“Axios on HBO” reported Sunday that it had obtained an enormous cache of internal vetting documents, many of them troubling, used by Donald Trump’s transition team to assess potential administration officials.
The nearly 100 leaked documents included vetting forms that identified “red flags” pertaining to many current and former Trump administration officials like Scott Pruitt, Tom Price, Mick Mulvaney and Rex TIllerson.
“The massive trove, and the story behind it, sheds light on the slap-dash way President Trump filled his Cabinet and administration, and foreshadowed future scandals that beset his government,” Axios reported of the leaked documents.
Pruitt’s form, for instance, contained a section entitled “allegations of coziness with big energy companies.” The former head of the Environmental Protection Agency resigned last year after being dogged by numerous ethics scandals and accusations of chumminess with lobbyists.
The vetters also expressed concern about the “criticisms of management ability” that had been leveled against Tom Price, who resigned as Health and Human Services Secretary in 2017 after costing taxpayers at least $400,000 for taking chartered flights.
Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who Trump fired last March, was flagged for his ties with Russia. “Tillerson’s Russia ties go deep,” his vetting dossier read.
— Axios (@axios) June 23, 2019
According to Axios, the vetting process was carried out by “a team of about two dozen researchers, almost all of whom were in their 20s” from the Republican National Committee.
Vice President Mike Pence reportedly outsourced the job to the RNC after Chris Christie was ousted as Trump’s transition chairman.
One RNC researcher described the vetting process as a “disaster” and a “shit-show.”
“There were so many unqualified people coming through,” the researcher told Axios.
Political vetting during the Trump transition, for some of the most important positions in the U.S. government, was conducted by 20-something RNC staffers. One of them called the process a "shit-show." https://t.co/eZ2WfPJqJh
— Axios (@axios) June 23, 2019
The RNC vetters flagged a number of potential candidates for expressing their opposition to Trump. Many were hired by the president, however, despite their criticism of him.
Mulvaney, Trump’s current acting chief of staff, called the president “not a very good person” who said “stupid things;” Nikki Haley, the former U.N. ambassador, said Trump was everything “we teach our kids not to do in kindergarten”; and Rick Perry, Trump’s energy secretary, was flagged for describing Trumpism as a “toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition.”
The White House appeared to acknowledge the authenticity of the leaked vetting documents in a statement to Axios.
“President Trump has assembled an incredible team throughout the federal government who — in spite of 93% negative news coverage — has accomplished undeniable successes like tax cuts, record employment levels, a booming economy…rebuilding the military and crushing ISIS,” principal deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said.
“President Trump has done more to improve the lives of the American people in two years — than past presidents have done in eight — and no disgruntled, establishment, D.C. swamp creature’s cowardly leaks can change that,” Gidley added.
Axios has made the leaked vetting documents available online. Peruse them here.