Report: Trump “livid” with Gary Cohn, Rex Tillerson
Are Cohn and Tillerson trying to get fired? A top advisor or cabinet member who’s unhappy with his job may be reluctant to resign for multiple reasons — fear of triggering a wave of protest resignations, fear of criticism that he’s abandoning his duty to the country out of upset with Trump, and so on. So maybe that advisor/department head makes a compromise with himself: “I’m going to speak my mind and let the chips fall where they may. If the president fires me, he fires me. If he doesn’t, then I can do my job with a clear conscience.” Coincidentally, here’s how a Politico reporter responded to Haberman’s tweets:
There are more stories out there today about Trump being mad at Tillerson than at Cohn, although that may be because Tillerson’s more of a target of opportunity, When rumors swirled two weeks ago that Cohn was leaving over Trump’s Charlottesville reactions, markets dove. Firing him would be a risk for Trump insofar as it would panic Wall Street by signaling the “globalists” no longer have Trump’s ear on the economy. Firing Tillerson, though? Eh. This brutal Axios story yesterday lists all sorts of grievances the White House supposedly has with him — personnel, dragging his feet on appointments, dovishness on the Iran deal, and an “establishment” view of Afghanistan. “What change is he bringing?” said “a GOP source in touch with the West Wing” of Tillerson to CNN. Another key difference between Tillerson and Cohn is that there’s no obvious successor for Cohn’s role should he depart. There is for Tillerson:
One possible scenario for replacing Tillerson: U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley moves to Foggy Bottom. Then Deputy Secretary National Security Adviser Dina Powell could be promoted to Haley’s job in New York, where Powell’s family lives.
Trump is reluctant to allow any cabinet vacancies as his relationship with the Senate GOP deteriorates (that’s one key reason why Jeff Sessions never got fired) but Haley is well liked and would be confirmed in a party-line vote, I expect. She’s arguably been a more prominent face of U.S. diplomacy to the public thus far than her ostensible boss, Tillerson, has. And although she’s more interventionist than Trump or Tillerson, she’s probably more likely to go along with Trump on tearing up the Iran nuclear deal than T-Rex is. She’d be a logical choice if Trump boots him. Maybe she’s already discussing it, in fact…
Exit question: Doesn’t Trump sort of need to fire Tillerson after yesterday’s comments, purely as a matter of discipline? Insisting that his boss speaks for himself while the administration speaks for the country in advancing American values is as close as a cabinet officer can get to describing his boss’s rhetoric as un-American. If Trump lets him slide, he’s telling the rest of the cabinet that they can badmouth him pretty much however they like and he’ll look the other way publicly so as not to have to endure a confirmation process for their successor. Whereas booting Tillerson would send the opposite message, that however angry they may be with things Trump says or does, that anger is to be aired privately and they’re to show the president a level of basic respect in disagreeing with him in public. Why not bounce him?