A massive trove of vetting documents from President Donald Trump’s transition was leaked to Axios, revealing significant “red flags” for many prospective appointees. Some of them, however, are still laying in wait for their chance to serve the administration.
Among those is former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is vying to be Trump’s new “immigration czar.” Kobach previously chaired a “commission on election integrity,” which found no evidence of voter fraud despite Kobach’s exuberant claims to the contrary. Last month, he outlined a bizarre list of demands before he’d take the czar job, including walk-in privileges with the president, 24/7 access to a jet, and a promise to be nominated as secretary of homeland security later this year.
It’s unclear if he’s under consideration, but according to the vetting docs, “white supremacy” was a significant “red flag” for Kobach. “Past political opponents have accused Kobach of allying himself with groups that had connections to white supremacist groups,” the documents read. This probably refers to reports that Kobach accepted funding from white supremacist groups during his election in 2004.
But there have been even more reports of Kobach’s ties to white supremacy in the years since these transition vetting docs were compiled following the 2016 election. Last year, he was accused of employing three white nationalists on his gubernatorial campaign, and financial disclosures revealed he was still accepting thousands of dollars from white nationalists. His support for strict voter ID laws that disenfranchise racial minority voters and rabidly xenophobic views of immigration are not inconsistent with such views.
With Sarah Huckabee Sanders leaving her post as White House press secretary, another previous contender who might be back under consideration is Fox News host Laura Ingraham. One of the “red flags” from her vetting was her suggestion that people wear diapers to avoid sharing restrooms with transgender people. “Adult diapers, diapers for everybody,” she said on her show in June 2016. “No one’s going to be going to the bathroom. You have little kids, there’s going to be no bathrooms. We’re just going to all wear Depends.”
Given the Trump administration has dismantled transgender protections at every turn, it’s unclear there’s such a thing as being too transphobic to serve in it. A vetting doc for Ingraham in 2019 would have far more to work with, including some white nationalism of her own. Just last week, she suggested that those who suffered as a result of the legacy of slavery just need to get over it. Last year, she defended Trump’s immigration detention facilities for children as “summer camps,” a description that has only gotten worse with age in light of how conditions have deteriorated in these facilities.
The vetting docs, however, clearly didn’t get in the way of a number of other hires. Scott Pruitt was still brought on as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency despite “allegations of coziness with big energy companies.” Tom Price was appointed secretary of health and human services even though “dysfunction and division has haunted Price’s leadership of the House Budget Committee.” Both Pruitt and Price have since resigned in the wake of various scandals.
A number of other prospective candidates were flagged for anti-Trump comments they had made. Nikki Haley, who went on to serve as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, was flagged as having said that Trump embodies what “we teach our kids not to do in kindergarten.” Ryan Zinke, who served as Trump’s secretary of the Interior, had described the president as “un-defendable,” while Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, had called him “not a very good person.” Energy Secretary Rick Perry had “described Trumpism as a ‘toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition.’”
The vetting docs included a separate 25-page document dedicated entirely to the “foreign entanglements” of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.
Responding to Axios’ request for comment regarding the leaked docs, principal Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley insisted that “President Trump has assembled an incredible team,” and “no disgruntled, establishment, D.C. swamp creature’s cowardly leaks can change” what he’s accomplished.