Politics & Government

Leaks show Trump vetted Pat McCrory for Energy Department, and found ‘red flags’

President Donald Trump considered former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory for a position in his administration, according to records obtained by Axios.

However, as with other potential nominees, those records show the Trump administration highlighted some “red flags.”

Potential appointment snags in the 10-page file on McCrory range from accusations of “favoritism toward Duke Energy” and having “thin skin,” to “comments critical of Trump.”

McCrory is one of dozens of Republican politicians and officials identified by the Trump transition team as potential suitors for top posts in the administration, Axios reported late Sunday. While some — such as former EPA leader Scott Pruitt and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price — were appointed despite concerns and later resigned, McCrory wasn’t picked.

After losing a tight race to Democrat Roy Cooper in 2016, McCrory met with Trump’s transition team in New York City. And a source close to Trump’s team told the Charlotte Observer that it would “definitely” find a spot for McCrory.

The documents suggest McCrory was interviewed about a job in the Department of Energy, which Trump would ultimately pick former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to lead. A section of the file titled “General Department of Energy Policy Questions” seeks McCrory’s opinion on the Paris climate agreement, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and his strategy for negotiating nuclear accords like the former Iran deal.

McCrory, who now hosts a radio show and teaches a lecture series at UNC-Chapel Hill, didn’t respond to an email or phone call on Monday. So it remains unclear why he wasn’t appointed. And the file doesn’t indicate which, if any, of the red flags was a dealbreaker.

The first red flag listed in the document is the headline of an October 2016 Washington Examiner story — “Pat McCrory says Trump ‘needs to have his mouth washed out.’” McCrory was responding to lewd comments Trump made about women in a recording from 2005. Another story about McCrory’s reaction to those comments, by WRAL, was second on the list of red flags.

While negative comments about Trump are likely to hurt anyone’s chances of working for him, they haven’t proven to be a roadblock. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former budget director and current acting chief of staff, once called Trump a “terrible human being.”

The leaked file shows that Trump’s team aimed to stamp out future criticism. Among the many questions the team had for McCrory: “Would you commit to standing by the President and express full public support during turbulent periods?”

Trump’s team listed other red flags in this order:

  • McCrory “refused to concede” the 2016 election. The file cites a Huffington Post story.
  • McCrory “signed legislation removing an estimated 170,000 jobless workers from the unemployment benefit rolls.” The file cites a Washington Post story.
  • He “signed legislation mandating a 72-hour waiting period before an abortion.” The file cites an MSNBC blog.
  • He signed HB2, “banning transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity.” The file cites a pair of Huffington Post stories.
  • He was suspected of protecting Duke Energy, his former employer, after a coal ash spill. The file cites a (Greensboro) News & Record story and several others.

Trump’s team also warned that McCrory has “thin skin” and referenced a 2016 Charlotte Observer story. In that article, former Republican Rep. Charles Jeter, a supporter of McCrory’s, described him this way:

“He can’t fathom that anyone would question his motives,” Jeter said. “And he (has) a tendency to take criticism personally. He’s done it with the press. He’s done it in the legislature.”

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Paul “Andy” Specht reports on North Carolina leaders and state politics for The News & Observer and PolitiFact. Specht previously covered Raleigh City Hall and town governments around the Triangle. He’s a Raleigh native who graduated from Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C. Contact him at aspecht@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4870.
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