Despite the tough coverage of Donald Trump’s transition scramble, the president-elect could be in a position to name key Cabinet members far earlier than most of his predecessors.
Since 1968, George H.W. Bush was the only president-elect to announce Cabinet nominees within the first two weeks of the election.
Trump has yet to name a key Cabinet official, but the vetting and speculation has reached a fever pitch as top contenders stream in and out of Trump Tower in New York City. Several names already have surfaced as potential candidates for the secretaries of State, Defense and Treasury -- three of the most coveted posts.
“If you look at other administrations, we’re right on track,” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told Fox News.
Since 1968, George HW Bush is the only president-elect to announce cabinet nominations within the first week after Election Day. pic.twitter.com/AYQCkWkFjg— Fox News Research (@FoxNewsResearch) November 16, 2016
A whirlwind of meetings are set for Thursday, including between Trump and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who, according to a transition official, is being considered for a Cabinet post. Trump tweeted Thursday:
My transition team, which is working long hours and doing a fantastic job, will be seeing many great candidates today. #MAGA— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 17, 2016
Trump over the weekend made one appointment that is considered Cabinet-rank – Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus for White House chief of staff. The chief of staff is the highest-ranking official at the White House and typically has the ear of the president. Many analysts praised the move, saying Priebus, a Washington insider, could help Trump’s administration score early legislative victories. The appointment, meanwhile, of controversial former Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist drew criticism and even calls from Democrats to rescind the choice.
Conway defended Trump Wednesday, telling reporters, “You don’t form a federal government overnight, and these are very serious issues, very serious appointments, very serious considerations.” Trump and his advisers aggressively battled claims Wednesday that the transition effort was in “disarray.”
If Trump moves on some appointments even within the next week, he’d be well ahead of the historical curve.
George H.W. Bush was the only modern president to act so early, making four Cabinet announcements in the first two weeks after the 1988 election, including James Baker for secretary of state.
President Obama made one announcement in the third week after the 2008 election. The bulk of the nominations for almost every president since Nixon started coming in week six. Nixon, though, went his own way and announced all his selections during that week.
Most other presidents took more time, continuing to announce their picks leading up to the inauguration.
Former Obama adviser David Axelrod noted that Trump's "pace" was not lagging when compared to his predecessors.
Lots of reasons to be concerned about @realDonaldTrump transition but the pace of announcements isn't one of them. That's not a fair shot.— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) November 17, 2016
We hadn't made any major appointments at this point in 2008. I don't remember being criticized for it. https://t.co/3yXvA8g6bL— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) November 17, 2016
As Trump vets his prospects, a mix of loyalists and others has emerged.
Names being floated for top Cabinet positions include: Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton for Defense secretary; Texas Rep. Mike McCaul for Homeland Security secretary; and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for secretary of state.
Climate change denier Myron Ebell’s name has been mentioned to head up the Environmental Protection Agency. Already, environmental organizations are pushing back on naming him to the post.