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As the president-elect's cabinet and White House takes shape, a picture is emerging of what Trump values and what his picks bring to their important jobs

Forget the notion that Donald Trump, the president, will be markedly different from Donald Trump, the politically incorrect candidate.

The makeup so far of the Trump cabinet and White House is a near-perfect reflection of the steady stream of Twitter postings by @realDonaldTrump. For the most part, they're conservative ideologues, who tend to see the world in absolutes, rather than pragmatists who appreciate life's subtler hues.

They're against public health care and public schools. They're hardliners on Islam and illegal immigrants. They're protectionist, pro-Big Business climate-change skeptics. A few are drawn to conspiracy theories. They want closer ties with Russia, and they're deeply suspicious of China and Iran.

And like Mr. Trump, many are ultrarich white men, and generally well past normal retirement age.

"It will be a government very much in Donald Trump's image," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "Trump is less a philosophy than a cult about Trump. He loves generals. He loves businessmen and people with very strong views, who know exactly what they want to do."

But he cautioned that most important policy decisions are made in the Oval Office of the White House, not by the heads of the various agencies and departments.

"Trump has been entirely predictable, postelection, from his pre-election campaign and statements," argued Thomas Mann, senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

But far from being a reflection of Mr. Trump's own ideology, his cabinet is shaping up as a tool of the conservative wing of the Republican party. For many, their first big test is surviving the Senate confirmation hearings.

"This is really a battle over whether the Republicans get their agenda enacted and signed into law with Trump … who heretofore has never shown much interest in their agenda," Mr. Mann said. "He's not a policy guy and that's what is so unnerving to anyone who knows anything about government."

Jeff sessions

69, attorney-general

Previous life: U.S. senator from Alabama

Political experience: 20 years in the Senate

Trump connection: He brings loyalty, friends in Congress and a staunch conservative voting record to the cabinet table. Mr. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Mr. Trump for president during the election campaign. Mr. Sessions has opposed immigration reform, voting protections for minorities and lower mandatory minimum prison sentences. In 1986, a Republican-controlled committee blocked his bid for a federal judgeship over allegations of racially charged comments and actions while he was a federal prosecutor in Alabama, including allegations he called an African-American colleague "boy."

Job No. 1: Help carry out Mr. Trump's promised crackdown on illegal immigrants.

Steven Mnuchin

53, treasury secretary

Previous life: Hedge fund manager, Hollywood financier, Goldman Sachs partner

Political experience: None

Trump connection: Money and loyalty. Mr. Mnuchin joined Mr. Trump's campaign as finance chair in May, raising millions in cash for his then-sputtering campaign. Before that, he had been a behind-the-scenes confidante. Mr. Mnuchin's stand on major public-policy issues is a blank slate, but his track record in business is not. He and his family pocketed millions of dollars in profits before Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme unwound. He was also chairman and investor in OneWest Bank, a lender with a penchant for foreclosing on low-income homeowners during the housing crash. Over the years, he has made political contributions to both Republicans and Democrats.

Job. No. 1: Big tax cuts for companies and individuals; a rollback of federal regulation of Wall Street.

Rex Tillerson

64, secretary of state

Previous life: Chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp. and past president, Boy Scouts of America

Political experience: None

Trump connection: Mr. Tillerson has no obvious link to Mr. Trump. But they do share a passion for business deal-making and a desire to forge closer ties to Russia. The Exxon executive developed a friendship with President Vladimir Putin, who awarded him Russia's Order of Friendship in 2012. Mr. Tillerson also brokered a partnership between Exxon and Russian government-owned oil company Rosneft and opposed U.S. sanctions against Russia after its invasion of Crimea.

Job. No. 1: Repair relations with Russia and stickhandle Mr. Trump's desire for a tougher position against China.

James Mattis

66, defence secretary

Previous life: U.S. Marine Corps general who oversaw U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Political experience: None

Trump connection: While they did not know each other, Mr. Trump is clearly drawn to the tough-talking retired general, who he says is the "closest thing to General George Patton that we have." In a 2005 speech, Mr. Mattis talked about fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, saying, "It's fun to shoot some people." But he will need a special waiver from Congress to serve because he has not been out of the military for the seven years required by U.S. law.

Job No. 1: Defeat the Islamic State.

