Members of Congress who risked ridicule from their colleagues to support Donald Trump during the presidential campaign have seen their loyalty rewarded with greater influence and access.
“He absolutely values loyalty, particularly to those who were with him through thick and thin,” said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., who became the first member of Congress to publicly support Trump when he announced his endorsement on February 24.
“Those of us who stood firm in our support, many of those are being named to some of the top posts, but they also are extremely talented people,” he added.
As one who stood with the real estate mogul through everything, Collins could have hoped for the position of his choice, but has opted to remain in Congress and act as an informal congressional liaison.
“I made very clear that the right place for me at this stage in my life was in Congress,” Collins told Foxnews.com, adding they both agreed he would assume an informal role as a congressional liaison to the transition team.
Another transition team member, Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn, agreed loyalty is an important consideration for a president who is making many of the decisions himself.
“I see him as putting on a personal touch. This is not going to be a transition where the decisions are going to delegated. This is one where the leader of the team is going to be involved in choosing a team,” she told Foxnews.com.
“He wants to build a team that can work together,” she added.
The core supporters in Congress will be able to shape the administration by staffing lower-level positions and sub-Cabinet level posts, and could be key figures in setting the agenda in Congress.
While critics scoff, John Hudak, a senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, says having a loyal inner circle is critically important to any leader.
“He most definitely is bringing in people who have been loyal to him, which is not always a negative. For any executive, having people who you can trust not to leak information and who can provide honest advice is a necessity,” Hudak told Foxnews.com
However, he added, “too much loyalty can be even more damaging if those loyalists are ‘yes’ men who do not feel comfortable enough to stand up to you.”
Hudak said President Obama’s administration provides a cautionary tale. While his cabinet was diverse, his inner circle were loyalists, like Valerie Jarrett, and “that created a bubble around him that proved to be harmful to him.”
Richard Johnson, chair of the Political Science department at Oklahoma City University agreed, telling Foxnews.com that “it is very common for a president to reward those who were loyal to him from the beginning, so it is not unusual that Donald Trump is doing the same with his Cabinet and administration selections.”
Blackburn noted that loyalty to those who boarded the Trump train first has not prevented Trump from naming a fierce critic, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, to serve as United Nations representative and that former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney remains in contention for secretary of state.
Two other congressional supporters – Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania and Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo – have seen their stock rise since Trump’s victory.
While former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao was picked to head the Department of Transportation rather than Barletta, the fierce advocate for immigration reform clearly has the president-elect’s ear.
“We talked. I’ve worked with the President-elect throughout the campaign. He knows my background and, as a member of the Executive Transition Team, we talked about the importance of his ideas and moving them forward in Congress and making sure that the transition goes well, as a member of that team. We talked about that, as I said, and some other things,” he told The Washington Post.
Barletta advised the campaign on immigration and transportation issues, but is being eyed as the next secretary of labor. Pompeo was tapped to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.