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Trump's Poor Personnel Selections Have Caused Him Much Trouble

If Trump succeeds in 2024, he should refrain from hiring from the swamp.

Photo: Jeff Sessions, Bill Barr, Christopher Wray, official photos by the DOJ/FBI, combined by tippinsights.

Ask an average Trump voter who has been a Trump enemy since he came down the elevator in 2015. The response will be nearly unanimous: Liberal media, Democrats, GOP Never-Trumpers, Academia, Big Tech, Hollywood, Madison Avenue, Washington-Beltway insiders, executive branch agencies, the courts, and state and local government opponents.

But Trump has also had to fend off a cabal of people he has hired going back to the Trump organization, through his four years in the White House, and since leaving office. As Trump pleaded not guilty to 37 counts brought by Jack Smith, the Special Counsel, there is little doubt that Trump's history of personnel selections is disastrous and has resulted in unprecedented legal troubles for him.

In 2016, as his campaign garnered increasing media coverage and won primaries, Trump replaced his loyal campaign manager Corey Lewandowski with ultimate Washington insider Paul Manafort who first served in the 1976 GOP convention. Trump was looking for a seasoned professional to help navigate delegate math, but the choice was terrible. Manafort often represented foreign politicians of questionable reputation, such as the former dictator of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, the former dictator of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko, and Angolan guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi. Although Manafort served only for three months as Trump's campaign lead before turning over the role to Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, the damage to Trump's brand had started, and the media narrative began to take shape.

Manafort's most notable client was the former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, a Moscow-friendly politician whose 2014 ouster was partly designed and engineered by the United States during the Maidan uprising. The American involvement was not clandestine either. The late Sen. John McCain, one of the GOP's strongest Neocons, went to Kyiv to address those crowds demonstrating for an ouster, later saying on CNN: "Hopefully, what we're trying to do is bring about a peaceful transition here, that would stop the violence, would give the Ukrainian people what they unfortunately have not, with different revolutions sort of taking place, a real legitimate society."

Trump should have had better judgment and not hired Manafort, who worked to advance Russian interests. Manafort's numerous dealings caught the Feds' attention, and he was later convicted on eight tax and bank fraud charges for his consulting work for Yanukovych. Had Trump not hired Manafort, the Russia-Russia-Russia frenzy might have never hobbled Trump.

During the transition, Trump toyed with appointing Mitt Romney, later the ultimate Never Trumper, as his secretary of state. Had this choice gone through, all of Trump's foreign policy accomplishments (no new wars, victory against ISIS, withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the Abraham Accords) would not have been possible.

Those closest to him in his White House, such as Mike Pence, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Nikki Haley, the former UN ambassador, have broken ranks so much that they are running against him for the nomination.

Former Attorney General William Barr, while appearing to be supportive of Trump following the release of the Mueller Report, took a kids' glove approach to deal with the DOJ and the alphabet soup of agencies under it. Barr's biggest failure was not using the DOJ's Election Crimes Branch to investigate changes to mail-in and universal ballot procedures in numerous states before the 2020 election. Barr also failed to throttle Zuckerberg's largesse to unlawfully help elect Democrat candidates by funding election workers, which attracted the attention of public watchdog groups. Having turned on Trump after the election, Barr is a bitter critic of him on TV.

Trump, to reward Jeff Sessions, the Alabama senator who was one of the first GOP politicians to embrace him, made Sessions his first Attorney General without sufficient assurances that Sessions would stand his ground against the brewing Deep State conspiracy that was out to get Trump. That hiring decision turned out to be the most consequential of his presidency. Sessions caved, the wily James Comey manipulated Washington's levers, and soon, Trump faced an incompetent but respected Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, whose investigation dragged on for nearly two long years.

In another head-scratcher, Trump replaced James Comey with Christopher Wray as the next Director of the FBI for the standard 10-year appointment. By all accounts, Wray has been a disaster. We now know from Sen. Charles Grassley that the FBI had knowledge of 17 audio tapes from a Burisma executive who had recorded conversations offering $5 million bribes each to Joe and Hunter Biden. A more honest FBI Director could have revealed this to Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority leader during Trump's first impeachment, and Trump would never have been impeached.

Trump's critics counter that the 45th president is notoriously disloyal to those who work for him, provoking them to turn against him. Michael Cohen, his fixer for decades, was the prosecution's star witness in the Alvin Bragg trial. Trump's defense lawyer Evan Corcoran is the prosecution's star witness in the classified documents case. David Knowles, Senior Editor of Yahoo News, cataloged a long list of people Trump hired who eventually soured on him. Some were fired, others quit - but all continue to share a deep-rooted desire to hurt Trump.

To be sure, Trump had some luck with his personnel choices. His picks for the federal judiciary were excellent, including the three justices of the United States Supreme Court. With his knowledge of energy, having been governor of Texas, Rick Perry helped America become a net energy exporter and solidified Trump's MAGA brand. Ben Carson, an accomplished neurosurgeon, never publicly contested Trump during Covid and stayed a loyal HUD secretary until the end. Larry Kudlow, Trump's Director of the National Economic Council, strongly supports Trump's policies on Fox Business and has been Trump's ardent defender in the court of public opinion.

Trump's poll numbers remain high, even after the indictment. The Constitution takes no position on whether Trump can run for office, even if Trump is found guilty. With Biden enveloped in his own legal troubles and struggling with extraordinarily low approval ratings, even among Democrats, Trump could win the presidency again, becoming only the second person in history to win non consecutive terms.

Ray Kroc, the American businessman who developed McDonald's into the world's most successful fast-food chain, is rumored to have said: "You're only as good as the people you hire." If Trump succeeds, he should heed Kroc's advice and hire only the best. It is the least Trump can do to return the favor to Americans during a second term, even those that don't vote for him.

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