It must be true if Jim “Money” Acosta is hearing rumbles:
Hearing more staff shakeups at WH this week not out of the question. “Winds of change,” a source close to WH says.
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) March 13, 2018
But in case you don’t trust him, NYT reporter Maggie Haberman’s hearing it too:
People close to the White House say they expect more major personnel shifts this week. An effort to rip off the bandaid fast on a number of fronts is likely.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) March 13, 2018
Trump said this morning that he’s “very close” to finally having the cabinet he wants. If he’s going to clean house all at once on the theory that he’ll see “chaos!” headlines no matter how quickly or slowly he does it (in which case why not do it quickly?) then McMaster is bound to be next. Like Tillerson, he’s been dogged by rumors of his clashes with Trump since practically the day he was appointed. Two weeks ago NBC reported that he’d be gone as soon by next month. With Kelly and Mattis reportedly having turned on him over his hawkishness towards North Korea, it’s a cinch that he’s on his way out. Probably before the end of the week, I’d guess, per Haberman and Acosta.
But replacing McMaster with a John Bolton or Stephen Biegun won’t get Trump the cabinet he wants. The only way to do that is to fire the one appointee whom he’s complained about more than any other, who’s further infuriated him lately by subtly taunting him about his endless potshots at his agency. Jeff Sessions must be on the chopping block too. Especially if Haberman’s read on Trump’s psychology right now is correct:
So now he is basically saying “I’ve got this, I can make the changes I want.”
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) March 13, 2018
That would jibe with my theory that Trump recently had a “f*** everything” moment where he decided to throw caution to the wind and do things his way. Hope Hicks quit, Gary Cohn quit, John McEntee is now out, the John Kelly/Rob Porter saga gave him nothing but grief, and he seemed miserable that he’d been saddled with appointees like McMaster, Tillerson, and Rod Rosenstein who came highly recommended by the establishment but with whom he never meshed. So now he’s flipping over the table. He wanted tariffs so he declared them and told the lawyers and diplomats to get to work on making them happen. He was approached with an offer for an unprecedented meeting with Kim Jong Un and accepted on the spot. He was tired of Tillerson so he blew him up. McMaster will be next, then probably Sessions — and then, possibly, Bob Mueller. That’s the real danger for an unleashed Trump: He’ll have a million yes-men telling him all of his new personnel moves are genius (and in fairness, Pompeo is an upgrade over Tillerson), which may embolden him into making the riskiest personnel move of all. His presidency will never be the same if he does it but the risk right now has never been higher, given the circumstances.
What about Sessions, though? Trump’s problem with Tillerson is easily solved insofar as Pompeo is likely to be confirmed. His problem with McMaster is also easily solved since there’s no Senate confirmation needed for a National Security Advisor. But his Sessions problem is sticky: A successor would need to be confirmed, of course, and there are no obvious candidates who might sail easily through the process. Getting an AG nominee through nowadays is nearly as difficult as getting a Supreme Court nominee through and McConnell has only the barest of margins for a party-line vote. Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie each have enough baggage that they’d probably get Borked and lower profile but qualified people may want no part of the administration, having watched horrified at how Trump’s current cabinet has been treated. I mean, really:
Two White House officials said Tillerson was told he was out on Friday. But Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein said Tillerson “did not speak to the president and is unaware of the reason.” He added that the former Exxon Mobil CEO “had every intention of staying” in the job because he felt he was making critical progress in national security.
The State Department said Tillerson only learned of his termination when he read Trump’s tweet on Tuesday morning. Two senior department officials said Tillerson received a call from John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, on Friday, but was only told that there might be a presidential tweet that would concern him. Kelly didn’t tell Tillerson what the tweet might say or when it might actually publish, according to the official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.
That reminds me: Goldstein has now been fired too.
BREAKING: Officials: White House fires top Tillerson aide who contradicted account of secretary of state's dismissal.
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 13, 2018
Some context: Steve Goldstein is loathed inside the White House and regarded as openly anti-Trump, as we’ve reported. (Which is ironic given he’s a political appointee.) https://t.co/1EFX8ZeUyN
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) March 13, 2018
If Trump thinks the Senate GOP is going to confirm Judge Jeanine for him as Attorney General, he’s in for a surprise. So whom does he nominate to replace Sessions? Trey Gowdy, who’s been sticking up for Bob Mueller recently? Ted Cruz, who seemed interested in the AG job during the presidential transition? Mick Mulvaney can fill only so many vacancies, you know.
Exit question: After Tillerson and soon Jeff Sessions (and Tom Price, if you like), how many qualified people will be willing to give up very successful (and sometimes fabulously lucrative) careers to serve in the cabinet knowing that they’re likely to find themselves unemployed a year or so later?