First women join Cabinet choices
In Haley and DeVos, Trump looks past loyalists
WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump named Cabinet picks Wednesday who would bring some gender and racial diversity to his administration, as well as a degree of political independence, but raised questions about his pledge to seek experience in choosing stewards of vast government bureaucracies.
Trump’s picks for U.N. ambassador, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and for Education secretary, Betsy DeVos, a billionaire advocate of school vouchers, were the first two women named in a transition that had been dominated by white, male Trump loyalists.
Haley is the daughter of Indian immigrants.
Dr. Ben Carson, who is black, also said Wednesday that he is under consideration to serve as secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
The selections offer some political diversity and could buffer Trump from criticism that he was filling out the top echelon of his administration with only people who had backed his campaign.
Haley was critical of Trump during the Republican primary, endorsing two of his opponents before finally standing alongside the eventual nominee. DeVos was less outspoken in her reservations but contributed to at least two of Trump’s rivals and went South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, was offered the post of United Nations ambassador. into the summer nominating convention telling The Detroit News she wasn’t sure whether to back him.
Both are stalwarts of the Republican establishment Trump so vigorously challenged.
But Haley and Carson, if he is chosen, would seem to contradict Trump’s statement a day earlier, in an interview with The New York Times, that he valued expertise in stocking his administration.
“We’re trying very hard to get the best people — not DeVos necessarily people that will be the most politically correct people because that hasn’t been working,” Trump had said.
“So we have really experts in the field. Some are known and some are not known, but they’re known within their field as being the best. That’s very important to me.”
Haley, 44, a rising star in the GOP, has little background in foreign affairs. Carson, 65, is a retired neurosurgeon.
Days ago, a senior adviser said Carson thought he lacked the background needed to manage a federal agency.
Carson didn’t want to take a position that could “cripple the presidency,” Armstrong Williams, an adviser to Trump and Carson, told the Hill newspaper.
HUD is responsible for administering low-income housing assistance, fair housing laws, housing development and aid to neighborhoods in distress.
On Wednesday, however, Carson indicated a change of heart.
“After serious discussions with the Trump transition team, I feel that I can make a significant contribu- tion, particularly to making our inner cities great for everyone,” Carson said on Facebook. “An announcement is forthcoming about my role in helping to make America great again.”
DeVos, 58, does have long experience in education policy, advocating for conservative goals and tangling with teacher unions.
She and her family — her father-in-law co-founded Amway and has a fortune that Forbes estimated at $5 billion — are among the nation’s biggest donors to the Republican Party and to Christian causes, including opposition to same-sex marriage.
She is also a former four-time chair of the Michigan Republican Party.
“Under her leadership, we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families,” Trump said in a statement.
DeVos moved quickly Wednesday to reassure conservatives on one issue — the Common Core curriculum standards. She has been an ally of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who backed Common Core.
“Many of you are asking about Common Core,” she wrote on Twitter. “To clarify, I am not a supporter — period.”
Her selection suggests that Trump may make a priority of backing vouchers — a longtime conservative goal that he endorsed during the campaign. Voucher programs give tax funds to parents that they can use to pay for private or parochial schools if they find their local public schools unsatisfactory.
DeVos has been a leading advocate.
Teacher unions, which oppose vouchers, denounced the choice.
“Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.