Trump sends signal: Administration may look like campaign

Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE’s early choices for White House and Cabinet positions strongly suggest that his administration will look a lot like his campaign.

While there has been speculation that the president-elect would bring the GOP establishment into the fold, he so far has gone in the opposite direction, appointing loyalists who share his hard-line views on national security and immigration.


Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), an early Trump supporter, dismissed talk that the president-elect is pivoting toward the establishment center by meeting with figures like Mitt Romney.

“I don't believe anything I'm reading right now,” Hunter said.

Trump appeared to send a definitive signal on Friday when he announced he plans to nominate Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee Garland strikes down Trump-era immigration court rule, empowering judges to pause cases MORE (R-Ala.) for attorney general, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) for CIA director and appoint Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn White House national security adviser.

All three men were prominent surrogates and supporters, and all have been pushed to the center of power through their association with Trump.

With the exception of Trump’s choice of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus for chief of staff, his appointments all fit the same mold.

There are also being made on the heels of Trump’s controversial decision to name Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart and a self-described nationalist, as his chief White House strategist.

The Bannon appointment sent the signal that Trump intends for his administration to be drenched in the themes of his campaign: an economic and foreign policy populism and nationalism, aggression on national security and surveillance, and utter dismissal of political correctness. 

To be sure, Trump has also signaled a willingness to consider the viewpoints of different parts of the GOP.

Besides this weekend’s meeting with Romney, he has also talked to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action MORE (R-Texas), both of whom criticized Trump during the campaign. Trump has met with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Trump takes two punches from GOP MORE (R-Ky.) on Capitol Hill while signaling a desire to work with GOP congressional leaders.

The meetings have sparked talk that Romney, Haley and Cruz could serve in a Trump administration.

The Trump team has done nothing to squash those rumors, though sources in the president-elect’s inner circle suggest it is unlikely a Trump critic will get a plumb post.

Of all the appointments announced Friday, Sessions is perhaps the most important.

Superficially, it might seem like Sessions is an establishment choice. He’s been in the Senate since the late ’90s and served on powerful committees. 

But Sessions has remained an outsider during his political career and was one of the earliest figures in the GOP to turn in a nationalist direction.

The senator’s office spent years fostering opposition to “globalist” trade pacts and played a leading role in stopping an immigration reform bill in 2013.

His appointment completes a stratospheric rise to power for Stephen Miller, a former aide said to have a “savant-like” command of illegal immigration statistics.

Miller held senior communications roles on the Senate Judiciary Committee and Budget Committee but was never part of the mainstream Republican crowd in Washington. He left Sessions’s office in January to join the Trump campaign, becoming its policy director and even did warm-up speeches at some of Trump’s rallies.

Miller and other members of Sessions’ inner circle, including Sessions’ chief of staff Rick Dearborn, are now steering Trump’s transition team.

Hunter said he's especially happy about the Sessions and Flynn picks. He described both men as “outsiders” who “totally match” what Trump promised on the campaign trail.

“You don't have to be part of the establishment to know how it works,” Hunter said of running an administration.

“You don't need to get your Ph.D. from the [Harvard] John F. Kennedy School of Government,” he said.