President Donald Trump has filled key positions in his White House, as well as many top Cabinet positions, with political activists who didn’t support him in his presidential campaign. Some of those filling senior positions in the Trump Administration can even properly be classified as “Never Trumpers” who worked against him even after his nom-ination became inevitable. Adding to the problems facing the President as he seeks to implement his agenda are the huge number of Obama holdovers and career government bureaucrats who remain in positions where they work against his agenda while Trump political appointees languish in “holding” patterns.
Unfortunately, the pattern of political appointments that do not reflect support for President Trump is not limited to Washington DC and the White House. The Presidential appointees nominated thus far from Tennessee are almost exclusively people who either actively opposed President Trump or are closely affiliated with those who aggressively sought to block him from office. The Trump base in Tennessee is sticking with him, with recent poling showing 86% approval for the President among Tennessee likely GOP primary voters.
So, why is Trump not sticking to his base of supporters?
Just this weekend, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) engaged in yet another war of words with President Trump. Corker stated that the White House is like an “adult day care center” and somebody missed their shift.
Corker previously claimed the Trump Administration was “out of control” and in a “downward spiral.” He has questioned the President’s “stability” and “competence.” Nevertheless, the President has nominated political appointees for Tennessee whom Corker has recommended and who have close ties to Corker, while ignoring those who actively supported the President in his campaign.
Trump’s political nominations in Tennessee heavily lean towards people who come from the Republican Establishment, particularly those with close ties to Governor Bill Haslam. Last October, Governor Haslam specifically called for Trump to resign the nomination for President in favor of Mike Pence, and declared that he would not vote for Trump in the General Election.
Despite Haslam’s opposition, Trump carried 92 out of 95 of Tennessee’s counties. And just two weeks ago, Governor Haslam’s brother Jimmy, who owns the Cleveland Browns, spoke out in support of Browns players kneeling during the National Anthem and specifically denounced Trump for calling out NFL players’ disrespectful actions, calling him “misguided” and “divisive.”
Nevertheless, Trump continues to appoint people from the Haslam political sphere.
The political nominations the White House has thus far announced from Tennessee been limited to Federal judgeships, U.S. Attorneys, and U.S. Marshals, yet every posi-tion has been awarded exclusively to those from the Haslam-Corker Establishment wing of the party rather selecting anyone from the conservative base that so strongly supported President Trump. IF other names are being considered, they are clearly not making it past the anti-Trump agenda gatekeepers who are in place at the Department of Justice…and even the White House itself.
For example, the Tennessee political appointees announced by the Trump White House so far include:
1. State Senator Doug Overby (R-Maryville), U.S. Attorney nominee for East Ten-nessee. As a State Representative he regularly voted to support Democrat House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, and was noticeably silent during the state income tax battle during Governor Don Sundquist’s tenure, though he ultimately voted against it. His American Conservative Union ratings have been among the lowest for Republican legislators (58% in 2015, GOP legislators averaged 91%) and he received an F in the 2016 Americans for Prosperity scorecard. His support for the Haslam supported taxpayer-subsidized in state tuition for illegal aliens is certainly inconsistent with President Trump’s strong stance on border security and enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. Overbey also sponsored Governor Haslam’s failed attempts to expand Obamacare in Tennessee and voted for the Governor’s gas tax increase.
2. David Jolley, U.S. Marshal nominee for East Tennessee. Jolley’s wife runs the Knoxville field office for Senator Bob Corker. Former Knox County Sheriff Tim Hutchison, who campaigned hard for Trump’s nomination and eventual election, was considered a strong possibility for the position after last year’s presidential race but the appointment went to Jolley instead. Jolley previously served as U.S. Mar-shal for West Tennessee with an appointment by President George W. Bush. There is no indication of any support for President Trump’s campaign.
3. Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney, West Tennessee. Dunavant’s wife Marianne is Congressman David Kustoff’s (R-TN-08) District Director. (Kustoff supported Jeb Bush in the 2016 Presidential campaign, having been appointed as U.S. Attorney for West Tennessee by Bush’s brother President George W. Bush.) She previously worked as an aide to former 8th District Congressman Stephen Fincher, who is considering a race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Corker and with the apparent encouragement of Corker and Haslam, who declined to run himself. There is no evidence of any support for the Trump campaign by either Dunavant or his wife.
4. Four Federal Judge Nominees. President Trump has nominated four attorneys to serve as federal court judges in Tennessee, two in West Tennessee and two in Middle Tennessee. State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) is among the four, and is the only one who has apparently had any involvement in the political arena in any way. Norris supported the Haslam fuel tax increase but had balked at pushing Haslam’s earlier efforts to expand Obamacare. He also led the efforts to pass the Tennessee General Assembly joint resolution which prompted the state’s federal lawsuit to end the federal government’s refugee resettlement program on Tenth Amendment grounds. None of the three other nominees have any visible record of supporting the Trump campaign or conservative candidates or causes.
Nobody from Tennessee who worked in any visible or official capacity for the Donald Trump Presidential Campaign has been appointed to a significant position in the Trump Administration in Tennessee at this point.
The question is why?
Does the Trump campaign team plan to count on support from the same people in 2020 who have been ignored since the 2016 campaign ended?
More importantly, does Trump even know?
In Washington DC and in Tennessee there are still key positions that remain to be filled. Hopefully, the Trump Administration will start finding ways for those who helped elect him to help him successfully implement his agenda.