New Yorkers in and out of the Trump administration

Larry Kudlow
Larry Kudlow
Evan El-Amin/Shutterstock
Larry Kudlow

New Yorkers in and out of the Trump administration

The Manhattan mogul keeps stocking the White House with locals.
March 19, 2018

President Donald Trump doesn’t tend to leave his comfort zone. When he dines out or stays overnight away from home, it is often at Trump Organization-owned properties. His administration is staffed largely with familiar faces, from former Trump Organization employees to acquaintances from New York’s financial sector to literal familiar faces from cable news. So when Trump – who spent years surveying his domain from his eponymous tower in Manhattan – entered the White House, his supposed heartland populist campaign notwithstanding, he brought several prominent New York figures with him.

Trump’s 13 months in office have seen significant staffing upheaval, with a record-breaking turnover rate of 46 percent. However, as some officials from New York leave, others from the Empire State fill the gaps. Last week, Trump nominated CNBC host Larry Kudlow to be the next director of the National Economic Council to replace fellow New Yorker Gary Cohn. Here is a rundown of all the other New Yorkers in the White House – the officials who have joined the cause, the ones who have managed to stay afloat, and those who have jumped ship.

Who’s new

Larry Kudlow – Trump is a connoisseur of cable news known for tweeting out his media criticism, and apparently landed on Kudlow because he liked watching him on television. Kudlow is a graduate of the University of Rochester, and previously worked in the Office of Management and Budget in the Reagan administration and for Bear Stearns.

Jerome Powell – The new chairman of the Federal Reserve may have been working in Washington before he was nominated by Trump, but got his start in New York. He clerked with a federal judge in New York City at the beginning of his career, and worked in prominent New York law firms before becoming undersecretary of the Treasury under President George H.W. Bush.

Heather Nauert – Nauert, a former co-host of the president’s favorite TV show, “Fox & Friends,” joined the State Department as a spokesperson last year. She was elevated to the position of under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs shortly after the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Who’s still in

Jared Kushner – The president’s son-in-law traded Manhattan glamour for Washington swamp when he was named senior advisor, and has a portfolio that includes negotiating peace in the Middle East, diplomacy with China and improving relationships with Mexico, among other tasks. He also is the scion to a real estate empire in New York City, and although he stepped down as CEO of Kushner Cos. before joining the White House, he still has a stake in some of its properties. The family company has struggled recently, as its property at 666 Fifth Ave. has been a headache for the organization. The Village Voice and others have exposed Kushner’s habit of harassing rent-stabilized tenants and the Associated Press reported that Kushner Cos. often filed false paperwork with the city while Kushner was still CEO. Kushner is the owner of the New York Observer, although he has ceded control of the news outlet and placed it in a family trust, after trying and failing to sell it.

Steve Mnuchin – Trump’s treasury secretary is a native New Yorker and the former chief information officer at Goldman Sachs, although he most recently lived in California, and was an executive producer on movies such as “The Lego Movie” and “Wonder Woman.” He also served as CEO of OneWest Bank, which was criticized for its questionable foreclosure practices. After being nominated as treasury secretary, he failed to disclose over $100 million in assets, including homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons.

Wilbur Ross Jr. – Now the commerce secretary, Ross is a billionaire and former private equity investor who became known as the “king of bankruptcy” for handling struggling businesses. He and fellow administration ally and New Yorker Carl Icahn helped save Trump’s flailing casino in the 1990s. Ross was married to former Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey, and bankrolled her unsuccessful challenge to Gov. George Pataki in 1998. Trump attended their wedding, but the couple divorced in 1998.

Chris Liddell – Liddell, a former executive at Microsoft and General Motors and top aide at the White House, was tapped by Chief of Staff John Kelly to be his deputy chief of staff for policy initiatives this week. Liddell had been living in New York before he joined the administration as the director of strategic initiatives.

