President Donald Trump says there’s nothing remarkable about the goings-on at the White House, despite an unprecedented amount of staff turnover. But he won’t rule out more shake-ups either.
In a tweet on Tuesday morning, Trump tamped down reports of chaos in his administration, saying there is no turmoil but instead “only great Energy!” He said people will “always” come and go and he wants a “strong dialogue” before making decisions. “I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection),” he wrote, indicating more staff changes are likely to come.
The new Fake News narrative is that there is CHAOS in the White House. Wrong! People will always come & go, and I want strong dialogue before making a final decision. I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection). There is no Chaos, only great Energy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 6, 2018
Hope Hicks, the White House communications director and one of the president’s closest aides, last week announced plans to exit. She is the fourth person to serve as head of communications under Trump since he took office just over a year ago, following Sean Spicer, Mike Dubke, and Anthony Scaramucci. (According to Quartz’s calculations, the average Trump communications director has lasted 78.6 days, compared to 585.4 days under former President Barack Obama.)
Other high-profile exits from the Trump administration include Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, White House strategist Steve Bannon, and staff secretary Rob Porter.
A lot of people around Trump might be going — but they’re not yet gone
A number of figures still in the administration are in tenuous spots. The president last week attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Twitter over his refusal to corroborate a conspiracy theory that federal law enforcement was undermining Trump. Sessions responded with a statement saying that he would continue to serve “with integrity and honor” as long as he was attorney general. In a show of solidarity with the Justice Department, he dined with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Solicitor General Noel Francisco the evening of Trump’s attack.
Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 28, 2018
There are rumors that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is also on his way out, with MSNBC reporting last week that Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis might be orchestrating a replacement.
Trump’s announcement of plans to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports have sparked speculation that National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, who is reportedly against the tariffs, might leave. The White House has downplayed reports of his possible impending exit. Peter Navarro, the director of the White House National Trade Council and a proponent of the tariffs, said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday that he and Cohn have “differing opinions” on the matter but it’s not that big of a deal. “The president loves that. He wants to hear all sides of the argument,” he said. “So he’s a valued member of the team. And it’s up to Gary whether he goes or stays, but I like working with the guy.”
Cohn is reportedly summoning executives who would be hurt by the tariffs to the White House later this week in an attempt to talk Trump out of them. It’s worth noting this isn’t the first time the former Goldman Sachs chief operating officer was rumored to be about to leave. There were also reports that he would leave after the president’s equivocal reaction to racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer, and media outlets speculated that he might leave after the tax bill was passed or when Trump passed him up as chair of the Federal Reserve.
Elsewhere in the Trump administration, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is reportedly struggling in his post — the retired neurosurgeon told the New York Times that there are “more complexities here than in brain surgery.” Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is under fire for his misuse of taxpayer funds during a trip to Europe. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has faced on-and-off rumors that he is headed for the exit for months.
Trump at the annual Gridiron Club dinner in Washington on Saturday joked about the turnover turmoil, musing that maybe his wife will be the next one to go. “Now the question everyone keeps asking is, ‘Who’s going to be the next to leave?’” Trump joked. “Steve Miller or Melania?”