In Defying the Odds, we discuss the people surrounding Trump. (The update -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.)
The choice of servants is of no little importance to a prince, and they are good or not according to the discrimination of the prince. And the first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.
At Axios, Jonathan Swan, Juliet Bartz, Alayna Treene, Orion Rummler reports on leaked Trump transition vetting documents.
- Scott Pruitt, who ultimately lost his job as EPA Administrator because of serial ethical abuses and clubbiness with lobbyists, had a section in his vetting form titled "allegations of coziness with big energy companies."
- Tom Price, who ultimately resigned as Health and Human Services Secretary after Trump lost confidence in him in part for stories about his use of chartered flights, had sections in his dossier flagging "criticisms of management ability" and "Dysfunction And Division Has Haunted Price's Leadership Of The House Budget Committee."
- Mick Mulvaney, who became Trump's Budget Director and is now his acting chief of staff, has a striking assortment of "red flags," including his assessment that Trump "is not a very good person."
- The Trump transition team was so worried about Rudy Giuliani, in line for Secretary of State, that they created a separate 25-page document titled "Rudy Giuliani Business Ties Research Dossier" with copious accounting of his "foreign entanglements."
Behind the scenes: In the chaotic weeks after Trump's surprise election victory, Trump fired Chris Christie as the head of his transition. The team that took over — which V.P. Mike Pence helmed — outsourced the political vetting of would-be top officials to the Republican National Committee.
Traditionally, any would-be top official faces three types of vetting: an FBI background check, a scrub for financial conflicts of interest from the Office of Government Ethics, and a deep dive from the president-elect's political team, which veteran Washington lawyers often handle.
We obtained many of the political vetting forms. According to sources on the RNC vetting team, senior Trump officials asked them to do an initial "scrub" of the public record before Trump met the contenders. But in many cases — for example the misguided choice of Andrew Puzder as Labor Secretary — this RNC "scrub" of public sources was the only substantial vetting in Trump's possession when he announced his picks.The full list here.