As he traveled the country on his thank you tour, President-elect Donald Trump touted his choices for his Cabinet and inner circle, a group historians say is the richest in U.S. history.
“And one newspaper criticized me, ‘Why can’t they have people of modest means?’” Trump said at a Des Moines, Iowa rally. “Because I want people that made a fortune. Because now they’re negotiating with you, okay?”
How rich? CBS News estimates seven of Trump’s picks are worth a combined $11 billion.
Betsy DeVos, nominated for secretary of education, comes from a family worth more than $5 billion; Linda McMahon, picked for small business administrator, has family wealth worth $1.2 billion; And Vincent Viola, the choice for Army secretary, is worth $1.77 billion.
“I guess they have a few poor millionaires on it, but mostly it’s billionaires,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Critics like Sanders say Trump’s choices fly in the face of his populist campaign message. “You don’t appoint a Cabinet of billionaires to be taking on the establishment,” he said on Sunday’s “Face The Nation.”
Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s Treasury pick has been estimated to be worth as much as $655 million. He and commerce secretary nominee Wilbur Ross, worth $2.5 billion, recently said they were attuned to the plight of working Americans.
“It’s also not true all jobs are created equal. A guy that used to work in the steel mill, now flipping hamburgers, he knows it’s not the same,” Ross said in an appearance on CNBC.
Having millionaire and billionaire cabinet secretaries is not unprecedented. They tend to attract slots at Treasury and Commerce. But neither President Obama nor President George W. Bush had a single billionaire in their first Cabinets.