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Donald Trump's Cabinet: Announcements so far

Last Updated Dec 13, 2016 10:23 AM EST

Three weeks out from Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential campaign, his transition team has already begun rolling out a series of top staff hires and Cabinet picks.

There are just over 4,000 political appointments to be made by the incoming Trump administration. About 1,200 of them will require Senate confirmation — the Cabinet secretaries and their deputies, as well as those appointees who will head independent agencies, like the CIA and EPA, for instance. These nominees will go through a vetting process and Senate hearing. 

Here’s a list of the top Cabinet and staff announcements Mr. Trump’s team has made so far, beginning with the most recent:

Energy Secretary: Rick Perry

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who once said he’d like to eliminate the Energy Department, sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 and again in 2016, when Mr. Trump eventually captured the nod.

The former Texas governor sits on two corporate boards - one of them is Energy Transfer Partners - and that may present a confirmation issue. Energy Transfer Partners has a subsidiary known as Dakota Access LLC, which is attempting to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. Recently, the Obama administration blocked the Dakota Access Pipeline easement through Lake Oahe, a move that jeopardized the 1,172-mile underground pipeline. The incoming Trump administration has said it will review the decision.

Perry has been tapped to lead an agency he has suggested should be shut down. Although when Perry ran for the 2012 GOP nomination, during a debate, he famously forgot the name one of the three agencies he had pledged to eliminate.

“The third agency of government I would -- I would do away with Education, the --Commerce...Commerce and, let’s see. I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry -- oops,” he said.

Later in the debate, Perry remembered, “It was the Department of Energy that I was reaching for before.”

Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson

Tillerson is the CEO of ExxonMobil, the largest oil company in the world. It operates in dozens of countries -- including Russia, which has sparked controversy recently for the Kremlin’s alleged involvement in the U.S. elections -- and has oil and natural gas interests on six continents.

The confirmation process for Tillerson could prove highly contentious, with some leading lawmakers already voicing concern about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Tillerson and Putin met in the 1990s when Tillerson worked for Exxon in Russia during Boris Yeltsin’s presidency and Putin worked for Yeltsin’s KGB with an eye toward Russian economic revitalization. Tillerson’s work had him dealing with Russian companies and the Russian government on a frequent basis.

At Putin’s behest, the Kremlin conferred on Tillerson Russia’s Order of Friendship in 2013. The state decoration rewards foreign nationals whose work has been aimed at bettering relations with Moscow.

Labor Secretary: Andy Puzder

Puzder is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns fast food restaurants Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. 

If he is confirmed by the Senate, the Labor Department would be led by a man who opposes dramatically raising the minimum wage. Puzder has argued that a higher minimum wage cuts profitability, forces businesses to cut jobs and increases reliance on automation. Another assertion he’s made is that raising the minimum wage does nothing structurally to break the cycle of poverty for the working poor.

Like Mr. Trump, Puzder also favors repealing and replacing Obamacare. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, he blamed rising health insurance premiums for reductions in restaurant revenues. He wrote that consumers, feeling pinched by premiums were also eating at home because of lower grocery-store prices, and that has resulted in “what you might call a government-mandated restaurant recession.”

Homeland Security Secretary: Retired Gen. John Kelly

Kelly is the third general tapped by the president-elect, joining Gen. James Mattis, Mr. Trump’s pick to become the next secretary of Defense, and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s incoming national security advisor.

Like Mattis, Kelly is a Marine with a reputation for bluntness.

Kelly was the commander of U.S. Southern Command until earlier this year. In that posting, he oversaw American military operations in South America and Central America.

Before that, he commanded American forces numerous times in Iraq, and spent a year as the top Marine in that country. He then was an aide to defense secretaries Leon Panetta and Robert Gates.

Kelly, who served nearly 46 years in the Marine Corps, is the highest-ranking American military official to lose a child in combat since 9/11. His son, Marine Lt. Robert Michael Kelly, was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010. 

Housing and Urban Development Secretary: Ben Carson

Carson, who has never held elected office and failed earlier this year in a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, speculated to Fox News before Thanksgiving that Mr. Trump’s consideration for the HUD position was in part due to Carson’s upbringing.

“I grew up in the inner city and have spent a lot of time there, and have dealt with a lot of patients from that area and recognize that we cannot have a strong nation if we have weak inner cities,” he said Tuesday.

The 65-year-old has no previous policy experience in the field of urban development.

Defense Secretary: Retired Gen. James Mattis

Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general and decorated war veteran, is a known opponent of the current White House policy on Iran, arguing that nothing has been done to counter Iran’s threat to stability in the Middle East. He has been a vocal critic of the Iran nuclear deal, saying earlier this year that it was “an arms control agreement that fell short.” 

If confirmed, Gen. Mattis, 66, is likely to deter Trump from engaging in isolationism and negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mattis has doubts about Russia’s intentions, saying it wants “to break NATO apart.”

