Once Joe Biden became president-elect, political appointees throughout the Trump administration arrived at a difficult point: it was time to update their resumes and look for new opportunities. As regular readers may recall, that would pose a greater challenge than officials from traditional administrations usually face.
The Washington Post reported in early December that some executives from Fortune 500 companies were reluctant to hire applicants "closely linked to" Donald Trump. A month later, Politico reported that many officials from the Republican administration were "struggling to find new employment" -- a problem that intensified after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
That report ran three months ago today, and there's little to suggest conditions have improved for members of the former president's team: "Several former Trump officials told the Washington Post that the job climate was even more difficult than they believed it would be, and both former vice president Mike Pence and Trump have kept a coterie of staffers still on their payrolls, some because they have not been able to find other work."
Each of these reports generally focused on lower-level officials from the Republican administration, whose names would be entirely unfamiliar to most Americans. But what about high-level officials, such as the former president's cabinet secretaries? The Washington Post reported today that they're having some trouble, too.
After noting the lack of corporate interest in former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the article added:
While the small numbers make comparisons difficult, corporations don't seem to have an immediate interest in other top Trump administration alums either. Roughly half of the S&P 500 companies have filed their 2021 investor disclosure reports, listing a total of 108 new or prospective board members, according to data from Insightia, which provides information to shareholders. No Trump Cabinet officials who served in the final quarter of his term are among those nominated.
Former Attorney General Bill Barr was "a fixture on elite corporate boards," but now even his old law firm "has no plans to rehire him." Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also "has yet to take on any name-brand corporate work," though Fox News announced today it's adding the Kansas Republican to the network's payroll.
It's worth noting for context that this isn't at all normal. Private employers have traditionally been eager to snatch up prominent executive-branch officials after they leave office, which makes it all the more important to understand why members of Team Trump are noticing that their phones aren't ringing. From the Post's report:
One of the headhunters said his team surveyed some companies about their interest in Chao and didn't find any takers. "The feedback was, 'It's too soon,' " this person said.... Headhunters and other corporate advisers say the calculus for executives at most large, publicly traded companies is simple. Trump — the only president to be impeached twice, the second time on a charge he incited the mob that assaulted the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the presidential election results — left office with a majority of Americans strongly disapproving of his job performance. He remains a lightning rod for controversy and faces ongoing legal exposure from civil lawsuits and criminal investigations. Offering a board seat to anyone in his inner orbit risks inviting a revolt from customers, employees or shareholders.
"Boards don't need trouble or criticism," one headhunter added. "If you want to stay away from all that potential tarnish, that's easy: You just don't go near it."
I suppose lower-level staffers from the Trump administration could simply leave their experience off their resumes, though cabinet secretaries who served with the former president won't have that luxury.