President Donald Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017. He had won the presidential bid against political heavyweight Hillary Clinton, and he was the first president to have no political experience going into office.
Trump had kicked off his presidential campaign in 2015. Notably, Trump and his wife, Melania, had ridden down a golden escalator in Trump Tower to greet a press corps and announce his bid. Many seasoned politicians and some voters failed to take Trump seriously. He beat out politicians such as Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush for the Republican nomination.
Critics slammed his inexperience as well as his brash attitude, but, something about Trump’s platform rang true with both independent and partisan voters. However, much of Trump’s presidency – including some of his original cabinet member selections – would draw ire from critics during the time of the 45th president.
Initial Trump Administration Cabinet Members
Vice-President: Mike Pence
Trump may have been criticized for a lack of political experience, but, when choosing a running mate and Vice-President candidate, Mike Pence seemed to be a foil to Trump’s over-the-top personality.
Mike Pence had been the governor of Indiana. He was a soft-spoken man, but also an immovable man when it came to his personal and political beliefs. Pence is a devout Christian. He was widely criticized for stating in an interview that he refused to have dinner meetings with members of the opposite sex without the presence of his wife.
Pence had the ability to deliver Trump’s message in a more serene way. Where Trump might speak off the cuff, Pence is more deliberate and thoughtful in his comments. He remained the Vice-President and a part of the cabinet throughout Trump’s tenure as president.
Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson
Tillerson was the president and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil. During the confirmation process, Tillerson was pressed on his business ties to Russia. He also expressed some reservations where climate change is concerned. He was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 56 – 43.
Tillerson was replaced with Mike Pompeo, who served under the remainder of the Trump presidency.
Secretary of the Treasury: Steve Mnuchin
Mnuchin had been a successful executive at Goldman Sachs. Trump believed Mnuchin’s experience in the business sector made Mnuchin a natural choice. Mnuchin would remain in this position for the duration of Trump’s time in office. He was confirmed by the Senate in a 53 – 47 vote.
Those in opposition to Mnuchin’s confirmation cited his running of a company opponents said was “overly aggressive” in foreclosing on homes as well as a purported use of offshore tax havens for his own personal finances.
Secretary of Defense: James N. Mattis
The seasoned general had only recently retired from service when he was tapped for the position in Trump’s cabinet. He had not been away from service quite long enough to accept the position, but he was allowed to move forward with the confirmation process.
Mattis was open about ways in which he and Trump differed in opinion – how to deal with Russia and the Iran nuclear agreement. He also tended to support America’s relationship with NATO, while Trump had said other countries in NATO should “pay their fair share.”
Mattis was confirmed by a margin of 98 – 1 by the Senate. He would leave the position due to disagreements with Trump over the removal of troops from Afghanistan. He was replaced by Patrick Shanahan.
United States Attorney General: Jeff Sessions
Jeff Sessions had served as a United States Senator from Alabama. He was initially a staunch supporter of Trump; however, as the Russian collusion scandal mounted, Trump and Sessions faced much disagreement.
When Trump nominated Sessions, the president-elect noted Sessions’ tough on crime stance. This was exemplified in Trump’s “law and order” platform, and Sessions seemed a perfect fit for the job. Sessions was also a strong supporter of Trump’s planned border policies and sought a crackdown on illegal immigration.
Sessions was accused of being a racist; then-Representative John Lewis (D-GA) made a speech that intimated such. However, Sessions was confirmed with a vote of 52 – 47. He was replaced by William Barr, who served the rest of Trump’s term in office.
Secretary of the Interior: Ryan Zinke
Zinke had been a Navy SEAL at one time and had political experience as a representative from Montana. Like Tillerson, Zinke said that he had differing climate change beliefs than the president-elect who had nominated him.
Zinke was confirmed with a vote of 68 – 31. Zinke resigned from the post in 2018; his position was marred by scandal regarding his travel and political activity. He was replaced by David Bernhardt.
Secretary of Agriculture: Sonny Perdue
Perdue was a former governor of Georgia, a veteran, and had worked as a veterinarian. He was confirmed, but not without some controversy due to his family business. (NOTE: He is NOT a part of the Purdue Farms that produces poultry.) The questionable business took place before his confirmation; he sold a boiler on his property to ADM (an agriculture company). Even so, he was confirmed by a margin of 87 – 11.
His cousin, Senator David Perdue abstained from the vote.
Secretary of Commerce: Wilbur Ross
Ross proposed “steep” tariffs on China, which Trump would eventually put into place. He was an investor prior to his nomination as Commerce Secretary. He was another who echoed Trump’s beliefs regarding our financial contributions to NATO.
Ross was confirmed by a margin of 72 – 27; he was the Secretary of Commerce for the entirety of Trump’s presidency.
Secretary of Labor: R. Alexander Acosta
Acosta had worked as the dean of a law school in Florida as well as an assistant district attorney.
Originally, Acosta was not the nominee; Andrew Puzder was the original nominee, but eventually withdrew his consideration.
Acosta was accused of violating federal law in 2008 by using political affiliations when hiring employees. However, he was confirmed by a margin of 60 – 38.
