Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles

Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles
© Greg Nash

The Trump administration on Wednesday nominated dozens of political allies for plum administration posts, including former members of Congress, top members of the Republican National Committee and prominent backers of President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE's 2016 campaign.

The decision to reward supporters and allies with prominent posts in the executive branch is a practice as old as the republic itself, longtime political observers said.

Sought-after jobs awarded to supporters are most likely to be ambassadorships to countries that are close allies with the United States.

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Trump named five people who helped him win the presidency in 2016 to ambassadorships on Wednesday, including Christine Toretti, a longtime member of the Republican National Committee, to represent the United States in Malta; David Fischer, a bundler for the 2016, to serve as ambassador to Morocco; and Lynda Blanchard, who gave $1 million to Republican campaigns and supportive outside groups in 2018 alone, to represent the country in Slovenia.

Trump re-nominated handbag designer Lana Marks, a member of his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, to serve as ambassador to her native South Africa.

Trump also re-nominated a one-time critic to serve in his administration. Joseph Cella, who once signed a letter declaring Trump "manifestly unfit to be president of the United States," would be the new ambassador to Fiji and four other South Pacific nations if confirmed by the Senate.

Cella later said he had changed his mind about Trump over the then-Republican nominee's promise to appoint Supreme Court justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia. Cella headed Trump's Catholic advisory council during the 2016 campaign.

It is not unusual for presidents to name supporters to ambassadorships. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump on his 'chosen one' remark: 'It was sarcasm' Kentucky basketball coach praises Obama after golf round: 'He is a really serious golfer' Biden evokes 1968, asks voters to imagine if Obama had been assassinated MORE named at least 70 donors, bundlers and political allies to ambassador postings during his eight years in office, according to a 2017 report by the Center for Public Integrity.

"This is standard operating procedure for an administration of either party," said Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee spokesman during Obama's presidency. "The are able to hire people who have a working knowledge of the political and party system, as opposed to just being donors."

"This is one of a party's more readily available job pools," Heye said.

Trump named John Ryder, a Tennessee lawyer who has served as general counsel for the Republican National Committee, to serve on the board of directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Ryder would replace Mike McWherter, the son of the late Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter (D) who ran for governor in 2010.

Sean Cairncross, a longtime Republican operative who now serves as deputy assistant to the president and formerly served as the top attorney for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has been nominated to head the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Former Rep. Alexander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) has been named one of the corporation's board members.

The White House said Wednesday it would nominate former Rep. Spencer BachusSpencer Thomas BachusBiz groups take victory lap on Ex-Im Bank On The Money: White House files notice of China tariff hikes | Dems cite NYT report in push for Trump tax returns | Trump hits Iran with new sanctions | Trump praises GM for selling shuttered Ohio factory | Ex-Im Bank back at full strength Export-Import Bank back to full strength after Senate confirmations MORE (R-Ala.) to serve on the board of the Export-Import Bank. Former Rep. Thelma Drake (R-Va.) was nominated to become the next head of the Federal Transit Administration.

Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaThe Hill's Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back Darrell Issa eyes return to Congress Trump's 2020 campaign strategy is to be above the law MORE, the California Republican who decided not to run for re-election in 2018, was named the director-designate of the Trade and Development Agency, a bureau meant to promote economic growth around the globe through exporting American goods.

Former Rep. John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles Overnight Energy: Watchdog opens investigation into Interior chief | Judge halts Pruitt truck pollution rule decision | Winners, losers in EPA, Interior spending bill amendments MORE (R-La.) has been nominated to be the next Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. Former Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) was nominated to serve another term on the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a post she first took in the Obama administration.

And two more White House allies — former Rep. Leon Westmoreland (R-Ga.) and former deputy White House chief of staff Rick Dearborn — were nominated to serve on Amtrak's Board of Directors.

The administration nominated dozens of people for executive branch positions on Wednesday, many of whom were nominated a second time after their confirmation hearings were postponed before the 115th Congress adjourned.