wish list.
He was a different kind of candidate, and likely will be a very different kind of president.
So how will his supporters grade him?
It is a question the media will ask. But Abby Philip of The Washington Post notes it is also a challenge for the new White House political operation.
“His aides this week expressed acknowledgment that he can’t really break out of that mold. He can’t really become a typical Republican once he gets to Washington,” she says. “He has to keep being the outsider in Washington, especially when it comes to sticking it to both his party and to the other side.”
5) Christie for RNC job?
The big Cabinet jobs get the most attention, and deservedly so. But the President-elect also has to decide who he wants to lead his political party.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is in line to become White House chief of staff, and there is a growing list of candidates to replace him.
The highest-profile name is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Top Trump campaign aide David Bossie, a longtime conservative activist, is also said to be interested. Another name in the conversation is Nick Ayers, a member of Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s political team. And several GOP activists from key states, including Ronna Romney McDaniel, a niece of Mitt Romney whose resume includes serving as Michigan’s GOP state chairwoman, are also in the mix.
The protocol for picking an RNC chair is pretty simple: When you win the White House, you get to make the pick.
We don’t know who the President-elect favors, or even if he has progressed to that point of his lengthy to-do list.
Presumably Preibus will get some input, and he has discussed the position with friends and associates in recent days. Accounts of those conversations suggest Preibus wants to avoid picking a big ego who would be angling to become a power broker in Washington at the same time the new White House is trying to get its sea legs.
It’s safe to read that as evidence Preibus is skeptical of the Christie idea. But it’s also critical to remember this is President-elect Trump’s choice.