President Trump is running a ghost administration

Donald Trump holds a White House meeting at his golf course
(Image credit: Pete Marovich-Pool/Getty Images)

President Trump has nominated only 42 of the 553 key leadership positions in his administration, and 18 of those 42 have been confirmed, mostly Cabinet secretaries, according to a tally of jobs requiring Senate confirmation by the Partnership for Public Service and The Washington Post. Left unfilled are dozens of deputy and assistant secretary posts, chief financial officers (including at the Treasury Department), general counsels, and ambassadors. None of his Cabinet secretaries have deputies, and there are no such nominees yet for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson or Defense Secretary James Mattis.

"There's no question this is the slowest transition in decades," former State Department official R. Nicholas Burns, who has been involved in transitions since 1988, tells The New York Times. "It is a very, very big mistake. The world continues — it doesn't respect transitions." Trump seems unconcerned about the vacancies, telling Fox News in February that "a lot of those jobs, I don't want to appoint, because they're unnecessary to have." But White House spokeswoman Lindsay E. Walters says Trump actually intends to fill most of the vacancies, eventally.

Former Cabinet officials, federal agency administrators, and White House transition experts tell The New York Times that the vacant offices and resultant power vacuums will hinder Trump's policy goals, and weaken America's position in the world. America's ambassador to Chile, Carol Perez, will represent the U.S. at a meeting of Pacific Rim trade ministers this week, for example, because the U.S. trade representative job hasn't been filled. And a U.S.-Mexico sugar dispute flared up last week because Mexico did not have anyone to negotiate with at the Commerce Department.

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Trump is about halfway to where former President Barack Obama was at this stage in his administration, and "months behind where experts in both parties, even some inside his administration, say he should be," The Times says. He is making up for lost time, but got off to a slow start in a tumultuous transition period and has compounded his staffing problems by narrowing down the pool of qualified applicants by imposing loyalty tests, a five-year lobbying ban, and a chaotic White House. You can read more about Trump's slow transition at The New York Times.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.