The 2019 edition of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet will be vastly changed from the figures surrounding Trump for most of 2018, although confirmation battles mean that the sense of transition surrounding the Cabinet will not recede for some time.
Although Republicans padded their control of the Senate in the 2018 mid-term elections, confirmation hearings for Trump appointees have been notoriously acrimonious. This is likely to especially true for William Barr, who served as attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush and has been nominated by Trump to reprise that role.
The major factor in the questioning of Barr is likely to be special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between Trump and Russia in the 2016 campaign.
Lindsey Graham Vows To Push William Barr’s Nomination Through The Judiciary Committee https://t.co/OLmKdeIWA7
— HillReporter.com (@HillReporter) December 8, 2018
While Barr waits, Matthew Whitaker is running the Justice Department. He’s not the only stopgap Cabinet member.
Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will be serving as acting secretary once the new year begins. Current Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned on the heels of Trump’s announcement that U.S. forces would be removed from Syria.
Although as noted by The Hill many names have been bandied about to lead the Defense Department, including those of Retired Army Gen. Jack Keane and Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, no consensus candidate has yet emerged.
Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is filling in after Secretary Ryan Zinke resigned. He is a possible contender to remain in the top spot along with Republican Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, outgoing Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada and former Republican Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis.
The Environmental Protection Agency also has a temporary leader, with Andrew Wheeler, the former deputy administrator, running the agency since the departure of Scott Pruitt.
Wheeler was confirmed by the Senate to his current job, but is likely to face questions about the Trump administration’s environmental policies if he is nominated for the top spot.
One wild card in any reshuffling of Cabinet posts is the eventual naming of a chief of staff. Current Chief of Staff John Kelly announced that he is leaving at the end of the year.
Office of Management and Budget leader Mick Mulvaney is serving as acting chief of staff. If he remains in the post, that would require new leadership in the budget office.
Although Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson were both high-profile picks when they joined Trump’s Cabinet in 2017, neither is on the list of Cabinet members expected to leave as 2019 begins.
That’s not true for Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who Trump had criticized in the fall in comments that are often a precursor to a change.
One major change that will impact how the world views the Trump administration will be Trump’s nomination of State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to replace outgoing U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. The former South Carolina governor was a strong voice for Trump’s policies at the U.N.
Nauert joined the State Department in April 2017. Prior to that, she worked as for Fox News. Her nomination must also be confirmed by the Senate.
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