Trump’s Foreign Policy Team 2017

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By Jason Coreas

August 15, 2017


Name: Nikki R. Haley

Title: United States Ambassador to the United Nations

Born: January 20, 1972

Bamberg, South Carolina

Education: Clemson University, BS Accounting (94)

Family: Spouse-Michael Haley (m.1996)

Children- 2

Political Career: Nikki Haley served on the South Carolina House of Representatives from 2005 to 2011. In 2005, Haley was elected chair of the freshman caucus and majority whip in the South Carolina General Assembly. Haley served as Governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017 and is currently the acting United States Ambassador to the United Nations under the Donald Trump Administration. Despite Haley’s lack of foreign-policy experience, her endorsement of Ted Cruz during the Republican primaries and criticism of the eventual Republican victor Donald Trump, Haley was selected by Trump to serve as US ambassador to the United Nations. Since assuming the role, Haley has accused the UN Human Rights Council of Anti-Israeli bias and threatened to withdraw the United States from the Human Rights Council.

Professional Career: Nikki Haley began working for her parent’s clothing store as a book keeper at the age of 13 and would later go on to become the company’s comptroller. Haley also worked for waste management and recycling firm FCR Corporation. Haley was named to the board of directors of Orangeberg County Chamber of Commerce as well as the Lexington Chamber of Commerce.

Personal Facts: Nikki Haley was born Nimrata Randhawa to a Sikh Indian-American family. Haley would become the first woman and first minority woman Governor of South Carolina. Haley’s autobiography, Can’t is Not an Option: My American Story was published in 2012.


Name: Rex Tillerson

Title: Secretary of State

Born: March 23, 1952

Wichita Falls, Texas

Education: University of Texas at Austin, BS Civil Engineering (75)

Family: Spouse- Renda St. Clair (m.1986)

Children- 4

Political Career: Tillerson’s close relationships to Russian businessmen and political figures along with his controversial opinions of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record were a point of contention for some members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Despite this, the committee approved his nomination, and he was confirmed by the Senate. Rex Tillerson was sworn in as U.S Secretary of State on February 1, 2017. Although possessing no prior political experience, Tillerson’s nomination for Secretary of State was endorsed by former Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Tillerson was chosen as Secretary of State over more prominent candidates for the position such as Admiral James Stavridis, former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani and Foreign Relations Committee Chair Senator Bob Corker.

Professional Career: Tillerson joined Exxon, Company U.S.A in 1975 working as a production engineer. He climbed up the corporate latter to become Exxon’s general manager of central production division in 1989. Tillerson would later be promoted to President of Exxon Yemen Inc. in 1995 and Exxon Neftegas Limited which oversees operations in Russia in 1998. Following the merger of Exxon and Mobil in 1999, Tillerson would become senior vice president in 2001, and ultimately become chairman and chief executive officer of ExxonMobil from 2006 to 2016. Tillerson cultivated particularly close ties with businessmen and policy makers in Russia, and was awarded the Order of Friendship by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013.

Personal Facts: Tillerson has twin boys Robert & Michael Tillerson from a previous marriage who graduated from the University of Texas with degrees in engineering along with his wife Renda St. Clair’s son from a previous marriage and his youngest son with St. Clair, Tyler Tillerson. Secretary Tillerson, who is an Eagle Scout, has a lifelong involvement with the Boy Scouts of America(BSA), and is a former member of the BSA’s Executive Committee. He served as the organization’s National President from 2010 to 2012. Secretary Tillerson is formerly a member of the American Petroleum Institute, National Petroleum Council and the National Academy of Engineering. He has also served as a trustee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


Name: James Mattis

Title: Secretary of Defense

Born: September 8, 1950

Pullman, Washington State

Education: Central Washington University, BA History (71)

National War College, MA International Security Affairs (94)

Political Career: James Mattis was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 98-1 as Secretary of Defense on January 20, 2017. Mattis retired from the military in 2013, and required a waiver exempting him from the seven-year waiting period required of former military officers before they assume the role of Secretary of Defense per the National Security Act of 1947. Mattis is only the second Secretary of Defense to obtain such a waiver since General George C. Marshall. Since assuming office, Secretary Mattis has made visits to key allies including South Korea, Japan, and Afghanistan to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to their security. Mattis voiced his support of Saudi led military actions in Yemen, and called for closer cooperation with the intelligence agencies of allied nations.

