Trump said he has 'one of the finest Cabinets.' Here are 14 reasons that's just not true.
In a new piece adapted from an upcoming book, Yahoo News correspondent Alexander Nazaryan reported that President Donald Trump has told him, "There are those that say we have one of the finest Cabinets."
It's an unsurprising boast for the man who has said he "hires the best people." But as Nazaryan noted, this isn't a "commonly held view." Indeed, even Trump admitted that there have been "some clinkers" among his Cabinet picks.
Some? In fact, Trump's Cabinet has been historically awash in scandal and incompetence, to a level that stuns many of the president's critics. Nearly every member of his Cabinet has sparked legitimate outrage during his or her term in office, which is only 2.5 years old.
Here are just 14 of the many outrages that the Cabinet has produced in the short period:
1. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price
Price was ousted from his role after Politico discovered he was using taxpayer funds to travel around the country by private jet. But it wasn't his only failing; he also helped oversee the administration and the GOP's failed push to repeal or overhaul Obamacare, which crashed and burned.
2. Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt
Trumps' first EPA administrator was forced out under a deluge of myriad scandals, which included extravagant spending and ethical conflicts.
3. Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
Like Pruitt, Zinke faced a wave of allegations of misconduct and ethical breaches. Even after he left the Cabinet in December 2018 under the shadow of multiple scandals, the department's inspector general said it was continuing several probes into his conduct.
4. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao
Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has largely flown under the radar for most of Trump's term. But that changed this week when the New York Times published a blockbuster story on her potential conflicts of interests as she has reportedly been boosting "the profile of her family’s shipping company, which benefits from industrial policies in China that are roiling the Trump administration."
5. Housing and Urban and Development Secretary Ben Carson
While Carson's tenure has been touched by scandal, it's mostly been marred by his apparent incompetence. This was on full display at a recent congressional hearing when he seemed to confuse a common real estate term with cookies.
6. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
The public perception of DeVos has largely been colored by her apparent incompetence, as she has shown little expertise in education, only ideological animosity toward public schools. But like many other Cabinet officials, her work and integrity have been tainted by conflict of interest scandals.
7. Defense Secretary James Mattis
Mattis was long seen as one of the most reliable and stable figures in Trump's Cabinet — before he resigned in protest over the president's Syria policy. And yet Mattis, too, had troubling scandals brewing, which largely went ignored because they were overshadowed by the perceived importance of having a serious check on Trump's reckless foreign policy instincts.
8. Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen
Nielsen's time overseeing DHS was not looked upon kindly by Trump, who appears to have been frustrated by her resistance to breaking laws on his behalf. In addition to being criticized by Trump and his allies, though, she was also seen as a disgrace by critics from the left. Most notably, she played a key role in one of Trump's worst policies yet: the systematic separation of migrant children from their parents. She appears to have not only participated in this ongoing atrocity but repeatedly lied about it. And adding to the horror of the policy, the administration never had a plan to reunite the families, an unknown number of whom remain separated.
9. Former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly
Kelly, of course, eventually became Trump's chief of staff, but he served as the head of DHS first. And during that time, he made clear that the department was considering the family separation policy for exactly the reason that the administration would later deny: deterring migrants from coming to the United States and seeking asylum.
10. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Trump likely thinks of Sessions as one of the "clinkers" in his Cabinet because he failed to protect the president from the Russia investigation, one of the actions for which history will probably remember him most generously. There was plenty of scandal and controversy around Sessions' time in the Cabinet though, which includes, like Kelly and Nielsen, his role in the family separation policy.
11. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta
In one of the most bizarre and disturbing scandals of the Trump administration, Acosta has been found to have given accused billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein an absurdly generous plea deal in 2008, a series of events about which we still do not have all the answers.
12. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler
There's probably the most straightforward evidence in the case of Andrew Wheeler that he just should not have the job he holds. Before leading the agency that is meant to protect the environment, Wheeler was a lobbyist for the coal industry. This doesn't just create conflicts of interests; it's a blatantly obvious reason he never should have been considered for the position at all.
13. Attorney General Bill Barr
It's clear by now that Barr was picked by Trump to protect him from the Russia investigation. It's also clear that the choice worked. But even by Trump's standards, he should see Barr as a failure, because the attorney general has so obviously and blatantly twisted Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report and words that there's absolutely no chance that he will be seen as anything other than a partisan hack.
14. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
When Trump thinks of the "clinkers" in his Cabinet, he's probably thinking of Tillerson. While Trump probably got rid of Tillerson for the wrong reasons — Tillerson was a strong advocate for keeping the United States in the Iran deal, despite Trump's objections — it's pretty universally agreed that his tenure in the State Department was a disaster. The Atlantic declared him the "worst secretary of state in living memory."