United States Representative Scott Garrett speaks during a Reuters Finance Summit in Washington February 28, 2011.
Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Trump keeps appointing officials to lead agencies they oppose

Updated
As a candidate for the presidency, Donald Trump assured voters he was a staunch opponent of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Then he had a conversation about it, after the election, with a CEO whose company benefits from the office.

Trump told the Wall Street Journal last week that he “was very much opposed” to the Ex-Im Bank, but “it turns out [that] lots of small companies will really be helped.”

“It turns out” is a polite way of saying, “When I said all that stuff on the campaign trail last year, I didn’t really know what I was talking about.”

All of this became more confusing on Friday afternoon, however, when the president announced his nominee to lead the Bank.
President Donald Trump said Friday he would nominate former congressman Scott Garrett, who has supported closing the U.S. Export-Import Bank, to head the credit agency.

Mr. Garrett voted in 2012 and in 2015 against renewing the charter of the Ex-Im Bank, which guarantees loans for companies that export U.S. products. Mr. Garrett, a New Jersey Republican who served seven terms in the U.S. House, lost a bitterly contested election in November to Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D., N.J.).
Blasting the institution he’s now nominated to lead, Garrett insisted in the last Congress that the Ex-Im Bank “rewards those with close relationships with Washington bureaucrats.” He added, “For the sake of the American taxpayer and the preservation of the free enterprise system, Congress should put the Export-Import Bank out of business.”

Garrett boasted on Twitter in 2015, “I opposed the House’s vote to reauthorize the corporate welfare program known as the Ex-Im Bank.”

Trump now wants the New Jersey Republican to lead the institution that he doesn’t believe should exist.

This should certainly make for interesting confirmation hearings. It’s possible, of course, that Garrett will now head an office he rejects, joining a long line of similar officials in the Trump administration. Betsy DeVos is a Secretary of Education who opposes public schools; Rick Perry is the Secretary of Energy despite his call for the elimination of the Department of Energy; and Scott Pruitt leads a Environmental Protection Agency he’s fought to undermine for years.

It’s as if Trump chooses to ignore a fairly straightforward principle: don’t nominate people who fundamentally reject the work of a department to be in charge of that department.

But it’s also possible that Garrett, like Trump, has dramatically changed course. When the New Jersey Republican was railing against the Ex-Im Bank, Trump was doing largely the same thing on the campaign trail. Trump recently flip-flopped on the issue, so perhaps Garrett has, too?

Postscript: If confirmed, Garrett would succeed Fred Hochberg, Obama’s choice to lead the Bank, who brought a combination of skills as a diplomat and a successful businessman. Garrett has no comparable background.

Second Postscript: If you need a refresher about what the U.S. Export-Import Bank is, I had an overview piece on this a few years ago.

Donald Trump

Trump keeps appointing officials to lead agencies they oppose

Updated