U.S. President Donald Trump addresses members of his cabinet and the news media as he holds a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., August...
Kevin Lamarque

Ignoring scandals, Trump says he’s assembled ‘one of the finest cabinets’

Updated

For his book on Donald Trump’s cabinet, author Alexander Nazaryan spoke to the president about the team he’d assembled. Yahoo News ran an item yesterday adapted from “The Best People: Trump’s Cabinet and the Siege on Washington.”

“There are those that say we have one of the finest Cabinets,” Trump claimed. That is not a commonly held view. In fact, it is difficult to think of anyone even halfway credible – Republican or Democrat – who has said anything approaching that. Even some of Trump’s most ardent supporters have expressed dismay at the people he has hired.

Trump was willing to concede that some of his cabinet members were “clunkers,” though he apparently didn’t elaborate or name names. In a way, that’s unfortunate, because I’d love to know to whom he was referring. Did he see James Mattis as a “clunker” because the former Pentagon chief didn’t consistently play ball with the White House political agenda? Would he make the same assessment about former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the same reason?

Or was Trump referring to some members of his team who departed under a cloud of scandal and suspected corruption?

I have no idea whether the president genuinely believes there are some unnamed observers who claim his cabinet is “one of the finest,” but I’d love to hear from such a person. Because by most measures, Trump’s cabinet is actually one of the more embarrassing.

We recently learned, for example, that David Bernhardt, a former corporate lobbyist for the oil industry, became the subject of an ethics investigation immediately after becoming the nation’s new Interior secretary. Federal prosecutors recently presented evidence to a grand jury on Ryan Zinke, Bernhardt’s predecessor.

As regular readers may recall, it was around the same time that we learned new details about Alex Acosta, Trump’s Labor secretary, who allegedly broke the law while shielding a politically connected sex trafficker.

About a year ago, NBC News published a list of Trump administration figures accused of crossing ethical and/or legal lines, and the list wasn’t at all short. It included familiar controversies involving former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, former HHS Secretary Tom Price, former regulatory adviser Carl Icahn, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, former CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

That wasn’t an exhaustive list. As we discussed at the time, there have been related controversies surrounding Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and former VA Secretary David Shulkin.

While we’re at it, let’s also not overlook controversies surrounding Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and former FEMA Director Brock Long.

Even acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan faced an ethics probe.

Who, exactly, is prepared to argue Trump’s cabinet is “one of the finest”?

Cabinet and Donald Trump

Ignoring scandals, Trump says he's assembled 'one of the finest cabinets'

Updated