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Has Trump surrounded himself with 'only the best' people?

Trump's vow to surround himself "only with the best and most serious people" should count as one of his broken campaign promises.
Image: President Trump Departs White House For New Jersey
President Donald Trump exits the Oval Office and walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on Oct. 1, 2020.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

It was just a couple of months into his presidential campaign when Donald Trump described his vision on personnel decisions. "I'm going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people," the Republican said in August 2015. "We want top of the line professionals."

It's a line that's come back to haunt Trump, who did largely the opposite after becoming president.

But while many of his personnel failures involve high-profile figures, some of whom turned out to be criminals, there's also a long list of lesser-known figures in lower-profile roles who also fall short of the "best and most serious" standard Trump committed to before his election.

The Washington Post ran this report today, highlighting just such an example.

Weeks after the Interior Department halted diversity training to comply with an executive order from President Trump, a top assistant at the agency is under scrutiny for defending Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager accused of fatally shooting two people and injuring a third during a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wis. The official, Jeremy Carl, a newly appointed deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, also called peaceful Black Lives Matter protests racist and cited an opinion piece in a white supremacist publication, American Renaissance, to support an argument denouncing the anti-discrimination work of former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr.

The article added that Jeremy Carl's past writings and links "were brought to light by HuffPost. Media Matters, which monitors news for misinformation, uncovered the link to American Renaissance in an opinion Carl wrote for the Fox News website."

Time will tell what, if anything, will happen to Carl's job in the administration, but if it seems like reports like these have been relatively common in recent years, it's not your imagination.

I'm reminded of a piece Jon Chait wrote in July about the "series of extremists nominated or appointed to posts within the administration."

Merritt Corrigan, the deputy White House liaison at the U.S. Agency for International Development, has written, "Liberal democracy is little more than a front for the war being waged against us by those who fundamentally despise not only our way of life, but life itself," and complained, "Our homo-empire couldn't tolerate even one commercial enterprise not in full submission to the tyrannical LGBT agenda." John Gibbs, Trump's nominee to run the Office of Personnel Management (and a current official at HUD) has claimed that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were Satanists. Rich Higgins, whom Trump nominated for a Pentagon job, has called former President Obama a "communist" and Black Lives Matter "an agent of communist China." Higgins would be chief of staff to Anthony Tata, who has described Obama as Muslim and a "terrorist leader," and suggested that former CIA Director John Brennan sent a coded tweet ordering Trump to be assassinated.

This is, of course, a partial list, not a comprehensive collection of Trump appointees with some deeply offensive views.

And therein lies the point: the Republican incumbent's vow to surround himself "only with the best and most serious people" should probably be seen as among the most dramatic of the president's broken campaign promises.