Rudy Giuliani – The former New York City mayor was a staunch supporter of the Trump campaign, and considered to be a contender for the position of secretary of state. After that post went to the ultimately doomed Rex Tillerson, Giuliani’s consolation prize was a role as cybersecurity advisor. Giuliani was also contemplated as a replacement for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, although that has failed to materialize. In the meantime, the backup cabinet official remains in New York.

Dan Scavino – Trump’s director of social media, and occasional tweeter-in-chief, began his career as a caddie for the future president at a Hudson Valley country club. He later worked as general manager at the Trump National Golf Club.

Jay Clayton – The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission was previously a partner at the Manhattan Law firm Sullivan & Cromwell. An expert in mergers and IPOs, he represented Goldman Sachs after the financial crisis. Perhaps not coincidentally, corporate penalties have decreased dramatically since a former Wall Street lawyer took the helm of the agency intended to regulate the financial industry.

Who’s out the door

Steve Bannon – The president’s former chief strategist was fired in August, but continued to informally advise Trump until January. Their relationship went down in flames – or rather, in fire and fury – after a book was published that detailed the inner turmoil in the Trump administration’s first year. Bannon lives in Los Angeles, but he was part of the coterie of former Goldman Sachs employees in the administration, although he made his name by producing conservative documentaries and serving as executive chairman of Breitbart News Network LLC. Until his downfall in January, Bannon also had the support of Robert and Rebekah Mercer, the Long Island father-daughter donor duo that bankrolled several conservative causes and candidates, and was an ally of former Rep. Michael Grimm and Rep. Lee Zeldin.

Hope Hicks – The former communications director stepped down at the end of February, after three years handling communications for the Trump Organization, the campaign and finally, the White House. She was considered indispensable to the president, who called her “Hopey” and “Hopester,” but the former model and Greenwich, Connecticut, native had reportedly been beaten down by life in Washington. She also had her reputation bruised after her ex-boyfriend Rob Porter left the administration amid domestic abuse allegations from his two ex-wives. Hicks is likely to move to Manhattan after leaving the administration.

Gary Cohn – The outgoing chairman of the National Economic Council cut his teeth at Goldman Sachs, and rose through the ranks until he became president and co-chief operating officer of the Wall Street powerhouse. He stayed on after contemplating resigning due to the president’s tepid response to the white supremacist rally that killed one person in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August. However, Trump’s announcement of tariffs on steel and aluminum was apparently a bridge too far for Cohn, who announced his resignation at the beginning of March.

Anthony Scaramucci – The Mooch may forever be known as the man who lasted only 10 days as communications director, as part of a figurative murder-suicide that took out both him and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, leaving John Kelly in charge. Scaramucci previously worked at Goldman Sachs before moving to the investment firm SkyBridge Capital. The Long Island-born financier and pundit had a reputation for marrying schmoozing with blunt commentary, but the Mooch’s brash persona soon outshone even the president, a cardinal offense in this White House.

Dina Powell – Another Goldman Sachs alum, Powell joined the firm after leaving the Bush administration in 2007, most recently serving as president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation. She joined the administration as the senior counselor for economic initiatives, and was soon promoted to deputy national security advisor, responsible for much of the administration’s Middle East policy. Powell announced that she was stepping down in December, and is set to return to her alma mater at 200 West St., Goldman Sachs.

Carl Icahn – The New York City-based and Queens-bred billionaire investor and longtime Trump ally stepped down as special advisor to the president in August due to concerns over conflicts of interest, which federal prosecutors in Manhattan are now looking into.

K.T. McFarland – McFarland failed to get through the 2006 GOP primary in her challenge to then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, but Clinton’s loss 10 years later allowed her to make it to the White House as Trump’s deputy national security advisor. McFarland, an ally of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn during his short-lived tenure, has seen her stock with the president decline precipitously over the past year. She left her position last April, and was nominated to become the ambassador to Singapore. However, she withdrew her nomination in February after it had stalled in the Senate. She was a national security analyst at Fox News before joining the administration, and perhaps will return to the comfort of cable news.

Grace Segers
is City & State’s digital reporter. She writes daily content on New York City and New York state politics.
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