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Trump Defends His Cabinet Of Billionaires

President-elect Donald Trump has pushed back against media criticism over the wealth of his growing Cabinet, which is set to the be the richest administration in modern U.S. history.

On Dec. 8, Trump defended the sizeable wealth of his appointees during a post-election congratulatory rally in Des Moines, Iowa.

"A newspaper criticized me and said, 'Why can't they have people of modest means?'" Trump told the audience, reports The Huffington Post. "Because I want people that made a fortune! Because now they are negotiating [for] you, OK?"

The business mogul added that, in his view, a billionaire appointee is "no different than a great baseball player or a great golfer."

It is not clear which critical newspaper Trump was referring to. Several have criticized the wealth of the president-elect's Cabinet, which currently is comprised of appointees who are worth $14.5 billion combined, Fortune reports.

So far, the wealthiest member is the appointee for deputy secretary of commerce, Todd Ricketts, whose family is worth an estimated $5.3 billion. Not far behind is Trump's nominee for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, whose family fortune is estimated to be worth $5.1 billion, according to NBC News.

The president-elect's selection for secretary of commerce, Wall Street investor Wilbur Ross, is worth an estimated $2.9 billion. Linda McMahon, the appointee to head the Small Business Administration, has a net worth of an estimated $1.16 billion along with her husband, WWE co-founder Vince McMahon. Linda has previously spent $100 million of her own money in two unsuccessful congressional campaigns.

Trump's pick for secretary of treasury, former Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin, is worth an estimated $46 million. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Trump's appointee to secretary of housing and urban development, is worth an estimated $26 million.

Currently, President Barack Obama's entire Cabinet has a cumulative net worth of under $3 billion, with the majority of that sum held by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. Former President George W. Bush had a Cabinet with the cumulative worth of $390 million during the final days of his administration, according to The Boston Globe.

Trump has asserted that the wealth of his appointees is a virtue, telling the Iowa crowd his picks were setting aside personal gain for government service.

"They're so proud to do it, these people, they've given up fortunes of income to come and make a dollar a year, and they are so proud to do it," Trump concluded.

Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden, a close confidant of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has accused Trump of backpedaling on his campaign pledge of cleaning up Washington, D.C., and instituting a populist administration.

"These picks are a betrayal of his message to working-class voters," Tanden told Politico. "Trump claimed he would fight the global elite billionaire class; instead, he's handing them the keys to agency after agency."

Sources: The Boston Globe, Fortune, The Huffington Post, NBC News, Politico / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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