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Morning Glory: Trump should name his vice president and Cabinet now

Welcome to “Morning Glory.” Twice a week I’ll write here about the issues driving the 2024 election, issues that will come up on my morning radio show. (If you miss the live broadcast, which is 6 to 9 a.m. Eastern across 475 platforms, a podcast version appears later in the day.)

If former President Trump quickly wraps up the GOP nomination, he should roll immediately into general campaign mode. He needs a way to make news on an at least twice-monthly basis, and set an agenda throughout the ten months ahead, creating headlines apart from those which will swirl out from his various court proceedings.

An obvious—and compelling—tactic available to Trump: Repeat and expand the great innovation of his 2016 campaign: The list. In that cycle, Trump put out a list of his potential Supreme Court nominees he would consider to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Scalia. The list not only underscored and magnified the importance of an issue crucial to base voters, it reassured conservatives that Trump would put originalist justices on the courts. It worked.

If in this cycle Trump first names his VP selection early—which will help with fundraising and messaging—and then announces an intention to release every month or so more potential appointees for crucial jobs, he will underscore the fact that Americans are electing not just a president but 3,000 political appointees. Each announcement of each list —say a Secretary of Defense list that included Cotton and Pompeo as well as Congressman Michael Waltz— could accompany a review of the Biden administration’s appointees in that department and their failures.

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Previewing in detail his second term personnel would go a long way to bringing in new supporters, even as it continually refocuses the public and media on the failures of the Biden years.

If Trump impresses upon the electorate the seriousness of the times via the seriousness of his potential cabinet and senior staff, Democrats will be left chanting “threat to democracy” as Trump lays out his agenda and the people he is likely to ask to carry it out.

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Future Morning Glory dispatches will explain why Trump should begin vetting and thinking through six names as his VP choice: Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, Wisconsin Congressman Mike Gallagher, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former national security adviser Ambassador Robert O’Brien or Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan. The wellsprings of this list should be obvious —all are serious voices on national security, all are veterans, some bring a sliver of electoral advantage like Gallagher in Wisconsin or O’Brien, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, in Arizona and Nevada, where the LDS vote is crucial.

But whomever Trump picks to be at the bottom of the GOP’s 2024 ticket is only one vote, message and fundraising multiplier. If Trump puts out a slate of his probable Cabinet appointees, each person on that list adds voters. There is an old argument that naming people somehow violates prohibitions against promising office in exchange for support.

Those who prefer that we not do an apples-to-apples comparison of Team Biden with a future Team Trump will point to 18 United States Code §599: “Promise of appointment by candidate,” which prohibits candidates from “directly or indirectly promis[ing] or pledg[ing] the appointment, or the use of his influence or support for the appointment of any person to any public or private position or employment, for the purpose of procuring support in his candidacy.” 

Trump, of course, would not be trying to gain the support of the individuals named, and this provision is no bar to informing the public of those whom Trump will ask to help undo the damage of the Biden years. 

Hugh Hewitt is one of the country’s leading journalists of the center-right. A son of Ohio and a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan Law School, Hewitt has been a Professor of Law at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law since 1996 where he teaches Constitutional Law. Hewitt launched his eponymous radio show from Los Angeles in 1990, and it is today syndicated to hundreds of stations and outlets across the country every Monday through Friday morning. Hewitt has frequently appeared on every major national news television network, hosted television shows for PBS and MSNBC, written for every major American paper, has authored a dozen books and moderated a score of Republican candidate debates, most recently the November 2023 Republican presidential debate in Miami and four Republican presidential debates in the 2015-16 cycle. Hewitt focuses his radio show and this column on the Constitution, national security, American politics and the Cleveland Browns and Guardians. Hewitt has interviewed tens of thousands of guests from Democrats Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump over his forty years in broadcast, and this column previews the lead story that will drive his radio show today.

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