Reince Priebus

44, White House chief of staff

Previous life: Chairman of the Republican National Committee

Political experience: Long-time Republican official, nationally and in Wisconsin

Trump connection: Mr. Priebus's main connection is to the Republican establishment, not Mr. Trump. But he scored loyalty points as an early defender of Mr. Trump's antics during the primaries, praising his ability to get Americans and the media to pay attention to Republicans. "People are looking for genuine and authentic people," he told Time Magazine in January. And yet, Mr. Priebus was among a group of Republicans pushing the party to reach out to Hispanic voters – a strategy that Mr. Trump turned upside-down with his pledge to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

Job No. 1: As the White House gatekeeper, Mr. Priebus's toughest job may be keeping the president on message, rather than keeping the rest of the world out.

Stephen Bannon

63, chief White House strategist and senior counsellor

Previous life: Trump campaign manager, head of the ultraright-wing Breitbart News website, ex-Goldman Sachs banker

Political experience: None

Trump connection: Mr. Bannon is the epitome of loyalty to Mr. Trump. He joined the campaign in August after the firing of Paul Manafort – a reward for Breitbart's relentless support for Mr. Trump. On the inside, Mr. Bannon was the leader of the let-Trump-be-Trump camp. Even among Republicans, he is regarded with suspicion because of his role in the divisive white nationalist movement. His ex-wife has accused him of making anti-Semitic remarks.

Job No. 1: Helping keep Mr. Trump in touch with the white rural and suburban voters who elected him.

Kellyanne Conway

49, counsellor to the president

Previous life: Republican Party strategist and pollster

Political experience: Strategist for Newt Gingrich in the 2012 presidential race, adviser to Mike Pence in his campaign for governorship of Indiana

Trump connection: Ms. Conway took over in August as Mr. Trump's campaign manager, shepherding the campaign through its tumultuous final months. According to Mr. Trump, she "played a crucial role in my victory." She was also a senior adviser on his transition team.

Job No. 1: Ms. Conway will play a vital part in shaping Mr. Trump's messaging and legislative priorities, according to a statement issued by the transition team on Dec. 22.

Wilbur Ross

79, commerce secretary

Previous life: Billionaire investor and leveraged buyout specialist

Political experience: None

Trump connection: Mr. Ross is a kindred spirit to Mr. Trump – a blunt-talking deal maker who sees the world in black and white. He has shown a fondness for old industries – including steel, coal and textiles – bankrupt companies and old-school protectionism. He has called for threatening China with steep tariffs and freeing the United States from the "bondage" of bad trade agreements. Mr. Ross is also an advocate of steep tax cuts and looser regulation of energy companies – all common themes of Mr. Trump's unconventional campaign.

Job No. 1: Much tougher trade enforcement, a stare-down with China and a renegotiation of NAFTA.

Michael Flynn

58, national security adviser

Previous life: Retired U.S. Army lieutenant-general and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency

Political experience: None

Trump connection: Like many of Mr. Trump's picks, Mr. Flynn shuns political correctness and diplomacy. He also loves Twitter and has shown a fondness for fake news and various right-wing conspiracies involving the Clintons. A day before the election, he posted on Twitter: "U decide – NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w Children, etc… MUST READ!" He also shares with Mr. Trump a deep distrust of Iran and militant Islam, saying the United States is in a world war and that fear of Muslims is "rational."

Job No. 1: Looking to pick a fight somewhere in the world.

John F. Kelly

66, homeland security director

Previous life: Retired U.S. Marine general, chief of the U.S. Southern Command

Political experience: None

Trump connection: Mr. Kelly is blunt and plain-spoken. But it's his concern about drugs, terrorism and other cross-border threats, mainly along the U.S. southern border, that seems to have hit Mr. Trump's sweet spot. Mr. Kelly will be the point-man on one of Mr. Trump's signature campaign slogans, building a wall on the full length of the U.S.-Mexico border. He's also on record advocating a much tougher stand in the Middle East and against global terrorism.

Job. No. 1: Build that wall.

