Patrick Shanahan's nomination to serve as Donald Trump's new Defense secretary collapsed yesterday after revelations surrounding incidents of domestic violence within Shanahan's family. During a brief Q&A with reporters yesterday, the president insisted that he learned of the allegations for the first time on Monday.
It led to an important follow-up question:
Q: Does that make you concerned then about the White House vetting process if you had just heard about it yesterday?TRUMP: No, we have a very good vetting process. And you take a look at our Cabinet and our Secretaries — it's very good. But we have a great vetting process.
A variety of adjectives come to mind when describing the White House vetting process. "Great" isn't one of them.
On last night's show, Rachel highlighted the vetting failures surrounding Patrick Shanahan and the significance of the national security risks associated with such a dramatic breakdown. Shanahan's nomination may be over, but the questions surrounding how this controversy happened still need answers.
Unfortunately for the president, we can keep going down the same embarrassing road. Stephen Moore's nomination to serve on the Federal Reserve board collapsed last month in large part because the White House hadn't vetted him before the president chose him. A month earlier, Herman Cain was unable to join the Fed board for the same reason.
Team Trump was similarly caught off-guard by controversies surrounding Matt Whitaker, who wasn't vetted before the president made him acting attorney general. Trump failed to vet Ronny Jackson, whose nomination to lead the V.A. failed.
And those are just some of the recent examples. What is it about the vetting process that the president considers "very good" and "great"?
As for what remains of a presidential team that's filled with acting chiefs, Politico had a good piece late yesterday on what's become of Trump's cabinet.
Trump has a Cabinet by default, with many of its members simply being the last person standing after others pulled out of the running, declined the president's offers or couldn't get through their confirmation hearings. [...]If there's a thread running through them all, it's a president with a penchant for choosing many top appointees based on instinct -- and without regard for prior government experience -- plus a White House whose vetting operation is far from thorough and a thin Republican Senate majority with little room for error. The result is that the Trump administration's senior ranks largely include individuals who were not, in many cases, the president's first or even second choice to fill a given post, but became the only logical choice after other options evaporated.
Dan Drezner added this morning, "All of this is going to get worse. At this point, there are only two kinds of people willing to work in this administration. The first are those at the end of their career and want one last, meaningless hurrah. The others are dead-enders who would never get hired by anyone else."
A "fine-tuned machine" it isn't.