Only four out of dozens of former Trump cabinet members say he should be re-elected in 2024.
NBC News contacted 44 of those who served in then-President Donald Trump’s cabinet between 2017 and 2021. While many declined to comment or didn’t answer, only four have publicly endorsed Mr Trump for the office he once held.
Several of them have been trying to remain as neutral as possible as the Republican primary plays out. There are those who oppose Mr Trump’s return to the presidency. Former Attorney General Bill Barr told NBC, “I have made clear that I strongly oppose Trump for the nomination and will not endorse Trump”.
Mr Barr was asked how he would cast his vote if the 2024 general election ended up being a rematch between Mr Trump and President Joe Biden.
“I’ll jump off that bridge when I get to it,” he said.
The Trump campaign told NBC to contact three ex-cabinet members, one who has endorsed him and two who didn’t commit to doing so at this time.
Speaking about Mr Trump’s cabinet, the director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, Barbara Perry, told NBC, “They’re not friends – they’re not hanging on forever”.
“They’re going to skip out, or he’s going to push them out in some instances,” she added.
Those supporting Mr Trump’s return to the White House are former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, his last Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former budget chief Russell Vought, and former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell.
A spokesperson for Mr Meadows told NBC he “fully” supports Mr Trump.
Mr Vought wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, in May that Mr Trump “is the only person I trust to take a wrecking ball to the Deep State.”
“I’ve seen his willingness up close and behind closed doors,” he added. “My friend and former boss is going to finish what he started.”
One of Mr Trump’s chiefs of staff, Mick Mulvaney, told NBC that he is “working hard to make sure that someone else is the nominee”.
“I think he’s the Republican who is most likely to lose in a general election, of all our leading candidates. If anyone can lose to Joe Biden, it would be him,” he added.
Two former members of the Trump cabinet – ex-VP Mike Pence and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley – are running against Mr Trump in the Republican primary.
Former Trump Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told NBC he supports Mr Pence. Mr Coats is a former GOP senator from Indiana, where Mr Pence served as a US representative and governor before becoming vice president.
“I think he has all the qualities to be a great president,” Mr Coats said. “I know it’s a steep climb for him, but I think the steps he has taken now show the integrity of who he is and his qualifications.”
Elaine Chao, Mr Trump’s Transportation Secretary, has criticised Mr Trump for his racially charged attacks against her.
“When I was young, some people deliberately misspelled or mispronounced my name,” she has said. “Asian Americans have worked hard to change that experience for the next generation. He doesn’t seem to understand that, which says a whole lot more about him than it will ever say about Asian Americans.”
Ms Chao is married to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell who didn’t respond when asked by NBC if she would support anyone in the presidential race.
Mr Trump’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, told NBC: “Donald Trump is my friend and would make a fantastic president, and if I have an announcement to make about 2024, I’ll look forward to doing so in an appropriate way.”
Trump Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, now a Montana Representative in the US House, told NBC: “I think the president is on a glide slope right now, but he’s got some hurdles.”
“From an individual who worked for him, I know he’s tough. They’re throwing everything at him, and he’s got some significant hurdles ahead. I take the indictment seriously, I think everyone should. So he’s got some tough hurdles before him, but I tell you what, there’s only one Donald J Trump,” he added.
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