Illustrations by Jonathan Twingley


Bill Barr

illustration of Bill Barr

Cleared President Donald Trump of all obstruction-of-justice allegations in a letter summarizing the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Was accused by investigators on Mueller’s team of inaccurately portraying the inquiry’s findings. This year, a Republican-appointed federal judge questioned “whether Attorney General Barr’s intent was to create a one-sided narrative … that is clearly in some respects substantively at odds with the redacted version of the Mueller report.”

Asked a federal judge to drop all charges against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in May. Fired Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, who oversaw the prosecution of several of Trump’s associates, in June. Has made claims about the prevalence of voter fraud that his own office has conceded are flagrantly false.

Steve Bannon

Illustration of Steve Bannon

Charged in August with wire fraud and money laundering related to the organization We Build the Wall. Prosecutors claim that Bannon used nearly $1 million from donations to the nonprofit for his personal expenses. (He pleaded not guilty.)

Roger Stone

Illustration of Roger Stone

Self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” who encouraged Trump’s racist birther conspiracy.

Indicted in 2019 by Mueller on one count of obstruction, five counts of making false statements, and one count of witness tampering. Convicted on all counts. Sentenced to 40 months in prison; the president later commuted his sentence.

Mike Pence

Illustration of Mike Pence

As vice president, defied congressional subpoenas and failed to provide various documents requested by Congress during the 2019 impeachment inquiry.

Reportedly spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to attend an NFL football game; left before it began in order to register disapproval of players who were kneeling during the national anthem.

Published an error-riddled Wall Street Journal op-ed on June 16 titled “There Isn’t a Coronavirus ‘Second Wave,’ ” which claimed that the virus was waning. Shortly thereafter, cases, and death counts, exploded.

Ivanka Trump

Illustration of Ivanka Trump

Placed her company in a trust run by family members when she became an adviser to the president in 2017, and continued to receive a share of the profits.

Investigated by the FBI in 2018, according to CNN, for a business deal in Vancouver. Shut down her fashion brand in July 2018, following intense criticism about how she was profiting from her father’s presidency.

Donald Trump Jr.

Illustration of Donald Trump Jr.

Met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with connections to the Kremlin, in New York’s Trump Tower in June 2016. Emails between Don Jr. and another meeting participant suggested that Veselnitskaya had potentially damaging information about Hillary Clinton. (Mueller investigated the meeting, but found insufficient evidence to support a criminal conspiracy.)

Has promoted a great number of conspiracy theories, including one claiming that Joe Biden is a pedophile.

Along with Bannon and Jared Kushner, was part of a reported 2019 criminal referral by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, for potentially misleading the committee during testimony. (All three have denied that they misled the committee.)

Betsy DeVos

Illustration of Betsy DeVos

Has tried (unsuccessfully) for three consecutive years to make cuts to the Special Olympics. Rescinded 72 documents outlining the rights of students with disabilities during her first year as secretary of education.

Was sued, in 2017, by 18 states and the District of Columbia for delaying the implementation of regulations meant to protect college students who took out loans from predatory lenders. Ignored the ruling. Was held in contempt of court in 2019, and the Department of Education was ordered to pay a fine of $100,000. “At best it is gross negligence, at worst it’s an intentional flouting of my order,” the presiding federal judge said.

Jared Kushner

Illustration of Jared Kushner

Until March of this year, owned a stake in Cadre, a real-estate investment firm that sought to benefit from large tax breaks by investing in Opportunity Zone projects, a program that Kushner (along with his wife, Ivanka Trump) had pushed for. Failed to include Cadre in his initial 2017 financial-disclosure form, submitted just after his appointment as a senior adviser to the president. Also omitted dozens of contacts with foreign leaders and officials, including Russians, from his security-clearance forms.

Initially received limited security clearance because of the previously unreported contacts with foreign officials and concerns about ties between his family’s real-estate business and foreign governments—before his father-in-law ordered that he be granted full clearance. (Kushner’s legal team said that his clearance “was handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone.”)

Kayleigh McEnany

As White House press secretary, compared Trump’s June appearance at St. John’s Church amid Black Lives Matter protests to Winston Churchill’s survey of World War II damage. When asked whether Trump would accept the 2020 election result if he lost, said the president will “see what happens and make a determination in the aftermath.”

Steven Mnuchin

Illustration of Steven Mnuchin

Failed to include $95 million of his assets on Senate Finance Committee disclosure forms during his confirmation as Treasury secretary, along with his role as the director of an investment fund located in a tax haven.

A leaked memo from the California attorney general’s office suggested that OneWest Bank repeatedly broke California’s foreclosure laws while Mnuchin was its CEO and chairman from 2009 to 2015. The memo identified more than 1,000 violations.

Was found last year by the Office of Government Ethics to be out of compliance with federal ethics rules regarding conflicts of interest.

Michael Cohen

Illustration of Michael Cohen

Pleaded guilty in August 2018 to eight criminal counts, including tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, and violating campaign-finance rules by making payments, as Trump’s personal lawyer, to the adult-film star Stormy Daniels and another woman at the request of the then-candidate to keep them from speaking publicly about their alleged affairs. These payments were judged to be for the “principal purpose of influencing an election.”

Helped Trump leak disinformation (including murder conspiracies) about his political opponents to the National Enquirer. (Trump has denied these claims and has denied having the alleged affairs.)

Pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about an abandoned deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Sentenced to three years in federal prison.

Kellyanne Conway

Illustration of Kellyanne Conway

As a counselor to the president, advised Fox News viewers to “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff” in February 2017, triggering an inquiry by the Office of Government Ethics.

(The White House declined to investigate or discipline Conway.)

Found by the Office of Special Counsel in 2018 to have violated the Hatch Act, which limits federal employees’ political activity, on two occasions. Removal from public service was recommended in 2019 by Special Counsel Henry Kerner, a Trump appointee, who found that Conway had repeatedly violated the Hatch Act.

Mike Pompeo

Illustration of Mike Pompeo

Initially claimed little knowledge of the July 2019 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which led to Trump’s impeachment; it was later confirmed that the secretary of state was on the call.

Investigated by Steve Linick, then the State Department’s inspector general, for having a political appointee perform personal tasks such as making restaurant reservations and walking his dog. (Pompeo dismissed the claims.) Linick was removed from his role this year, at Pompeo’s recommendation.

Made secret visits to conservative donors while on official State Department trips, according to The New York Times. Promoted a conspiracy theory on ABC in May when he said, “There is a significant amount of evidence” that the coronavirus “came from that laboratory in Wuhan.” Spoke at the Republican National Convention in August, in apparent violation of the Hatch Act.

Stephen Miller

Illustration of Stephen Miller

The chief architect of Trump’s family-separation policy. Has frequently spoken falsely about alleged voter fraud. Played a significant role in firing former FBI Director James Comey.


This article appears in the November 2020 print edition with the headline “The Very Best People.”