Appointee Watch: Agriculture Nominee Withdraws, Fed Chair Nominated, and More

USDA undersecretary for research nominee Sam Clovis withdrew his name after it was revealed that he, as co-chairman of Trump’s campaign, was aware of foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos’s efforts to engage with Russian officials. USDA undersecretary for research nominee Sam Clovis withdrew his name after it was revealed that he, as co-chairman of Trump’s campaign, was aware of foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos’s efforts to engage with Russian officials. Charlie Neibergall/AP file photo

The White House has had something of a busy week when it comes to the process of filling the top ranks of the federal government.

On Thursday, President Trump announced his much-awaited choice to succeed Janet Yellen as chair of the Federal Reserve: current board member Jerome Powell. The president also nominated another wave of candidates to be federal prosecutors, as well as an attorney to fill a federal court seat in Indiana.

But Trump lost his choice for undersecretary for research at the Agriculture Department Thursday. Sam Clovis withdrew his name from consideration after it was revealed that he, as co-chairman of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, was aware of foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos’s efforts to engage with Russian officials.

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Clovis said in his withdrawal letter that he will remain at the department in his current role as its senior White House adviser.

And in an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham Thursday, Trump downplayed the idea that a lack of appointees at the State Department was making it harder to implement his agenda.

“So we don’t need all the people they want,” he said. “You know, don’t forget, I’m a business person and I tell my people, 'Where you don’t need to fill slots, don’t fill ‘em.' But we have some people that I’m not happy with their thinking process. But let me tell you, the one that matters is me. I’m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that’s what the policy is going to be.”

According to The Washington Post and the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, which have been tracking more than 600 key administration positions that require Senate confirmation, 173 appointees have been confirmed to their jobs in the federal government. Another 175 people have been announced or formally nominated, while 261 posts remain vacant.

In recent days, Trump has named appointees to positions in the following agencies:

Commerce: Jeffrey Kessler, assistant secretary for enforcement and compliance. Kessler is an attorney with a focus on international trade, investment and market access. He has represented U.S. manufacturers in domestic trade remedy proceedings, and he has litigated disputes before the World Trade Organization.

Defense: Randall Schriver, assistant secretary for Asian and Pacific affairs. Schriver was a founding partner of Armitage International LLC, an international business consulting firm. He served as deputy assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs under the George W. Bush administration, and he is a former Navy intelligence officer.

Michael Griffin, principal deputy undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics. Griffin most recently was chairman and CEO of the Schafer Corp., a national security contractor. He was administrator of NASA during the George W. Bush administration.

Education: Kenneth Marcus, assistant secretary for civil rights. Marcus is president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. He previously served as staff director of the Commission on Human Rights during the George W. Bush administration.

Douglas Webster, chief financial officer. Webster is the director for risk management at the U.S. Agency for International Development. He spent 21 years in the Air Force, and is a former CFO for the Labor Department.

Energy: Linda Capuano, administrator, Energy Information Administration. Capuano is a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Energy Studies, and she is a former oil industry executive.

Homeland Security: John Zangardi, chief information officer. Zangardi most recently was acting chief information officer at the Defense Department. He also was principal deputy CIO at that department. Zangardi is a retired naval flight officer.

Housing and Urban Development: Irving Dennis, chief financial officer. Dennis recently retired from a career at the accounting firm Ernst and Young, where he held a number of leadership positions, including regional audit methodology leader.

Interior: Steven Gardner, director, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Gardner is president and CEO of ECSI, a mining and energy consulting firm.

Labor: William Beach, commissioner of Labor Statistics. Beach is the vice president for policy research at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, and he previously served as chief economist for Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee. He is an alumnus of the Heritage Foundation, where he was director of its Center for Data Analysis.

Scott Mugno, assistant secretary for occupational safety and health. Mugno is vice president for safety, sustainability and vehicle maintenance for FedEx Ground. Before entering the private sector, he served in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps.

State: Christopher Ford, assistant secretary for international security and non-proliferation. Ford is special assistant to President Trump and the senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counterproliferation at the National Security Council. He served on the staff of a number of Senate committees and previously held posts at State.

Robin Bernstein, ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Bernstein is a Florida businesswoman and cofounder of Palm Beach Country Cares, a relief effort for victims of Hurricane Maria.

Joel Danies, ambassador to the Gabonese Republic and the Republic of Sao Tome and Principe. Danies is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, and he has been a U.S. diplomat since 1987. He is the dean of the School of Professional and Area Studies at the State Department's Foreign Service Institute.

M. Lee McClenny, ambassador to Paraguay. McClenny is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, and he has been a diplomat since 1986. He currently serves at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, and he has held posts in Kuala Lumpur, Montreal, Manila, London and other cities.

Peter Vrooman, ambassador to Rwanda. Vrooman is a career diplomat who currently serves at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He has held senior positions at the State Department and its United Nations delegation, and he has served at seven embassies in Africa, the Near East and South Asia.

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