Professional Career: Mattis joined the Marine Corps in 1969. Mattis took part in Operation Desert Shield in 1991 and took command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines during the Persian Gulf War. Mattis took on commands in Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003 and U.S Central Command(CENTCOM) in 2010. After assuming command of CENTCOM, Mattis oversaw operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon his retirement in 2013, Mattis worked as a consultant in the private sector for such firms as FWA Consultants, and served on the Board of Directors of General Dynamics and biotech firm Theranos.

Personal Facts: James Mattis is a lifelong bachelor and has no children. During his time in the Marine Corps, Mattis garnered a reputation as a gritty military leader and an intellectual which earned him such nicknames as “Mad Dog”, “Chaos”, and the “Warrior Monk”. Mattis was known during his time in the Marines for giving officers under his command a required reading list, and making his officers undergo cultural sensitivity training before deployment.


Name: Herbert Raymond “H.R.” McMaster

Title: National Security Advisor

Born: July 24, 1962

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Education: US Military Academy at West Point, BS (84)

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, MA & PhD American History (97)

Family: Spouse-Kathleen McMaster (m.1985)


Political Career: Following the resignation of Trump’s former pick for National Security Advisor Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, Lieutenant General McMaster was named as his replacement. His nomination was confirmed by the Senate on March 15, 2017. After approval from the Senate, McMaster was allowed to retain his rank as a three-star general while assuming the role of National Security Advisor. Since assuming the role of National Security Advisor, McMaster has defended President Trump’s willingness to share sensitive information with Russian officials regarding U.S military operations in Syria. McMaster has also denied claims from anonymous sources as reported by the Washington Post that President Trump shared classified information with Russian officials regarding anti-terror operations in the Middle East.

Professional Career:  After receiving his commission, H.R. McMaster was assigned to posts at Ft. Hood, Texas and Warner Barracks in Bamberg, Germany. McMaster was deployed to the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and saw action as Captain with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of 73 Easting, for which he earned a Silver Star. McMaster served in Iraq for a second time in 2003, and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. McMaster has been praised for his work developing counter-insurgency doctrine in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but has also been criticized for his outspoken criticism of strategy within ranks.

Personal Facts: Lt. Gen McMaster is known as a leading intellectual within the U.S Military. He served as an Assistant Professor of History at West Point from 1994-1996. While studying for his PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he wrote as his thesis a scathing critique of what he viewed as the failures of U.S. leadership during the Vietnam War entitled, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, And The Lies That Led to Vietnam. McMaster adapted his thesis into a book with the same name which was published in 1997.


Name: Kurt Volker

Title: U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations

Born: 1964


Education: Temple University, BA International Affairs (84)

George Washington University, MA International Relations (87)

Family: Spouse-Karen Volker


Career: Ambassador Volker is a career diplomat possessing a wealth of experience on issues pertaining to European defense and diplomacy. Ambassador Volker previously served a number of key roles at the Department of State, including US Permanent Representative to NATO, Director for NATO and Western Europe on the National Security Council and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs. Secretary Tillerson appointed him as United States Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations on July 7, 2017. In his current role, Ambassador Volker is tasked with preparing recommendations on policies Washington can implement to ensure the ceasefire agreements signed by the Ukrainian government and Russia-backed rebels do not falter.  Ambassador Volker entered the private sector in 2009 working for a number of lobbying, finance and investment banking firms such as BGR Group, and became an executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University based in Washington, D.C.

Personal Facts: Ambassador Volker’s wife Karen Volker is also a U.S Foreign Service Officer. Volker speaks Hungarian, Swedish and French. Ambassador Volker served as a Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.


Name: Mike Pompeo

Title: Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Born: December 30, 1963

Orange, California

Education: United States Military Academy at West Point, BS Mechanical Engineering (86)

Harvard University, JD

Family: Spouse-Susan Pompeo


Political Career: Pompeo entered the political arena in 2010 when he won a seat in congress representing Kansas’ 4th District, where he served four terms.  Pompeo subsequently served on the House Intelligence Committee and Energy and Commerce Committees. Pompeo was also an appointee to the House Select Benghazi Committee investigating the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

Professional Career: After graduating first in his class from West Point in 1986, Mike Pompeo served as a Cavalry Officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Pompeo also served with the 7th Cavalry in the US Army’s Fourth Infantry Division. Pompeo went on to attend Harvard Law School where he became an editor of the Harvard Law Review. After completing law school, Pompeo worked for the law firm Williams & Connolly. Pompeo later founded aerospace firm Thayer Aerospace serving as CEO before becoming president of oilfield equipment manufacturing firm Sentry International. Mike Pompeo was sworn in as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency on January 23, 2017. Director Pompeo is known for his highly critical views on issues such as the US government’s handling of former NSA contractor turned whistle blower Edward Snowden, the closure of CIA “black sites” and the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Personal Facts: Mike Pompeo is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. Pompeo is an evangelical Christian.


