Three days of hearings, seven Cabinet nominees, countless contradictions of their boss-to-be’s trail promises.
No two people are going to agree on everything, of course. But there was a noticeable trend during this past week of Senate confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s top picks to lead the federal government: Almost every single one of them directly conflicted Trump’s promises on the campaign trail at least once — and some did it several times — on everything from Russia to climate change.
“The discordant notes that Cabinet nominees have struck as they have been questioned by senators suggests that a reality check may lie ahead for Trump,” writes The Post’s Karen Tumulty. (Trump himself didn’t seem to notice — or care. Here’s what he tweeted early Friday morning, following several news stories highlighting the contradictions):
All of my Cabinet nominee are looking good and doing a great job. I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 13, 2017
Here are 10 of the most notable breaks between Trump and his potential Cabinet:
1. On investigating Hillary Clinton
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s pick to be attorney general: “We can never have a political dispute turn into a criminal dispute.”
Trump: This one comes with asterisk; Sessions disagrees with Trail Trump, but since Election Day, so does the president-elect himself. Still, Trump repeatedly vowed he would appoint a special prosecutor to look into Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state. His more recent comments suggest otherwise — and so does his attorney general nominee. In a tweet Friday, Trump called Clinton “guilty as hell.”
2. On trade
Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick to be secretary of state: “I do not oppose TPP. I share some of [the president-elect] Trump’s views regarding whether the agreement that was negotiated serves all of America’s interests the best.”
Trump: “Withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has not yet been ratified” is the first step in his 7-point plan to “rebuild the American economy by fighting for free trade.”
3. On climate change
Tillerson: “The risk of climate change does exist and the consequences of it could be serious enough that actions should be taken.”
Trump: Trump recently allowed human activity could be playing a role in climate change, but he has a long record of calling it “a hoax” and even “bull—-“.
4. On Mexicans
Tillerson, in response to whether he thinks “Mexicans are criminals, drug dealers and rapists”: “I would never characterize an entire population by any single term at all.”
Trump: Trump actually used several terms — including, specifically, the ones above that Tillerson shied away from: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best …” he famously said. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
5. On Russia’s geopolitical priorities
Retired Marine Gen. John Mattis, Trump’s pick to be secretary of defense: Russia is “trying to break” the NATO Alliance.
Trump: Trump has repeatedly signaled his respect for Russian priorities, dismissing U.S. intelligence officials’ conclusion its leaders authorized meddling in the 2016 election and downplaying its military action in neighboring states. (This summer, Trump insisted Russian President Vladimir Putin was not going into Ukraine, despite the fact Russia had annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.)
6. On whether Russia was responsible for hacking
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Trump’s pick to head the CIA: “It’s pretty clear about what took place about Russian involvement in efforts to hack information.”
Sessions, on intelligence findings about Russian interference: “I have no reason to doubt that and have no evidence that would indicate otherwise.”
Trump: Wednesday was the first time he conceded briefly that Russia was most likely behind the hacks into the Democratic Party emails. He has yet to recognize who ordered it or why they did it.
7. On how big a deal Russian hacking was (and how the United States should respond)
Pompeo, on the U.S. response to Russian hacking: “It’s going to require an incredibly robust American response.”
Trump has tried to downplay the hacking: “Hacking’s bad, and it shouldn’t be done. But look at the things that were hacked, look at what was learned from that hacking,” he said in his news conference Wednesday.
8. On a border wall
Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security: “A physical barrier in and of itself … will not do the job.”
Trump: He’s gung-ho about that wall.
9. On torture
Kelly: “I don’t think we should ever come close to crossing a line that is beyond what we as Americans would expect to follow in terms of interrogation techniques.”
Mattis, when asked if he would carry out a hypothetical order by Trump to bring back waterboarding, which Congress attempted to make illegal in 2015: “Absolutely not.”
Trump: “Torture works,” he said during the campaign.
10. On infrastructure spending
Elaine Chao, Trump’s pick to be secretary of transportation: “The government does not have the resources to address all the infrastructure needs within our country.”
Trump: He wants to spend $1 trillion over the next decade to rebuild America’s roads, bridges and transportation systems and to boost the economy.