Trump Palm Beach: Who’s who of locals in White House, government

Updated Nov 08, 2017
Wilbur Ross, Policeman’s Ball honoree Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A year after his upset victory in the presidential election, Palm Beach County has had a role in molding the Trump administration just as President Donald Trump has had an impact on Palm Beach County.

At least eight individuals with connections to the county have been chosen to serve, or at least assist, in Trump’s government. At the same time, the president’s frequent visits have made Palm Beach County a key chapter in the history of the Trump presidency.

A year after defeating Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump’s approval at 41% in Florida

That this is the case is perhaps the least surprising development since votes were counted on Nov. 8, 2016. Trump has been a fixture in Palm Beach County for the past 30 years. While he is most associated with the exclusive Town of Palm Beach, his interests extend well beyond the 1 percenters’ oasis, what with being the owner of two golf clubs, in West Palm Beach and Jupiter, and myriad other holdings in South Florida.

The following is a roster of people with homes and/or businesses in the county who have prominent posts or advisory roles in the Trump administration, as well as a timeline of key moments for Palm Beach County since Election Day 2016.

Wilbur Ross was the first of the two Palm Beach County part-time residents nominated to the Cabinet. Confirmed by the Senate in late February, Ross is a trade hawk. Two initiatives under his tenure as Secretary of Commerce have been to persuade China to import U.S. beef as well as seeking concessions from NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico. Ross, though, now finds himself under public scrutiny. This week, the so-called Paradise Papers reported that Ross has a stake in a shipping company said to do business with a firm connected to Russian Leader Vladimir Putin. And Forbes reported that Ross misrepresented himself as a billionaire.

Palm Beach Gardens homeowner Ben Carson was a Trump rival in the Republican presidential primaries. He dropped out of the race and in March 2016 endorsed Trump during an appearance at Mar-a-Lago. He was confirmed by the Senate in January as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. At HUD, Carson recently announced a series of initiatives to eliminate redundant programs, bolstering programs for first-time home buyers, especially millennials, and gearing housing assistance to home ownership and job training. Other than that, Carson, who this year sold a West Palm Beach home, has flown under the radar in Washington. He has not drawn Trump’s ire or frustration on Twitter, like Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Robin Bernstein was nominated this month to serve as ambassador to the Dominican Republic. A longtime friend of Trump and original member of Mar-a-Lago, Bernstein was a delegate at the Republican National Convention and one of Florida’s 29 electors. She once referred to Trump as “our Prince Charles,” and praised him for his 2006 battle with Palm Beach about the huge American flag Trump flies at Mar-a-Lago.

Palm Beach resident Richard Duke Buchan III was tapped in August to serve as ambassador to Spain and Andora. He is the founder and CEO of Hunter Global Investors L.P., based in Palm Beach. Although initially a supporter of Jeb Bush, Buchan and his wife Hannah became financial supporters of Trump. Buchan accompanied Trump to rallies, the Republican National Convention, and all three presidential debates. On the day of his inauguration, the Buchans went to church with Trump and his family, and sat near Trump as he was sworn in as president.

Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager, was indicted late this past month on charges of conspiring to launder money, conspiracy against the United States and failing to register as a foreign agent of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government. Manafort has a home in Ballenisles, a gated community in Palm Beach Gardens. Manafort has offered the home, which is his primary residence, as security to ensure he will appear in court.

Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci served as Trump’s White House communications director for just 10 days. But they were a memorable 10 days. Scaramucci, whose financial firm opened an office in Palm Beach Gardens in early 2015, entered the Trump circle during a staff shake-up. He immediately stood out with a series of remarks in his first appearance before reporters, including: “If the president says it … there’s probably some level of truth to that.” Barely a week later, details of a profanity-laced interview with The New Yorker ended The Mooch’s brief tenure in the Trump White House.

Another Palm Beach resident, Isaac Perlmutter, chief executive of Marvel Entertainment, advises the Trump team on veteran’s affairs. Perlmutter dined with Trump at Mar-a-Lago in December.

Robert Lighthizer was tapped by Trump in January to be U.S. Trade Representative. He served as deputy trade representative under President Reagan. Lighthizer owns an oceanfront condo in midtown.