Perhaps the most controversial president-elect in history, Donald J. Trump is expected to be formally elected by the Electoral College December 19 and inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States at noon on January 20th, 2017. Starting the day after he was elected, Trump has been building a team around himself to prepare for taking the most prestigious office in the country. But his transition team and activities have been troubled by ongoing conflicts and scandals among team members.
Is it fair that Trump's transition team is getting such rough treatment for past behaviour in the media? We've collected the nine most pressing scandals so you can decide yourself.
1. Chris Christie And Bridgegate
Initially, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the head of Trump's transition team, but just two days after the election Trump phoned Christie to let him know his involvement in Bridgegate, a scandal that saw Christie's staffers creating traffic jams and lane closures on the Washington Bridge in order to punish and frustrate political opponents, was a liability to the presidential transition. Christie was fired from the transition team and several other team members loyal to Christie were also removed in what NBC called "a Stalinesque Purge." Christie was also rumored to have run afoul of Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner for his role in jailing Kushner's father, Charles, in a donations scandal.
2. Ivanka Trump's Business Conflicts
One member of president-elect Donald Trump's leadership team already fraught with concerns about conflicts in business is his daughter, former fashion model Ivanka Trump. Trump has said that his daughter, along with her brothers Eric and Donald Jr., will lead the Trump business organization once he is president.
However, evidence has already emerged of Trump business intersecting with the Trump presidency. When Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe just days after becoming president elect, his daughter came along for the meeting despite not having expertise or special security clearance.
3. Jeff Sessions' Racist Remarks
Jeff Sessions was an early supporter of Trump's presidential bid, and was even considered as a possibility to be Trump's Vice Presidential nominee before Mike Pence was selected.
Sessions is now a vice chair of Trump's transition team and has also been announced as Trump's pick for Attorney General, a decision that prompted much controversy given Sessions' history with judicial postings. President Ronald Reagan once nominated Sessions to be a federal district judge for Alabama, but his nomination was ultimately rejected when racist remarks from Sessions' past were uncovered. One of his strangest comments: he thought the Ku Klux Klan "were OK until I found out they smoked pot." Sessions apologized for making that remark, but that wasn't enough to convince the committee. His nomination was rejected.
4. Michael Flynn's Ties To Russia
Retired United States Lieutenant General and former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn is a member of Trump's transition team and has been named as Trump's national security advisor.
In 2015, Flynn came under fire for attending a gala dinner hosted by RT, a Russian-owned English-language media outlet. He also gave a paid speech in Russia before the gala. Politco quoted an unnamed Pentagon official as remarking, "It was extremely odd that he showed up in a tuxedo to the Russian government propaganda arm’s party."
5. Ben Carson's Embellishments
Somewhat forgotten from those long-ago heady days of the Republican Primary are the many embellishments to Ben Carson's personal story for which he was called out. Carson is probably best known for exaggerating claims about his offer to attend West Point Military academy under full scholarship, a claim his campaign staff later characterized this way:
“Dr. Carson was the top ROTC student in the City of Detroit,” campaign manager Barry Bennett wrote in an email to POLITICO. “In that role he was invited to meet General Westmoreland. He believes it was at a banquet. He can’t remember with specificity their brief conversation but it centered around Dr. Carson’s performance as ROTC City Executive Officer.”
“He was introduced to folks from West Point by his ROTC Supervisors,” Bennett added. “They told him they could help him get an appointment based on his grades and performance in ROTC. He considered it but in the end did not seek admission.”
6. Steve Bannon's Ties To Alt-Right
Founding member of the board of Breitbart News, Steve Bannon, has come under fire for a number of issues since signing on as a key part of Trump's presidential campaign. Broadly, Bannon's controversy could be summed up by understanding his relationship to what has been dubbed "the alt-right," a term Bannon derides.
Early in the Trump campaign, Bannon told Mother Jones that Breitbart was a news organization for the alt-right, and later defended the position saying, "Are there some people that are anti-Semitic that are attracted? Maybe. Right? Maybe some people are attracted to the alt-right that are homophobes, right? But that's just like, there are certain elements of the progressive left and the hard left that attract certain elements."
Nevertheless, Trump has named Bannon as a strategist and "Counsellor to the President".
7. Lou Barletta Oversteps His Authority On Immigration
Lou Barletta is a member of Trump's transition team and the former mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania. As Mayor, he vowed to make Hazleton "one of the toughest places in the United States" for illegal immigrants. To accomplish that goal he instituted "The Illegal Immigration Relief Act," which allowed the city to deny a business permit to a business employing illegal immigrants and also prohibited city employees from translating a document into any language except English.
The Act was challenged by the ACLU and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Education Fund, and in 2007 a judge ruled the act was unconstitutional for interfering with federal immigration laws.
8. Marsha Blackburn's Medical Records Request
Trump transition team member Marsha Blackburn came under fire just days before Trump was elected for her role in requesting a Colorado doctor turn over private medical records relating to late-term abortions. The doctor called the request a "witch hunt" and labelled Blackburn a "shameless coward."
9. Pam Bondi's Election Activities
Florida Attorney General and controversy-laden Republican politician Pam Bondi should feel right at home on Trump's transition team.
Bondi has been criticized for election fundraising activities related to Trump's campaign. Specifically, Bondi announced her office might join New York in a tax fraud lawsuit against Trump related to Trump University. Four days later, a PAC supporting Bondi's re-election received a $25,000 donation from the Donald J. Trump Foundation. Subsequently. Bondi declined to join the lawsuit and endorsed Trump for President.
It wasn't Bondi's first controversy. In 2013, Bondi persuaded Governor Rick Scott to postpone execution of a death row inmate because it conflicted with her re-election fundraiser.