Name: Dan Coats

Title: Director of National Intelligence

Born: May 16, 1943

Jackson, Michigan

Education: Wheaton College, BA Political Science (65)

Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis, JD (72)

Family: Spouse-Marsha Coats


Political Career: Dan Coats became a district representative for Congressman Dan Quayle in 1976. Coats served in the U.S. House of Representatives and then in the U.S. Senate 1981 to 1999 and from 2011 to 2017. During his time in the Senate, Coats served on the Select Committee on Intelligence and Senate Armed Services Committee. Coats was named U.S. Ambassador to Germany by President George W. Bush in 2001 and served as Ambassador until 2005. Coats worked as a lawyer in the private sector before his second stint in the Senate.  President Trump nominated Dan Coats as the Director of National Intelligence on January 5th, 2017 and Coats was sworn in as Director on March 16th, 2017. Coats is known as an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and was banned from entering Russia after calling for sanctions against Russia’s state-owned arms exporting firm Rosoboronexport.

Professional Career: Dan Coats joined the military shortly after graduating from Wheaton College, and served in the US Army from 1966 to 1968. After completing his military service, Coats studied law at the Indiana University school of Law in Indianapolis. Upon receiving his Juris Doctor in 1972, he worked for a life insurance firm.

Personal Facts: Coats met his wife Marsha in college. Together, they created The Foundation for American Renewal, and Coats has served on the boards of numerous civic associations.


Name: Jared Kushner

Title: Senior Advisor to the President

Born: January 10, 1981

Livingston, New Jersey

Education: Harvard University, BA Government (03)

New York University, JD/MBA (07)

Family:  Spouse-Ivanka Trump (m. 2009)


Political Career: Despite the Kushner family’s long-time association with the Democratic Party, Jared Kushner became one of Donald Trump’s top advisors during the 2016 Presidential Campaign. During his father-in-law’s presidential campaign, Kushner assisted the then Republican nominee draft speeches, perform social-media outreach, and select senior cabinet officials. Numerous reports indicate Kushner had a personal hand in the dismissals of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former FBI director James Comey.  Kushner was named Senior Advisor to the President despite concerns such an appoint went against anti-nepotism laws. Since being named Senior Advisor, Kushner has been asked to wear many hats within the Administration. Among the myriad of duties President Trump has asked Kushner to take on include a number of foreign policy initiatives. Kushner has been tasked with overseeing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, serve as a back-channel diplomat, undertake trade talks with China, and manage anti-ISIS operations in Iraq to name but a few. As a transition official, Kushner also dealt with Russian officials in order to establish a back-channel intermediary to the Kremlin. Kushner was questioned on July 24, 2017 by the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding allegations of improper conduct with foreign officials, which he denied.

Professional Career: Like his father Charles, Jared Kushner became a real estate developer, and assumed control of the Kushner family’s real-estate ventures upon the elder Kushner’s imprisonment for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering in 2005. Kushner branched out into publishing when he purchased The New York Observer in 2006. Kushner became CEO of the Kushner family real-estate firm Kushner Companies in 2008.

Personal Facts: Jared Kushner is the son of real-estate developer Charles Kushner who founded Kushner Companies in 1985. Kushner married Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka in 2009. Together they have three children.  Kushner is considered President Trump’s closest confidant. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are reportedly worth an estimated $740 million.


Name: Terry Branstad

Title: United States Ambassador to China

Born: November, 17 1946

Leland, Iowa

Education: University of Iowa, BA Political Science (69)

Drake University, JD (74)

Family: Spouse-Christine Branstad (m.1972)


Political Career: Terry Branstad began his political career in 1973 when he was first elected to the Iowa House of Representatives. He served three terms, with his last ending in 1979. Branstad also served as Lieutenant Governor of Iowa from 1979 to 1983. Branstad was elected Governor of Iowa in 1983 and became the youngest governor in the history of the state. Under Branstad’s leadership, Iowa drastically reduced its unemployment rate from 8.5% to 2.5% by the time he left office in 1999. Branstad is also credited with balancing the state’s budget as it went from a $90 million deficit at the beginning of his tenure to a whopping $900 million surplus by 1999. Branstad again won the Iowa governorship in 2010, and won reelection in 2014. Branstad is the longest serving governor in the history of the United States having accrued more than twenty-two years of experience as Iowa’s chief executive.  Branstad was chosen as President Trump’s Ambassador to China in December of 2016 and was confirmed by the Senate on May 22, 2017. Branstad is considered a savvy pick by political analysts, as he has a long-standing personal relationship with Chinese president Xi Jinping going back to 1985. Ambassador Branstad’s rapport with Jinping coupled with his understanding of agricultural and trade issues has many in Washington hopeful of improved relations with China.

