Donald Trump’s cabinet-in-waiting is taking shape in the final days of the race, as aides eye a number of Trump loyalists for major posts should he win on Tuesday.
Among the names being considered, according to conversations with three campaign advisers who requested anonymity to speak freely: Rudy Giuliani for attorney general, Newt Gingrich for secretary of state, retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn for defense secretary or national security adviser, Trump finance chairman Steve Mnuchin for Treasury secretary, and Republican National Committee finance chair Lew Eisenberg for commerce secretary.
Trump himself has not taken an active part in transition efforts, in part out of superstition: He fears too much planning before a victory might jinx the campaign. In 2012, he was shocked to read detailed stories on Mitt Romney’s preparations for the White House long before election day.
Campaign insiders say they’re focused on winning first and foremost as well and no decisions have been made or positions finalized. There are also some possible roadblocks: Flynn, for example, would not be eligible for secretary of defense without a waiver from Congress; the post requires that appointees be out of the military for seven years.
But transition talks are taking on greater intensity in recent days as Trump’s polling position improved. Some loyalists are playing coy about their desire for a particular job, while others are whispering their names hoping to gain traction.
“It’s become a lot more real,” one adviser said.
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Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, a loyal supporter, has taken a major role managing the transition effort, especially as the official transition chief, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, has drifted from the campaign. It’s not clear Christie is being considered for a significant role in a potential administration either.
The conservative Heritage Foundation is also helping vet names, along with some veterans of Romney’s run and the second Bush administration. Running mate Mike Pence is heavily involved and is expected to have a major role in a Trump administration, similar to more active vice presidents like Joe Biden and Al Gore.
One telling name under consideration could point to how Trump, who has sounded torn between co-opting the existing GOP and smashing it to bits, might govern as president.
Reince Priebus, the current RNC chairman, is under consideration as Trump’s chief of staff. Priebus earned Trump’s trust over the course of the campaign by steadfastly defending him while other top Republicans denounced Trump or shied away from brand.
"They’re thinking, 'We need to find that balance between someone who knows how Washington works and someone who shakes things up,’” the senior campaign adviser said.
But the adviser added it was unclear if Priebus was interested in the job, or if he would be the best fit managing Trump’s populist movement in the final calculus.
If Priebus leaves the RNC, two close Trump allies could be considered to take his position. Trump's team is talking about former campaign manager and current CNN contributor Corey Lewandowski or current deputy campaign manager David Bossie as possible options.
While Priebus is an olive branch to the establishment, Lewandowski, who had a tumultuous relationship with the RNC while campaign manager, would send a message that Trump won’t forget his base.
"Washington still doesn’t get it,” another senior aide said. “You have to understand the party will never be the same.”
Many top figures who worked under previous Republican presidents are still opposed to Trump’s candidacy, limiting the pool of possible names available. But one veteran of the George W. Bush White House who met with members of Trump’s transition team for several hours said he came away convinced they were interested in seasoned players from prior administrations.
“They’re reaching out to people with experience, they’re listening to them, they’re taking their counsel,” the former official said. “I was very impressed.”
Within Trump’s campaign, some of the biggest player may move on. Campaign CEO Steve Bannon has already said he’ll return to Breitbart, where his outlet would undoubtedly be a prime mover of Trump’s message as president. Sources say Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, might also decline an administration job after a grueling general election
Asked for comment on the above names floated for cabinet posts, Trump campaign spokesman Hope Hicks replied by e-mail that “none of this is accurate.”
She added Trump had not been too closely involved in the transition effort because he “is entirely focused on the campaign and the American people.”
Katy Tur is the host of "MSNBC Live" at 2 p.m. and a correspondent for NBC News. She is the author of the New York Times best seller "Unbelievable," about her time covering Donald Trump during the 2016 election, for which she also won a Cronkite Award.
Benjy Sarlin is a political reporter for NBC News.