The Trump administration is unusual, however. Trump made so many personal and ideological enemies during the 2016 campaign — people he would not forgive, and people who would not work for him — that the bench was already very shallow. Moreover, he was not expected to win, so few people had planned in advance around changing jobs if he won. Worse, the belligerent attacks on the legitimacy of his election and the general sense of bad moral odor surrounding his administration in many elite quarters made people question the value of having the Trump White House or Trump-era federal departments on their résumé. To cap it off, Trump from nearly the start of his administration was under legal investigation — first the Mueller probe, then the Ukraine impeachment fight — so that joining up meant potentially needing to lawyer up and subject oneself to an expensive and draining legal sideshow.

The result was that the Trump cabinet, White House staff, and appointees to the federal bureaucracy have all featured a lot of people who would not get considered for jobs in a normal administration, leading to a lot of sloppy staff work that has contributed to unforced political errors and losses in court. Trump has attracted some great people to work for him, but it’s been a fairly thin crust that has already eroded in his fourth year in office. Many lower-level positions have gone unfilled, with executive-branch vacancies at an all-time high. On top of that, the Trump cabinet and executive staff have undergone the highest turnover of any administration in the past four decades. The many difficulties of working for a boss with Trump’s personality and public inconstancy, and the witch-hunting climate promoted in some of the factional infights, have exacerbated the difficulty of retaining good people.