Professional Career: Upon graduating from the University of Iowa, Terry Branstad was drafted and served as a military policeman with the U.S Army’s 503rd Military Police Battalion at Fort Bragg from 1969 to 1971. Branstad founded Branstad & Associates LLC in 1999. Branstad was also a partner at the firm of Kaufman, Pattee, Branstad & Miller as well as a financial advisor for Robert W. Baird & Co. Branstad served as president of De Moines University from 2003 to 2009.

Personal Life: Terry Branstad is married to Christine Johnson and together they have three children. Branstad’s son Eric managed Trump’s presidential campaign in Iowa, helping Trump win the state by 9.5 points. Branstad is a second cousin of former Obama Supreme Court Judge nominee Merrick Garland.


Name: Jon Huntsman Jr.

Title: United States Ambassador to Russia

Born: March 26, 1960

Palo Alto, California

Education: University of Utah

University of Pennsylvania, BA International Politics (87)

Family: Spouse-Mary Kaye Cooper (m.1983)


Political Career: Huntsman became governor of Utah in 2005. He won a second term as governor in 2008, but resigned in 2009 to accept the position as U.S. Ambassador to China under President Obama. Huntsman resigned from his position as Ambassador in 2011 to run as a Republican candidate for the US Presidential election in 2012, but struggled in the primaries. Huntsman resigned as Governor of Utah with an approval rating over eighty percent.

Professional Career: Jon Huntsman Jr. served in a number of leadership roles with organizations founded by the Huntsman family, including the Huntsman Corporation, and the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. Huntsman served as a White House Staff assistant during the Reagan Administration. He also held a number of positions during both Bush Administrations, including U.S. Ambassador to Singapore from 1992 to 1993 and U.S. Trade Representative from 2001-2003. In 2009, while serving as the Governor of Utah, Huntsman was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the U.S. Ambassador to China. Huntsman stepped down as governor to take the position. Huntsman resigned from his position as Ambassador in order to launch his candidacy for the U.S. Presidency in 2012. Jon Huntsman accepted the offer to become U.S. Ambassador to Russia under the Trump Administration on March 8, 2017. Despite Huntsman’s business ties to Russia, he has no particular expertise on Russia.

Personal Facts: Ambassador Huntsman took time off from college to serve as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan. Huntsman learned Mandarin while in Taiwan which he speaks fluently. Huntsman enjoys listening to rock music, riding motorcycles, mountain biking and playing piano. Jon Huntsman has seven children with his wife Mary Kay Cooper, including two adopted from China and India.


Name: Woody Johnson

Title: United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom

Born: April 12, 1947

New Brunswick, New Jersey

Education: University of Arizona, BA

Family: Spouse-Suzanne Ircha (m.2009)


Political Career: Woody Johnson is a prolific Republican donor. Johnson has donated to a number of Republican candidates and committees. Johnson raised over a quarter of a million dollars in 2000 and 2004 for George W. Bush’s presidential election and re-election campaigns. Johnson also organized a fundraiser for John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008 that raised $7 million in a single night. Johnson was selected by Jeb Bush to be theHaley_HRC_250_1 (1) National Finance Chairman for Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign. Johnson endorsed Donald Trump shortly after Jeb Bush suspended his presidential campaign. Donald Trump named Woody Johnson Ambassador to the United Kingdom in January of 2017, and was confirmed by the Senate on August 3rd, 2017.

Professional Career: Woody Johnson has worked in many capacities, including chairman & CEO of the medical device and pharmaceutical firm Johnson & Johnson. Johnson has invested in a number of business ventures, including real-estate, finance, and cable television in Florida. Johnson bought the New York Jets football team in 2000 for $635 million.

Personal Facts: Born Robert Wood Johnson IV, Johnson is the heir to the Johnson & Johnson healthcare fortune. Johnson’s great-grandfather Robert Wood Johnson I co-founded the company in 1885. Johnson’s daughter Casey suffered from type 1 diabetes from an early age, and died from complications of the disease in February of 2010. Woody Johnson has donated to various charities advocating for the prevention, treatment and cure of numerous autoimmune diseases. After Johnson’s daughter Jaime was diagnosed with Lupus, he founded a research foundation called the Alliance for Lupus Research. Johnson is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.






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