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Five Things We've Learned From Trump's Cabinet Picks So Far

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Donald Trump, John Kelly
President-elect Donald Trump talks to media as he stands with retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, right, at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Bedminster, N.J.. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)Carolyn Kaster / AP

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

What Trump’s Cabinet Picks Tell Us (So Far)

President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet selections are now almost complete -- save for that secretary of state position, as well as Agriculture, Energy, and Interior. Below are five observations we can make about his picks so far, but first here are the names:

  • Secretary of State: TBD (Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, Bob Corker, Mitt Romney, David Petraeus, Rex Tillerson, Lee Raymond, Jon Hunstman)
  • Attorney General: Jeff Sessions
  • Treasury: Steve Mnuchin
  • Defense: James Mattis
  • Homeland: John Kelly
  • HHS: Tom Price
  • HUD: Ben Carson
  • Education: Betsy DeVos
  • Commerce: Wilbur Ross
  • Transportation: Elaine Chao
  • Labor: Andy Puzder
  • Agriculture: TBD
  • Energy: TBD
  • Interior: TBD
  • UN Ambassador: Nikki Haley
  • Environmental Protection Agency: Scott Pruitt

RELATED: Everyone In Donald Trump’s Cabinet

1. The GOP Outsiders

First, they’re mostly from outside the Republican establishment. There’s not a Bush or Romney (at least not yet) -- nor are there key members of past GOP administrations or campaigns (except for Elaine Chao, who served as George W. Bush’s Labor secretary). Indeed, outside of Chao and U.N. ambassador pick Nikki Haley, it’s hard to see how any of these names so far would have surfaced in, say, a Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio administration. Even the one U.S. senator Trump has selected so far, Jeff Sessions, isn’t exactly a card-carrying member of the GOP establishment club. Now this theme could change if Trump chooses Romney to be his secretary of state. But right now, there are more outsiders than insiders.

2. They’re Not Exactly Draining the Swamp

Despite the outsider credentials, many of Trump’s picks still have connections to key special interests. There’s Wall Street (from which Treasury pick Steve Mnuchin hails), the private-equity world (Wilbur Ross), the Amway fortune (Betsy DeVos), and Corporate America (Andy Puzder).

3. Trump’s Businessmen and Generals vs. Obama’s Technocrats

There’s a striking difference between Trump’s team so far -- let’s call them the businessmen/businesswomen and the generals -- and Obama’s first cabinet, which consisted of Democratic technocrats and politicians. Think of Arne Duncan (Obama’s Education secretary), Shaun Donovan (HUD/OMB), or Tim Geithner (Treasury). There really isn’t a GOP technocratic equivalent in Trump’s emerging cabinet.

4. Trump’s Ideological Warriors vs. Actual Warriors

There’s also a fascinating divide among Trump’s picks: You have mostly apolitical generals on the national security team (James Mattis for Defense, John Kelly for Homeland), but then ideological warriors in the rule-making departments and agencies. There’s school-choice advocate DeVos at Education; anti-Obamacare Rep. Tom Price at HHS; Oklahoma’s Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency; fast-food CEO Puzder at Labor; and even Ben Carson at HUD. These latter folks might not have served in a Jeb Bush administration, but they very well might have been members of a Ted Cruz team.

5. A Lack of Diversity in Top Positions

Finally, there’s diversity with Trump’s cabinet picks, but it’s a kind of 1990s diversity. All of the crème de la crème positions are filled by white men -- Defense, Treasury, attorney general, and secretary of state (given the finalists for the position). The diversity comes in the gigs after those -- Carson at HUD, Haley as UN ambassador, Elaine Chao at Transportation. Indeed, George W. Bush’s first cabinet had more diversity (Colin Powell, Rod Paige, Norm Mineta, Mel Martinez, Chao, Gale Norton, Ann Veneman) than Trump’s does so far. And what’s more, there isn’t a single Latino on Trump’s team yet.