The retired general also opposes waterboarding, a torture technique that Mr. Trump has promised he would legalize in the fight against ISIS. 

Mattis, however, could face a legal roadblock to his senate confirmation. The law specifically prohibits a person from serving as chief of the Defense Department “within seven years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force.” Mattis retired in 2013. The Trump administration will have to seek a congressional waiver for the appointment, allowing Mattis to serve.

Commerce Secretary: Wilbur Ross

An ally during Trump’s election campaign, the 79-year-old Ross is the billionaire chairman of WL Ross & Co., an investment firm that specializes in corporate restructurings.

During the campaign, Ross often appeared on business news shows to explain Trump’s positions, sometimes softening or downplaying the candidate’s protectionist trade policies.

Ross built his estimated $2.9 billion fortune by snapping up distressed industrial businesses, such as steelmaker LTV. Ross might be best known to voters as the owner of Sago Mine, a West Virginia coal mine where a dozen miners lost their lives in a 2006 explosion. He called that tragedy “the worst week of my life.”

Treasury Secretary: Steven Mnuchin

Mr. Trump announced Wednesday morning that he’d selected Mnuchin, who served as the national finance chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign, for the top Treasury Department job. This has been widely expected since Mr. Trump won the race for the White House. Earlier this month, Mr. Trump’s transition recommended Mnuchin for the post.

Mnuchin is a veteran of the finance world, spending 17 years at Goldman Sachs. Others who were reportedly considered for the job include JP Morgan Chase & CO CEO Jamie Dimon and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).

Transportation Secretary: Elaine Chao 

Elaine Chao, who served as labor secretary under President George W. Bush, is the first Asian-American woman to ever hold a Cabinet-level position. She served in the role from 2001 to 2009 — the only member of Bush’s Cabinet to serve through his entire eight years in the White House.

Before serving as labor secretary, Chao ran the United Way of America, was director of the Peace Corps and served as deputy treasury secretary under President George H.W. Bush. She is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).

Health and Human Services Secretary: Tom Price

Price, a five-term congressman hailing from the Atlanta suburbs, is the chairman of the House Budget Committee. He’s an orthopedic surgeon by trade, and was an early supporter of Trump’s presidential candidacy.

Price has also been a strong advocate, like his fellow Republicans, of repealing Obamacare. Price favors expanding health savings accounts and providing tax credits for purchasing health coverage.

Education Secretary: Betsy DeVos 

Betsy DeVos, a prominent charter school advocate from Michigan, has also chaired the state’s Republican party. She currently serves as chairwoman of the American Federation for Children, a school choice advocacy group.

She and her husband also head up the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, which has supported projects like the West Michigan Aviation Academy, a public charter school in Grand Rapids and the Compass Film Academy, a Christian film school in Michigan.

The billionaire DeVos family also owns the NBA team, the Orlando Magic. Dick DeVos’ father founded Amway.

Attorney General: Jeff Sessions 

Sessions has been one of Mr. Trump’s closest and most consistent allies, and he was the first senator to announce his support for the president-elect. An architect of Mr. Trump’s immigration, counterterrorism and trade policies, Sessions was also considered for secretary of defense.

Appointing him the nation’s top prosecutor is sure to be controversial, though: he’s been through the Senate confirmation process before, with mixed success.  He did make it through a Republican-controlled Senate in 1981, when they approved him to be the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. But then, nominated for a federal judgeship in 1986, Sessions, R-Ala., was dogged by accusations that he had made racist comments while serving as U.S. attorney.  

EPA Administrator: Scott Pruitt

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, known for his strong opposition to President Obama’s environmental regulations, could oversee the rollback of the administration’s climate protection measures.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt has sued the Obama administration over the climate rules for power plants. 

Pruitt has also questioned the idea that humans bear any responsibility for global warming -- a position that goes against widespread scientific consensus. 

In one National Review op-ed he co-wrote with Alabama’s attorney general, Pruitt said this of climate change: “Healthy debate is the lifeblood of American democracy, and global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time. That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.”

CIA Director: Mike Pompeo 

Pompeo, a Kansas congressman first elected during the tea party wave of 2010, serves on the Energy and Commerce and House Intelligence committees, and he also served on the House Select Benghazi Committee.

According to his website, he’s the former CEO of an oilfield company and also of an aerospace company he founded. And Pompeo is also a Harvard-trained lawyer who graduated first in his class at West Point.

National Security Adviser: Michael Flynn 

Flynn, a lifelong Democrat, is a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) -- he was one of the highest-ranking national security officials supporting Trump, whom he also informally advised him on foreign policy during the primary campaign. He is also known to be a proponent of stronger ties with Russia, as well as a critic of President Obama.

Trump had at one point reportedly considered Flynn for vice president before choosing Mike Pence.