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Gorshenin Institute pundit analyses Trump's new team

The biggest intrigue is whether Trump can replace the House of Representatives speaker with his loyalist.

Gorshenin Institute pundit analyses Trump's new team
Yevhen Kurmashov
Photo: Max Trebukhov

Yevhen Kurmashov, director of political programmes at Gorshenin Institute, has presented his assessment of the first appointments announced by President-elect Donald Trump.At a press briefing at Gorshenin Institute, he recalled that so far only three key positions in Trump's team have been known to be taken for sure. Another given fact is that his daughter Ivanka is going to have virtually unlimited informal influence on the processes.

"What we see today. It is safe to say that Mike Pence will become vice-president. It is a white thesis, but it should be spelled out. Pence represents the elite of the Republican Party and very many hopes and interests of that section of the party elite which is alien to Trump.

"Next, we see a new head of the Trump administration who was appointed just yesterday. It is Reince Priebus, head of the Republican National Committee. Reince Priebus was quite cautious during this election campaign, acting as a communicator between the party establishment and Donald Trump. Priebus at his own risk helped Trump's HQ to campaign in a number of states which appeared key to his victory. Largely thanks to Priebus, Trump's team had a chance to rely on the organizational structure of the Republican Party in the regions. In some states, such as Virginia and Georgia, the local leadership of the Republican National Committee openly sabotaged Trump's campaign, but in some areas it provided tangible assistance and made a great contribution to his victory.

"Steve Bannon has already become the main political adviser to the future president. He was in fact one of the main leaders of his election HQ. He is a very interesting and controversial person. He is a political strategist with a huge experience, who largely represents the interests of such a super donor of Trump's election campaign as conservative businessman Robert Mercer. During the primaries, Steve Bannon also worked for Ted Cruz's campaign when this Conservative candidate was supported by Robert Mercer, but after Trump won the inner voting, Mercer decided to bet on Trump and delegated his strategists – Bannon and Kellyanne Conway – to the HQ," Kurmashov said. 

The remaining members of the Trump team are not yet known, and it is impossible to accurately predict who they are going to be. It is clear that it can include Rudy Giuliani, Ben Carson and Chris Christie.

"A very painful question for Ukraine, for example, is who is going to head the State Department. Many names are being discussed now, from that very same Rudy Giuliani to such conservative politicians as Bolton and Corker," he said.

According to Kurmashov, a very big intrigue is whether Trump can replace the House of Representatives speaker with his loyalist.

"The speaker of the lower house of the Congress is a very important person in the new configuration. Today, this position is held by a well-known Republican politician, Paul Ryan. During the election campaign, Ryan consistently led his own game by first endorsing his support for Trump and later withdrawing it. Ryan was one of the 'conspirators' who did not work in favour of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate. That is why one of the main intrigues today is whether Paul Ryan can re-emerge as speaker in the new composition of the House of Representatives. Because this role is quite weighty. Very many of those we talked to in the USA explains in elementary terms how Paul Ryan together with the political elites of the Republican party, if they wish, could make the first years of Donald Trump's presidential tenure in one continuous problem. There are many tools for this," he said.

If Trump fails to replace Ryan with another person, it will be seen as his first major apparatus failure and inability to push fundamental staffing decisions through.

"And one more interesting personnel intrigue is a possible appointment of a former top manager and partner of Goldman Sachs Group, Steven Mnuchin, as head of the US Department of the Treasury. This is a key post in the federal government, the closest match to the finance minister's post in the government system we got used to. Mnuchin is the brightest representative of Wall Street. It is interesting that Trump's HQ actively accused Hillary Clinton of connections with financial bigwigs. At the same time, the fact that Mnuchin donated funds to the Trump campaign was repeatedly reported by the media and is not a secret. But the prospect of a person from Goldman Sachs being possibly appointed to one of the key posts in Donald Trump's system of government is a very striking and controversial issue," Kurmashov said.

He stressed that the US Department of the Treasury is one of the most important departments in the framework of the policy of sanctions against the Russian Federation, therefore Mnuchin's appointment should arouse great interest both in Kyiv and in Moscow.