The transnationalist US foreign-policy elite in exile? A comparative network analysis of the Trump administration

Nana De Graaff*, Bastiaan Van Apeldoorn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The presidency of Donald Trump – often framed as a result of a populist revolt against the elites of Washington and Wall Street – and his apparent break with the postwar liberal internationalist foreign-policy elite consensus, has raised fundamental questions about the future of elite power in the USA and the implications for its global role. As established by previous research, America's foreign-policy elite has in the past decades been closely connected to transnationally oriented corporate elite networks, the theme of this special issue. In this article, we address to what extent the Trump presidency represents a real rupture with these extant power structures in the American political system and its foreign-policy establishment. We present the first systematic mapping and social network analysis of Trump, his cabinet and his White House advisers, which, based on a novel biographical data set, compares earlier findings on the elite networks of the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. While finding some strong continuities, the Trumpian foreign-policy elite is shown to display some very distinctive characteristics, particularly with respect to a lack of previous political affiliations, ties with a different kind of corporate elite, and a disconnect with the policy-planning networks that have been so central to the previous administrations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-264
JournalGlobal Networks
Issue number2
Early online date12 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • USA

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