Axios on HBO obtained a trove of documents from Trump’s transition team, including many vetting forms for potential administration officials. These forms include those of many current and former administration officials, like Scott Pruitt, Tom Price, and Mick Mulvaney.
There’s all kinds of good dirt in these documents, but a lot of it just confirms what we already know about these people. For example, Pruitt, who eventually resigned as head of the EPA after a string of ethics scandals, is flagged in the documents for “allegations of coziness with big energy companies.” Who woulda thought!
Others were flagged for more unexpected reasons. According to Axios, Mulvaney, who was appointed Budget Director before he became the acting chief of staff, was flagged because he apparently believed Trump “is not a very good person.” More disturbingly, Gen. David Petraeus, who was considered for secretary of state or national security advisor, had a mark against him because he opposed using torture. Yikes.
Here’s so more fun ones: Rex Tillerson, the former secretary of state, was flagged because “Tillerson’s Russia ties go deep.” The god-awful Laura Ingraham, who was apparently considered for White House press secretary, was flagged because she once said “people should wear diapers instead of sharing bathrooms with transgender people.”
All of this vetting was done by the Republican National Committee, which Vice President Mike Pence assigned the job during the chaotic transition.
Don’t worry. there’s more!
One heading in the document about Kris Kobach, in the running for Homeland Security Secretary, listed “white supremacy” as a vulnerability. It cited accusations from past political opponents that he had ties to white supremacist groups.
Vetters had unique concerns about Gary Cohn. “Some Say Cohn Has An Abrasive, Curt, And Intimidating Style,” they wrote, citing a Bloomberg piece. “He Would Sometimes Hike Up One Leg And Plant His Foot On A Trader’s Desk, His Thigh Close To The Employee’s Face, And Ask How Markets Were Doing.”
What a normal group of people!
The forms also cite a number of instances in which the candidates had previously talked shit about Trump. According to Axios, those quotes were often listed near the top of the form. But it didn’t stop Trump from hiring people like Nikki Haley, who once said Trump is everything “we teach our kids not to do in kindergarten,” or Rick Perry, who once said that Trump was a “toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition.”
Other than the insults and insane corruption, the trove of documents is notable because it shows just what a shitshow the vetting process was. RNC sources told Axios they often didn’t know what jobs they were vetting people for and Trump seemed to use their vetting alone to make many hiring decisions.
The White House has now responded to the leak.
“President Trump has assembled an incredible team throughout the federal government who—in spite of 93% negative news coverage—has accomplished undeniable successes like tax cuts, record employment levels, a booming economy...rebuilding the military and crushing ISIS,” principal deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told Axios. “President Trump has done more to improve the lives of the American people in two years—than past presidents have done in eight—and no disgruntled, establishment, D.C. swamp creature’s cowardly leaks can change that.”
You can read some of the documents and the full comments from those who were vetted over at Axios.