Jan 8, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Big Trump contingent set for Davos amid shutdown

 A sign and logo of the World Economic Forum in Davos

Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

Eight members of President Trump's Cabinet, including Trump himself, are currently scheduled to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, later this month, according to a source with direct knowledge.

Between the lines: The number may shrink if the government shutdown continues, as some officials seem to be aware it won't be a great look for the Trump Cabinet to be seen socializing with plutocrats and global elites while federal workers are furloughed and programs for vulnerable Americans are threatened.

Behind the scenes: The Cabinet officials who are currently set to attend this year’s forum include Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

  • Axios contacted the White House and the offices of all the Cabinet officials scheduled to attend the Davos conference; none would comment on the record.
  • A second source familiar with the administration’s Davos plans told Axios that if the shutdown continues, it would probably mean some Cabinet officials on the list would stay home. Mnuchin, who is leading the delegation, may still attend with several other senior officials, the source said. (As the administration's top economic official, his attendance is expected.)

Previous administrations have sent equally large delegations to Davos. In 2016, the Obama administration sent Vice President Joe Biden and seven Cabinet-rank officials to the elite gathering, according to the WEF’s 2016 agenda.

The bottom line: Davos is an efficient way to meet with the world's most powerful people — a rare moment when so many are in one place — but in this populist era, politicians are increasingly being asked to justify their attendance. That's especially so for officials who represent a billionaire president who has sought to cast himself as a populist outsider.

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