Morning Glory: Trump’s list of proposed key appointees he should issue soon

‘We’re not respected anywhere anymore. We’re laughed at. We’ve become a joke as a country.’

That was former President Donald Trump’s single most important message in his CPAC speech last week. It previews the central issue of the coming campaign: Respect.

2024 is going to be the ‘Respect Election’ and Trump has figured out that already. Part of the decision voters will have to make is whom do they respect more: an infirm Biden or an unpredictable Trump, and a huge factor in that evaluation is whom do other nations respect (and fear or follow) more?

As between President Biden and former President Trump, whom do our enemies respect (and thus fear) most, and whom do our allies respect (and thus follow willingly) most?  It’s very obvious our enemies do not respect or fear Team Biden and that they did very much come to fear Trump.

Iran pushed hard against Trump and his red lines, and the Quds Force’s General Soleimani paid the price.

Putin invaded Ukraine first when President Obama was president and then when Biden was in the Oval. Putin did not provoke Trump in Ukraine as Trump was sending lethal aid to Ukraine already. It is pretty easy to decide whom Putin respected as an adversary.

China’s communists have berated Secretary of State Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in public. General Secretary Xi often clashed with Trump in private and over policy, but the dictator’s underlings did not treat Team Trump with contempt (though many on the former president’s team got sanctioned by the Chinese communists after they left power.)

The national security team Trump would bring with him for senior posts in the White House and at State, Defense, the DNI, CIA and FBI as well as his Attorney General and Treasury Secretary will matter a great deal in restoring respect abroad and also contribute to voters’ ease with pulling the lever for Trump. To that end, lots of people and a few groups are compiling lists suggesting whom a re-elected Trump should appoint and to which jobs.

It would indeed be great politics if Candidate Trump put out his own list of whom might end up at the key agencies or in the most important White House jobs. Respect is mostly a function of the president’s name and actions and less so of the Vice President, senior staff and Cabinet members, but it does flow in part from the gravitas of the entire team. Thus, the compiling of lists of names has begun. But only Trump’s lists count.

‘The efforts by various non-profit groups are certainly appreciated and can be enormously helpful,’ Trump campaign senior advisers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita said in a statement in November. ‘However, none of these groups or individuals speak for President Trump or his campaign. We will have an official transition effort to be announced at a later date.’

Certainly I’m not speaking for the campaign or the former president, but if you drew a Venn diagram of (1) those national security professionals whom Trump respects; (2) those whom our nation-state enemies respect and fear; (3) those whom our allies may not like very much but for whom they have respect; and, (4) when necessary, those whom can get confirmed by the Senate (the White House Chief of Staff and National Security Advisor do not require confirmation), the list of names in the center of that Venn diagram is not long:

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former National Security Advisor O’Brien, former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and former Acting DNI Rick Grennell, former Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, former Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette and former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer all enjoyed the respect and confidence of the former president as do Senators Tom Cotton, Joni Ernst, Lindsey Graham, Dan Sullivan and Congressman Michael Waltz of Florida. Look for the biggest jobs in the national security team—State, Defense, Attorney General, DNI, CIA, FBI, White House Chief of Staff and National Security Advisor to be filled from among these ten, all superb professionals.

Look as well for the return in other key positions of Trump loyalists and extremely competent professionals: Ambassadors David Friedman (Israel) George Glass (Portugal) Ed McMullen (Switzerland) and other first-term Cabinet and sub-cabinet Trump alums to return such as Ben Carson, Alex Gray, Jamison Greer, K.T. McFarland, Stephen Miller, Mary Kissel, Keith Krach, Larry Kudlow, Stephen Miller, Morgan Ortagus, Julia Nesheiwat, Kimberly Reed, Russ Vought and Ray Washburne.

Admiral Philip Davidson (USN, Ret.) retired from the Navy in the Spring of 2021, but has many admirers among Trump alums. There are other military men and women in the lists as well. It is easy enough to sort through them using the filters named of the respect of our friends and adversaries, the former president, (and a majority of the senate if the position is one requiring confirmation.)

Some of these folks can move from the international relations and national security side of the Administration to the domestic agencies with ease, and a few like Friedman may want their old jobs back. But Glass, a man of the West, could fill the top job at Interior, Washburne, a serious man of business, at Treasury or Commerce and Ortagus at Homeland Security. The point is: Trump is much better positioned for a transition after an election this November than he was in November 2024.

Trump may not want to name his specific cabinet, but a list like this one, if it came from the candidate and his campaign as the list of potential Supreme Court nominees did in 2016, would do much to settle the respect question.

Ask yourself, of whom would Xi be more concerned: Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin or SecDef Pompeo? Do you think our adversaries worried more about NSA O’Brien or Sullivan? I think Grenell would be the perfect White House Chief of Staff but if he could pass the Senate’s scrutiny, would Secretary of State Grenell cause more heartburn in Tehran than Secretary Blinken does now? How about Morgan Ortagus at DHS instead of the recently impeached Secretary Myorkis? Of whom would the cartels be more concerned: AG Merrick Garland or Tom Cotton or John Ratcliffe?

All of these hypotheticals are easy enough to answer. There’s so much upside to a list, even if general and not specific to jobs, that I hope the nominee moves in that direction. Until Trump does, expect legacy media to keep running cheap hit pieces like Politico’s of Monday’s, where the on-the-record shots at Trump all came from folks who would never be asked back into a second Trump term or from anonymous sources who, if revealed, would turn out to deserve the title anonymous.

The list of serious people who would say yes to a request from President-elect Trump to serve is long. Airing it out that list has only upside attached.

Hugh Hewitt is one of the country’s leading journalists of the center-right. A son of Ohio and a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan Law School, Hewitt has been a Professor of Law at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law since 1996 where he teaches Constitutional Law. Hewitt launched his eponymous radio show from Los Angeles in 1990, and it is today syndicated to hundreds of stations and outlets across the country every Monday through Friday morning. Hewitt has frequently appeared on every major national news television network, hosted television shows for PBS and MSNBC, written for every major American paper, has authored a dozen books and moderated a score of Republican candidate debates, most recently the November 2023 Republican presidential debate in Miami and four Republican presidential debates in the 2015-16 cycle. Hewitt focuses his radio show and this column on the Constitution, national security, American politics and the Cleveland Browns and Guardians. Hewitt has interviewed tens of thousands of guests from Democrats Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump over his forty years in broadcast, and this column previews the lead story that will drive his radio show today.

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