Before Donald Trump nominated Betsy DeVos to be his education secretary, what information did Trump’s team consider about the Michigan billionaire?
The news organization Axios said it obtained nearly 100 internal vetting documents from the Trump camp about dozens of people hired in the administration. They included John F. Kelly, former national security adviser and later chief of staff; Jim Mattis, former secretary of defense; Ben Carson, secretary of Health and Human Services; and DeVos.
According to the documents, Trump’s team knew that DeVos didn’t care much for him, at least not before she became education secretary. You can read the entire DeVos vetting document here, but here are some key takeaways:
- In July 2016, DeVos refused to back Trump because of “serious policy differences.” The document said she opposed his push to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and his proposal to deport millions of illegal immigrants, and his “warming” to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
- DeVos said she had reservations about Trump “as a person,” and also “doubted his demeanor.” It quoted DeVos as saying in May 2016, “Until we have a better reason to embrace and support the top of the ticket, and see an agenda that is truly an opportunity agenda, then we have lots of other options in which to invest and spend our time helping.”
- DeVos attended the July 2016 Republican presidential convention and voted not for Trump but for Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R).
- DeVos was a leader in the movement to fund and expand alternatives to publicly funded school districts, and the document details her involvement in it. It also quotes her as saying that she believed that Mike Pence, Trump’s vice president, had “authentic” beliefs about the need for school choice.
- The vetting document noted there were no criminal filings against DeVos, but it listed problems faced by organizations she had led. In 2008, the Ohio Elections Commission ruled that DeVos’s group, All Children Matter, illegally funneled $870,000 in contributions from its Virginia PAC to its Ohio affiliate and was fined $5.3 million.
- DeVos’s mother, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, contributed $450,000 to efforts to ban same-sex marriage in California, and DeVos’s brother, Erik Prince, is founder of the “controversial” security firm Blackwater. The document detailed problems Blackwater had faced in its overseas business.
- DeVos was a board member of various organizations, including the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. The document noted that the institute’s vice president had called Trump “an idiot.”
- In 2014, DeVos publicly criticized Dave Agema, a member of the Republican National Committee from Michigan, for inflammatory remarks he had made about Muslims and gays.
Last year, one of Trump’s former senior advisers, Omarosa Manigault Newman, wrote in a book called “Unhinged” that Trump called DeVos by a nickname he created for her: “Ditsy DeVos.”