Trump Cabinet Meeting
Credit: The White House/Flickr

By any standard, President Trump’s cabinet has been a hot mess, so it doesn’t surprise me to learn that the Government Accountability Office released a report yesterday that accuses Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson of being a criminal. On the campaign trail, Trump told us over and over that he’d hire only the best people to serve him, but his choices just haven’t worked out well for him or for the country.

Among the top three, his first Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson of ExxonMobil, called the president a “f*cking moron” and was fired on the toilet. His Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, said Trump had the understanding of a “fifth or sixth grader” and made sure everyone saw his resignation letter after he quit in protest of the administration’s Syria policy. Steve Mnuchin, the Secretary of the Treasury, has reportedly called Trump “an idiot,” but somehow still remains in his job. The U.S. Ethics Office just rejected his 2018 financial disclosure statement because he sold his stake in a movie production company to his girlfriend and then married her, which kind of defeated the divestiture concept.

The next tier of cabinet members have not fared any better. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross also had his 2018 financial disclosure statement rejected. In March, a federal judge ruled that Ross had acted in “bad faith” and broke several laws related to his job overseeing the U.S. Census. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt have both resigned in disgrace. Zinke faced federal probes into his “travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest,” while Pruitt’s sins are too extensive to list.

Trump has plowed through two Homeland Security secretaries. He promoted John Kelly to be his chief of staff, but fired him from that position after learning that Kelly had called him “an idiot” on multiple occasions. He fired Kirstjen Nielsen for being insufficiently cruel to asylum seekers, but not before her cruelty to asylum seekers made her a household name.

Trump’s first Health and Human Services secretary lasted 231 days before he was forced out over his extravagant travel habits. His first Secretary of Veterans Affairs was fired after thirteen months for the same reason. Then Trump briefly tried to get Ronny “the Candyman” Jackson confirmed as his Vets secretary before it became clear that a drunk and abusive man known for tossing around prescription medications like the Easter Bunny wasn’t going to make the grade in the Senate.

The Department of Labor has been a particular embarrassment. Trump first nominated a man who had been so cruel to his spouse that she made an appearance in disguise on the Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss the abuse. Then it came to light that when the current Labor secretary, Alex Acosta was a U.S. attorney for Southern Florida, he was responsible for giving serial sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein a sweetheart deal that kept him out of prison despite his systemic rape of underage girls.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has been criticized for abusing her office to help her father’s shipping business. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has been credibly accused of doing improper favors for former campaign donors.

Some cabinet members have simply quit. UN ambassador Nikki Haley walked out the door at the end of 2018. Linda McMahon was replaced at the Small Business Administration in April. The director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn called Trump “dumb as shit” before leaving for the private sector.

No list would be complete, however, without a discussion of the Department of Justice. Immediately after Jeff Sessions was confirmed and recused himself from the Russia investigation, the president began agitating for him to resign. Then he replaced Sessions with Matthew Whitaker who wasn’t in the line of succession and was in no way qualified for the position. Then he settled on William Barr who is now engaged in a blatant cover-up of the president’s impeachable offenses.

Compared to the competition, Ben Carson’s crime looks almost innocent:

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson broke the law when he failed to report an order for a $31,561 dining room table set for his office as well as the installation of an $8,000 dishwasher in the office kitchen, the Government Accountability Office found in a report published Thursday.

Agencies are required to notify Congress of expenditures over $5,000 to furnish an executive’s office.

In fairness, Carson told Trump he wasn’t qualified to run a major department of the federal government. Trump still saw Carson as one of the “best people” for the job.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at