'clown show'
June 24, 2019

Two days after winning the 2016 presidential election, President Trump fired his transition chief, former Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), and his new transition team discarded Christie's copious files and instead outsourced its nominee vetting to the Republican National Committee. Axios obtained RNC vetting files on about 100 people, many of whom joined the Trump administration as Cabinet secretaries and agency heads.

Some of the young RNC staffers who "scrubbed" the public records of potential Trump hires told Axios the rushed process was "a disaster" and "a clown show" focused on making sure a potential nominee for an often unspecified position was at least "not a kid-toucher." Here are some of the "red flags" the vetters highlighted:

1. Kris Kobach: A potential Homeland Security secretary pick, Kobach's file notes that critics said he spoke at "a 'White Nationalist' conference," "tied him to white supremacist groups," and said "Kobach's college thesis praised Apartheid in South Africa." Kobach headed Trump's short-lived voter fraud commission and was most recently considered for an "immigration czar" post.

2. David Petraeus: The former general was being considered for secretary of state or national security adviser, and along with flagging that "Petraeus has indicated that the U.S. should deal with Russia with a stronger hand" and said "Brexit would 'damage Western security,'" his vetting file warns: "Petraeus is opposed to torture."

3. Rudy Giuliani: Giuliani, now Trump's personal lawyer and at the time under consideration for secretary of state, got his own 25-page RNC dossier on his business ties and "foreign entanglements."

4. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Gabbard (D-Hawaii), now running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, was vetted for a position in Trump's administration, reportedly Veterans Affairs secretary. Her file notes that she backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and "has given Democrats as many headaches" as "blessings."

5. Laura Ingraham: Trump considered the Fox News host as White House press secretary, and among other controversies, the RNC flagged Ingraham's "Nazi salute controversy," her suggestion "that the Clintons were going to kill FBI Director James Comey," and her stated views that "illegal immigrants who attempt to re-enter the country should be 'shot'" and "people should wear diapers instead of sharing bathrooms with transgender people."

Axios had Chris Christie read his own file on-camera for its Sunday evening HBO show.

Read more tidbits, and responses from the White House and various vetted people, at Axios. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads