You know what’s even scarier than Donald Trump in the White House? The people he’s bringing with him. For the past three weeks, the president-elect and his vice president-to-be Mike Pence have been holding meetings in Manhattan’s Trump Tower and his golf resort in New Jersey, rushing to staff their impending administration in time for his January 20 apocalypse/inauguration. They’ve already announced a handful of key positions, and more appointments are expected soon.
So far, the picks hint that the next four years will be just as horrifying as many predicted, filled mostly with bigots, people who are wholly unqualified, and those who favor the federal government taking outsized, aggressive approaches to foreign affairs, terrorism, and domestic security in ways that should terrify anyone who favors peace, freedom, and human rights. During his campaign, Trump promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington, but his administration is already looking pretty damn murky.
We haven’t seen a squad of super-villains this deep since Lex Luthor assembled the Legion of Doom to take on the Superfriends. You already know Trump and Pence. Now, meet the other people who will likely be messing your life up for the next four years.
Position: Chief strategist
Special Powers: Media manipulation, casual dressing
Trump named Bannon his administration’s chief strategist, which means he will be one of the most influential voices on policy across the board. When Glenn Beck, of all people, calls a fellow conservative the “most dangerous guy in American politics,” you should be worried. Until he became CEO of the Trump campaign in August, Bannon was the chairman of digital media company Breitbart News. Under his leadership, Breitbart.com has become, in his words, “the platform for the alt-right,” a loose group of Internet-savvy, troll-happy Neo-Nazis who rail against Islam, Black Lives Matters, gay rights, feminism, liberals, and everyone else who isn’t a white, straight, conservative Christian male. The site featured a category titled “Black Crime,” comprised of articles that played perfectly into racist stereotypes about black people. Breitbart has featured articles with headlines such as “Gay Rights Have Made Us Dumber,” “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy,” and “A Short List of Black Lives Matters’ Cop-Killing Heroes.”
You can also just go look to Bannon’s own words for evidence of his hateful views. In a 2011 radio interview, he called progressive women “dykes.”’ A close former colleague recently claimed that Bannon once said limiting African Americans’ voting rights wouldn’t be “such a bad thing.” In 2014, he told an interviewer that “the Judeo-Christian West” is “in the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict … an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism”—which could “completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.” Bannon’s ex-wife claimed that he once said he didn’t want their twin daughters attending Los Angeles’ Archer School for Girls because of its Jewish population: "He said that he doesn't like the way they raise their kids to be 'whiny brats' and that he didn't want the girls going to school with Jews,” she recalled in a 2007 court document. (Bannon denied her accusations.)
Possible Positions: Secretary of State, Attorney General
Special Powers: Eardrum-shattering shrillness, can induce fear with a single press conference
Rudy Giuliani as Attorney General, aka America’s “top cop,” is a frightening thought. When he was New York City mayor, Giuliani was a top proponent of aggressive, stop-and-frisk policing of black and Latino communities, and consistently blamed victims when it came to police brutality. In 2000, he released the sealed juvenile records of Patrick Dorismond—an unarmed black man killed by undercover police after they approached him on the street and attempted to entrap him by selling him weed—in a misguided attempt to prove Dorismond was "no altar boy." (In fact, Dorismond had attended the same Catholic school as Giuliani and had been an actual altar boy.) Giuliani hasn’t changed a bit—earlier this year he said that Black Lives Matter was “inherently racist.”
As for him being Secretary of State, America’s top diplomat, his consulting firm has taken money from Venezuela, Qatar, Iranian exiles and other foreign groups that would present a tangle of conflicts of interests. And can you think of anyone less, well, diplomatic? Check out what he said about President Obama in 2015: “I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up, and I was brought up through love of this country.”
Position: Attorney General
Special Powers: Ability to mentally time-travel to pre-Civil Rights America
In 1986, the Republican-led Senate rejected then-president Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Jeff Sessions as a district court judge over reports that he was racist. Thirty years later, Trump thinks he’ll fit right in. During Sessions’ nomination hearings in 1986, former colleagues claimed Sessions made several troubling comments, including labeling the NAACP “un-American,” joking that he thought that the Ku Klux Klan “was O.K. until I found out they smoked pot,” and calling a black prosecutor “boy” and a white civil rights attorney a “disgrace to his race.”
Meanwhile, in his decades in the Senate, Sessions has been one of the leading opponents of the push to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders and give judges greater freedom on sentencing for low-level drug crimes. His defense of mass incarceration has dovetailed neatly with his advocacy of stricter immigration laws: In 2015, he proposed a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for anyone re-entering the country illegally after being deported. One study says such a plan could increase the federal prison population by as much as 30 percent.
Potential position: Interior Secretary
Special Powers: Assembling meaningless word salads that make foes’ heads explode
Trump is reportedly considering Sarah Palin as Secretary of the Interior. Palin was one of Trump’s earliest, loudest supporters, and she pretty much never takes off her camo hunting gear, so she’d probably make sense for the position that oversees the management and conservation of federal land, national parks and natural resources, right? Wrong.
Her take on nature is: What can I get out of it? Can I shoot it? Can I snowmobile through it? And most importantly, can I get oil from it? As governor of Alaska, the state arguably suffering the most under global warming, Palin was a consistent foe of regulations that would protect the environment and punish corporations that damage it. An outspoken climate-change denier, Palin had Alaska sue the George W. Bush-led federal government in 2008 after it listed polar bears as an endangered species. Last year, in a speech to gas and oil industry bigwigs, she pushed for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline—which Obama has blocked but Trump promises to greenlight—by making the following claim about an existing Alaska pipeline’s effect on wildlife: “The animals like the warmth” that the pipeline gives off, she said. “The animals mate under the pipeline. I haven’t actually seen it...” If oil and gas development is risky to wildlife, she continued, “if it is to hurt one caribou, then that one caribou should take one for the team and allow the rest of the country to benefit.”
Possible Position: Secretary of State
Special Powers: Ability to disguise himself as a walrus
John Bolton is reportedly on Trump’s shortlist to be Secretary of State. If you haven’t blocked the trauma of the Bush Jr. years from your memory, you may remember Bolton. Even among real-life cartoon supervillains like Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, he stood out as particularly awful, and not just because of his 19th-century oil baron mustachio. As Bush’s Undersecretary of State and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Bolton was one of the strongest voices in support of the disastrous Iraq War, and also pushed for the U.S. to back away from the International Criminal Court and key international arms control agreements. He was a cheerleader of Obama’s failed Libya intervention, and even once advocated for war with Cuba over widely debunked reports that they were developing weapons of mass destruction. Nowadays, he spends most of his time once again saber-rattling for war—this time in Iran, which would likely be an unmitigated quagmire.
Position: White House Chief of Staff
Special Powers: Shape-shifting to suit the changing mood of the GOP’s extremists
Among folks like Bannon and Bolton, Reince Preibus actually seems like a pretty reasonable option for Trump’s chief of staff, one of the most powerful positions in the White House. But don’t be fooled—the man supports policies that will be horrible for America, and as former head of the RNC, he has the connections on Capitol Hill and beyond to get them enacted. As chairman of the Wisconsin GOP in 2010, he helped elect Scott Walker as governor and secure a GOP majority in the state Legislature. In the six years since, Wisconsin has decimated government unions, pushed restrictive voting laws that targeted young voters and voters of color (thereby helping swing the state to Trump), and restricted abortion rights. As chairman of the RNC, Preibus was one of the few prominent Republicans who refused to criticize Trump’s racist and sexist statements and actions. Since helping Trump win the election, Preibus has refused to “rule out” a Nazi-sounding Muslim registry. But hey, he’s only slightly Islamophobic, so, uh, progress?
Position: National security adviser
Special Powers: Ability to start World War III with a tweet
Any hopes of fighting Islamophobic elements of Trump’s presidential campaign, which included floating a proposal to ban Muslim immigrants, were dashed when he named retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn to be his national security adviser. Flynn is a registered Democrat with a successful military career whom Obama appointed to head the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014. But since returning to civilian life, he has become known for pushing Islamophobic conspiracy theories and a far more bellicose U.S. military campaign against ISIS that would inevitably suck our country deeper into foreign conflicts. In February, he tweeted: “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” In August, he spoke at an event hosted by the anti-Islamist group Act for America and called Islam a “cancer” and “political ideology” that “definitely hides behind being a religion.” Critics say that Flynn’s casting of America’s fight against ISIS as a war against an entire religion plays right into terrorists’ propaganda, will help them recruit more soldiers, and could turn off potential allies in the Muslim world.
Position: CIA Director
Special Powers: Able to jump to conclusions about Muslims in a single bound
Mike Pompeo, a Republican Kansas congressman, has been announced as Trump’s pick to head up the CIA. And surprise—he’s also been dogged by charges of racism and anti-Islam bigotry. In 2010, Pompeo's campaign tweeted a link from the congressman's account telling followers to read a blog post that used a racial slur against his Indian-American political opponent and called President Barack Obama an "evil muslim communist USURPER." (Pompeo blamed the tweet on a staffer.) After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, Pompeo falsely claimed that Muslim leaders weren’t denouncing terrorist acts: "Silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts,” he said. Perhaps even more terrifying given his potential role as America’s top spy: Pompeo is a big proponent of increased surveillance on the public, pushing for Congress to roll back reforms limiting the mass collection of metadata.
David Clarke Jr.
Possible Position: Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
Special Powers: Impeccable impersonation of Chappelle's Show’s Clayton Bigsby
Trump reportedly met with David Clarke Jr., the sheriff of Milwaukee county and prominent Fox News talking head, on Monday to discuss heading up the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for anti-terrorism efforts, border security, immigration, cybersecurity, and more. Clarke, an outspoken Trump supporter during the 2016 campaign, has little experience in any of these areas, but that’s not the scariest thing about him. Clarke claims that “there is no police brutality in America,” and is one of the foremost critics of the Black Lives Matter movement, which he calls “Black Lies Matter.” In 2015, he tweeted, “Before long, Black Lies Matter will join forces with ISIS to being down our legal constituted republic. You heard it first here.”
Clarke has also floated some downright terrifying proposals when it comes to securing America. Last year, on his radio show, he said that terrorist and ISIS sympathizers in America need to be rounded up, stripped of their due process rights, and shipped off to prison in Guantanamo Bay. “It is time to suspend habeas corpus like Abraham Lincoln did during the civil war,” he said. “I suggest that our commander in chief... take all of these individuals that are suspected, these ones on the internet spewing jihadi rhetoric . . . scoop them up, charge them with treason and, under habeas corpus, detain them indefinitely at Gitmo.” Clarke thinks that there may be up to a million sympathizers in the United States that should be imprisoned—including, inevitably, some American citizens.