Tom Price

62, health and human services secretary

Previous life: Orthopedic surgeon, Georgia member of the U.S. House of Representatives

Political experience: 13 years in Congress

Trump connection: What Mr. Price brings to the cabinet is less about Mr. Trump and more about piloting a pet Republican initiative through Congress – getting rid of Obamacare, which expanded health coverage to millions of Americans. Mr. Price has long complained that Washington shouldn't be dictating what kind of care Americans get, while advocating a much larger private-sector role. Among other things, Mr. Price opposes federal funding of abortion and forcing private insurers to cover contraception. He has also called for restricting access to two expensive federal programs for seniors and the poor – Medicare and Medicaid.

Job. No. 1: Get Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Scott Pruitt

49, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

Previous life: Oklahoma Attorney-General

Political experience: He served as an Oklahoma state senator from 1998 to 2006, with stints as party whip and assistant floor leader, where the evangelical Christian focused on faith-based legislation and accountability in government spending.

Trump connection: Mr. Pruitt is linked to Mr. Trump through the president-elect's energy adviser, Harold Hamm, the head of Continental Resources, one of the country's biggest oil producers, according to Politico. Mr. Pruitt shares a strong sense of skepticism with Mr. Trump about global warming. He co-authored a piece with Alabama Attorney-General Luther Strange in which they wrote: "Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind." As attorney-general, Mr. Pruitt has repeatedly sued the EPA over environmental regulations imposed by the Obama administration.

Job No. 1: Implement Mr. Trump's plan to dismantle much of the EPA's regulatory regime.

Betsy DeVos

58, secretary of education

Previous life: Chairwoman of Windquest Group, an investment management firm, though she acquired her billionaire status through inheritance and by marrying into the DeVos family, which founded AmWay. She and her husband, Dick, are also noted philanthropists.

Political experience: Since 1982, she has been active in the Michigan Republican Party, and was elected chair in 2003.

Trump connection: Tenuous at best. During the primaries, she donated to the campaigns of Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina, before throwing her support behind Marco Rubio. She called Mr. Trump an "interloper" who "does not represent the Republican Party." Ms. DeVos is a strong supporter of vouchers, charter schools and other education measures that focus on parental choice. Critics say such policies would divert public funds to support private schools.

Job No. 1: Reform failing inner-city schools by letting per-pupil grants follow parental schooling choices.

Elaine Chao

63, secretary of transportation

Previous life: Secretary of labour for George W. Bush through both terms.

Political experience: Prior to secretary of labour, she served as director of the Peace Corps, deputy secretary of transportation and chair of the Federal Maritime Commission under George H.W. Bush. She also had posts in the Reagan administration and a successful career in banking.

Trump connection: No direct link. She is married to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and is deeply connected to the Washington power structure. She was born on Taiwan, where her parents fled from mainland China, before immigrating to the United States when she was 8. Equally at home at the United Way, the Heritage Foundation, corporate boards and Fox News, Ms. Chao is considered a master of the federal bureaucracy who can get things done.

Job No. 1: Implement a key portion of Mr. Trump's $1-trillion (U.S.) plan for renewing the national infrastructure.

Mike Pompeo

52, director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Previous life: Member of the House of Representatives from Kansas, lawyer, businessman, Gulf War veteran

Political experience: Six years in Congress

Trump connection: Unlike many other cabinet and staff picks, Mr. Pompeo was not an early loyalist. But his views dovetail nicely with some of the president-elect's campaign rhetoric. He has been harshly critical of President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran and his handling of the 2012 attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya. He has ties to the ultraconservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, who backed his first campaign. In Congress, Mr. Pompeo has pushed some of the Koch brothers' top priorities and defended them against Democratic criticism.

Job No. 1: Refocus intelligence gathering on Iran and China.

Ben Carson

65, secretary of housing and urban development

Previous life: Director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. A renowned pioneer of new procedures, including performing the first successful neurological procedure on a fetus in the womb. Author of numerous books about his life and political views.

Political experience: None prior to his run for the GOP nomination.

Trump connection: He ran for the Republican presidential nomination, before dropping out and supporting Mr. Trump. Dr. Carson has said little about the government's role in supporting affordable housing, but wrote of one housing-related affirmative action program: "Government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality create consequences that often make matters worse." He is, in general, skeptical of government supports for the needy, saying they can encourage a culture of dependency.

Job No. 1: Learn the job. By his own admission, Dr. Carson has no experience in running a government department, and HUD is a complex one, with a $50-billion budget, 8,000 employees and a plethora of programs.

With reports from John Ibbitson, Evan Annett and Reuters