Secretary of Health and Human Services: Tom Price
Price had formerly been a Republican representative from Georgia; he was vocally opposed to the Affordable Care Act. He spoke during his confirmation about the administration’s plan to repeal the ACA; however, he gave few ways the repeal would keep millions from losing their health insurance. He was eventually confirmed to the position with a vote of 52 – 47.
Price did not remain in the position for very long. He resigned, and Trump tapped Don Wright to work in that position temporarily. Alex Azar would be the permanent replacement for Price.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Dr. Ben Carson
Carson was one of Trump’s Republican primary rivals, but Carson would eventually drop out of the race. However, Trump would nominate Carson for the position of HUD secretary, citing Carson’s real-life experience growing up in project housing.
Carson is noting for saying that individual effort would be more important in getting people out of poverty compared to government programs.
He was confirmed by a margin of 58 – 41.
Secretary of Transportation: Elaine L. Chao
Chao would be tasked with overseeing a push to increasing funding in order to improve infrastructure in the United States. Chao had previously served in the cabinet of George W. Bush as Labor Secretary.
She was confirmed by a vote of 93 – 6.
Secretary of Energy: Rick Perry
Perry was another of Trump’s primary rival candidates. He had served as a rather popular governor of Texas. He served up until the end of 2019; critics had probed his dealings with the Ukraine as well as supposed impropriety under Trump.
He was replaced by Dan Brouillette.
Perry was originally confirmed to the position with a 62 – 37 vote.
Secretary of Education: Betsy Devos
Devos’ nomination drew ire as critics saw her as inexperienced. However, she and her husband had worked to promote charter schools in Michigan for many years.
Devos’ confirmation hearings became a sideshow of sorts; she was accused of wanting to “privatize” education.
Devos was narrowly nominated by a 51 – 50 vote.
Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs: David J. Shulkin
At the time of his nomination, Shulkin was the under secretary for health at the VA.
He was unanimously confirmed.
Homeland Security Secretary: John F. Kelly
Kelly was a retired four-star general whom Trump believed would work to streamline deportation and the building of a wall. He was confirmed by the Senate by a margin of 88 – 11.
CIA Director: Mike Pompeo
Pompeo was confirmed to the position with a 66 – 32 vote. He would eventually be moved to Secretary of State.
U.N. Ambassador: Nikki Haley
Haley was a former governor, confirmed to this position with a vote of 96 – 4.
EPA Administrator: Scott Pruitt
Pruitt was a former Attorney General in Oklahoma; he was accused of being an “ally” to the fossil fuel industry. He was confirmed by a vote of 52 – 46.
Small Business Administrator: Linda McMahon
As the co-CEO of the World Westling Entertainment, McMahon had proven her ability to build a business from the ground up. She was confirmed by a vote of 81 – 19 in the Senate.
Other notable original Cabinet members (most appointed to the position):
Director of the Office of Management and Budget: Mick Mulvaney
Director of National Intelligence: Dan Coats
U.S. Trade Representative: Robert Lighthizer
Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers: Kevin Hassett
White House Chief of Staff: Reince Priebus
Chief Strategist: Steve Bannon
Senior Adviser to the President: Jared Kushner
National Security Adviser: Michael Flynn
Homeland Secretary Adviser: Thomas P. Bossert
Counselor: Kellyanne Conway
Press Secretary: Sean Spicer
National Security Adviser: H.R. McMaster
Agenda for the Trump Presidency
Trump’s agenda was given the moniker “Make America Great Again.” He sought to put America first, which meant renegotiation of trade agreements Trump believed hurt the American economy. He ran on a promise to build a “big beautiful wall” between the southern border in Texas and Mexico. At the time, he promised Mexico would pay for the wall.
Trump wanted to relax policies on fossil fuels so that not only could America become energy independent, but that fuel prices would be lowered for the average American. He also promised to lower taxes for middle class Americans.
Trump also ran on a promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He could never garner enough Republican support in Congress to fully repeal the legislation.
Trump promised to make NATO pay its fair share (he claimed the US was making most financial contributions to the organization).
Trump overall wanted to change tax policy so most workers had more disposable income, promote American made products, and create jobs. He wanted to stop the influx of illegal immigrants while welcoming those who wanted to come legally to the US.
There was an unprecedented economic boom under Trump. Gas fell to below $2 per gallon, Middle class family income increased by up to $6000 annually. Unemployment was 3.5 percent; jobless claims hit a fifty year low.
Unemployment for minorities was also at an all-time low. Unemployment for women was the lowest in 70 years. Income inequality fell for two straight years.
The Trump Administration saw record stock market numbers.
Jobs, factories, and industries returned to America from overseas.
Trump brought new technology and innovation to the Agriculture industry.
Trump refused to issue blanket lockdowns, slowing down the economic pain of the pandemic.
Unfortunately, Trump’s presidency was largely marred by a now-debunked Steele dossier that supposedly tied Trump to Russia in a collusion to take the presidency by manipulating votes via the Internet.
Trump was impeached twice but the Senate never voted to remove him from office. One impeachment was related to the false accusations of Russian collusion. The second had to do with riots that took place on January 6, 2021.
Trump was not prone to gaffes, but he was quite brash and many considered him “un-presidential.”