Leaked Trump transition documents of nearly 100 officials cite "red flags" of top appointees: report

The documents foreshadowed scandals about officials who were later appointed to some of the top government jobs

Published June 24, 2019 3:32PM (EDT)

 (Getty/Chip Somodevilla)
(Getty/Chip Somodevilla)

An enormous cache of leaked internal vetting documents used by President Donald Trump's transition team to assess potential administration officials were reported Sunday by "Axios on HBO."

The nearly 100 leaked documents included vetting forms that identified "red flags" pertaining to current and former White House officials.

"The massive trove, and the story behind it, sheds light on the slap-dash way President Trump filled his Cabinet and administration, and foreshadowed future scandals that beset his government," Axios wrote of the leaked documents.

The vetting documents for former Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, who resigned last year following numerous scandals regarding his spending, ethics and management style, reportedly had a section titled "allegations of coziness with big energy companies."

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned in 2017 after it was revealed he had spent more than $1 million in taxpayer funds for travel expenses. Vetting documents for Price allegedly flagged "criticisms of management ability."

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who Trump fired last March, was reportedly flagged for his relations with Russia. The vetting documents read, "Tillerson's Russia ties go deep."

Mick Mulvaney, Trump's former budget director and current acting chief of staff, said the president "is not a very good person" and accused him of saying "racially charged" and "stupid things."

Nikki Haley, who became Trump's U.N. ambassador, said Trump was everything "we teach our kids not to do in Kindergarten." She announced her resignation in October 2018 from the White House's Oval Office, standing alongside Trump.

Trump's Interior Secretary Rick Perry had described Trump as "undefendable" and called Trumpism a "toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will leak the Republican Party to perdition."

The vetting process was carried out by "a team of about two dozen researchers, almost all of whom were in their 20s" from the Republican National Committee (RNC), Axios reported.

Vice President Mike Pence reportedly outsourced political vetting to the RNC after former Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., was fired as Trump's transition chairman.

One RNC researcher described the vetting process as a "disaster" and a "sh*t-show." He told Axios, "There were so many unqualified people coming through."

RNC spokesperson Mike Reed defended the team's work, telling the news outlet: "These over 2-year-old documents were initial pre-interview briefings put together to inform the transition team of top-line issues of note in the candidates' background."

"Individuals selected for high-level administration jobs would have gone through more thorough background checks by lawyers, law enforcement agencies, and ethics officials before formally assuming their role," Reed added.

Christie looked over the team's vetting dossier in an interview with Axios.

"It's fascinating. And by the way, the interesting part of this, which shows you how disorganized they were, was they had an entire vice presidential vetting file on me," Christie said. "That's what makes this even funnier that they would go through this."

Christie said that before he was fired from the transition team, he turned over a "30-volume set" of transition planning with four Cabinet recommendations for each position.

"The longer term consequences for the president and for the country was that he didn't have the very best people in front of him to be able to make a full and fair decision about, and then he paid the price for that later on with people like Scott Pruitt, with people like Mike Flynn," Christie said. (Flynn previously served as Trump's national security adviser. He is currently awaiting sentencing for pleading guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his communications with a top Russian official.)


The White House appeared to confirm the authenticity of the leaked vetting documents in a statement to Axios.

"President Trump has assembled an incredible team throughout the federal government who, in spite of 93 percent negative news coverage, has accomplished undeniable successes like tax cuts, record employment levels, a booming economy . . . rebuilding the military and crushing ISIS," said principal deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley.

Gidley added, "President Trump has done more to improve the lives of the American people in two years — than past presidents have done in eight — and no disgruntled, establishment, D.C. swamp creature's cowardly leaks can change that."

Axios has made the leaked vetting documents available online. You can view them here.

By Shira Tarlo

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