“Team of rivals”—a concept bludgeoned to death during Obama’s first term—has reemerged a couple of times in the early days of Trump’s period as president-elect. Citing the infighting that has characterized his innermost circle, CNN labeled his crew a “team of bitter rivals,” while Trump’s meeting with Mitt Romney on Sunday—purportedly to discuss the possibility of Romney serving as secretary of state—has suggested that Trump might open up his cabinet to Republicans who opposed his candidacy.
But Trump’s picks for top positions—Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn for national security advisor, Jeff Sessions for attorney general, and Michael Pompeo for CIA director—suggest that Trump’s cabinet will not follow the Lincoln script in the slightest. Instead, Flynn, Sessions, and Pompeo seem to be selected for their loyalty to Trump. More importantly, all three are united in having dangerous—and often racist—ideas that are in line with the most inflammatory and un-American of Trump’s positions.
Flynn, who regularly attacked Hillary Clinton’s “criminal activity” and led “lock her up” chants at Trump rallies, could dramatically reshape U.S. foreign policy as it pertains to Russia, Turkey, and Iran. The Kremlin-funded Russia Today network paid him to give a series of speeches earlier this year in Moscow (where he was photographed with Vladimir Putin); he has lobbied on behalf of the Turkish government; and routinely blames Iran for practically everything. He is also an Islamophobe who has argued that a fear of Muslims is “rational” and that the families of suspected terrorists should be killed
Jeff Sessions, currently a senator representing Alabama, was deemed too racist by Republicans in the 1980s to become a federal judge. He has called the NAACP and the ACLU “un-American,” and said that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “okay” before he found out they were “pot smokers.” He once called a black attorney “boy.” He has been a steadfast opponent of civil rights throughout his career and, if appointed attorney general, will reshape the Justice Department.
Pompeo served on the Benghazi Committee, but authored a separate report bashing Clinton (unlike Mike Rogers, who was reportedly purged from Trump’s team for clearing Clinton’s name). A congressman from Kansas, he has close ties to the Kansas-based Koch brothers.
Trump has promised that he will be president for all Americans and that his presidency will heal the country. But Flynn, Sessions, and Pompeo suggest otherwise. It is becoming increasingly clear that Trump plans to govern exactly as he campaigned: by attacking immigrants and nonwhites and embracing those who join him.