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The chaos in the Trump administration, summed up in one number

The staff turnover rate in the Trump administration is “higher than any White House in decades.”

President Trump Unveils His Infrastructure Initiative With State And Local Officials In The State Dining Room Of White House Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

It sure feels like the Trump administration is in utter chaos.

Last week, White House staff secretary Robert Porter resigned after both of his ex-wives said publicly that he abused them. We also learned that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly seemingly knew about the alleged abuse and covered it up — and he too may be resigning as a result. Meanwhile, Rachel Brand, the third-ranking official at the Department of Justice, also stepped down — for fear that she would have to manage the Russia probe if her superior, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, were to quit or be fired.

None of this is normal. But there’s a statistic from a Tuesday piece by the New York Times’s Peter Baker that really puts it in perspective.

Baker used data from the Brookings Institution that calculated the staff turnover rate in President Trump’s White House — roughly 34 percent. He then compared this to Brookings data on previous administrations, finding that Trump’s was “higher than any White House in decades.”

This, if anything, understates the case. To quote Baker:

Trump’s 34 percent turnover rate in his first year is more than three times as high as President Barack Obama’s in the same period and twice as high as President Ronald Reagan’s, which until now was the modern record-holder. Of 12 positions deemed most central to the president, only five are still filled by the same person as when Mr. Trump took office.

A key part of Trump’s argument during the 2016 campaign was that he was an excellent manager, someone who would hire “the best people” and use his business acumen to fix Washington. This was always a dubious theory — Trump’s businesses weren’t actually that successful — but now we’ve had a year to test it and see if he really could run a tight White House.

So far, Trump’s record on that score isn’t just bad: It’s historically bad.