Axios got a leak of documents like you dream about over the weekend. Hell, they got a leak like Seymour Hersh would dream about. Somebody handed over the vetting materials prepared by the transition team at Camp Runamuck, which rhymes with clusterfck, which is what it was.
“To be honest, the process was such a disaster and such a shit-show and there were so many unqualified people coming through that the issues with [future HUD Secretary Ben] Carson don’t really stick out to me,” said one RNC vetter. “You know, I’m like, ‘Oh gentle Ben is unqualified and thinks that pyramids store grain or whatever. Great. At least he’s not beating his wife and his wife’s not appearing on Oprah.'”
“We’d be sitting around and Trump would be like, ‘Oh, hey, I’m bringing like Joe Shmoe up to Bedminster for Department of Interior,’ and then we were like, ‘F—, we need to run a vet on this guy to make sure he’s not a kid-toucher,'” said one source involved in the vetting. “It was just a clown show.”
“I think I truly understood what less than half of the people were being vetted for,” said another source involved in the vetting. “Totally inadequate resources for the overall process. … We would probably run through dozens [of contenders] a day.”
And from this shitshow, we got:
One red flag for Gen. David Petraeus, who was under consideration for Secretary of State and National Security Adviser: “Petraeus Is Opposed to Torture.”
Mick Mulvaney, who became Trump’s Budget Director and is now his acting chief of staff, has a striking assortment of “red flags,” including his assessment that Trump “is not a very good person.”
One heading in the document about Kris Kobach, in the running for Homeland Security Secretary, listed “white supremacy” as a vulnerability. It cited accusations from past political opponents that he had ties to white supremacist groups.
Seema Verma, who Trump appointed as the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, had this paragraph near the top of her vetting form: “Verma was simultaneously advising Indiana ($3.5 million in contracts) on issues impacting how it would spend Medicaid funds while she was also being paid by a client that received Medicaid funds. Ethics experts have called the arrangement a conflict of interest that potentially put Indiana taxpayers at risk.”
Sonny Perdue, Trump’s pick for Agriculture Secretary, had a vetting form with sections labeled “Business conflicts of interest” and “Family conflicts of interest.” It noted that “Perdue is the owner of Houston Fertilizer and Grain, a company that has received contracts from the Department of Agriculture.”
A lot of the “red flags” in the documents refer to the applicant’s previous doubts about the president*’s character, his qualifications, and his general unfitness for office. A lot of the people being vetted got jobs anyway because, a) they were willing to swallow whatever vestigial consciences they had, or b) that the Camp Runamuck team didn’t have any better ideas.
Nobody could have watched Betsy DeVos’s calamitous hearing and believed she had any business running anything more complicated than a yard sale. Mnuchin’s vetting file is fat with horror stories about his career with OneWest, the foreclosure mill he helped run. But there were hearings with his actual victims, and those people meant no more to the Senate than they had meant to Mnuchin and OneWest. He practically spit in the Senate’s eye when they asked him about $95 million in real-estate Mnuchin had neglected to list on his disclosure forms. He said he was confused by the term “investment assets.” And everyone who believes that, please stand on your head until further notice.
This is an undeniable scoop for Axios. What it’s not is the slightest surprise.
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