WASHINGTON – The national security adviser. The press secretary. The lead counsel. The communications director. The FBI director. And now the chief of staff.
Any one of these departures would be newsworthy just six months into an administration, but the sheer number in this White House speaks for itself: Donald Trump is out of control of his team.
The replacement of Reince Priebus as chief of staff with John Kelly, a retired four-star general now running the Department of Homeland Security, is as close to an acknowledgment of this mess from Trump as we are likely to get. The president is hoping a military general can get his house in order after months of infighting among White House camps weighed down his presidency, battling for his attention and over the direction of a rudderless administration wanting for policy accomplishments and higher approval ratings.
Priebus called his own departure a “reset” opportunity for the Trump administration, without admitting any need for a shakeup. But it was just the latest in a remarkable slew of firings or force-outs. And it may not be the last.
US media have reported in the past week alone of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson feeling frustrated with the White House, with CNN reporting that his confidants believe he is itching for an exit. Similarly, reports suggest the president’s second national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, is “isolated” in the West Wing.
And, Trump’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, crudely targeted senior White House strategist Steve Bannon in recent days for building his own brand on the president’s back.
Forget the lower-level departures in recent days, including a national security spokesman and a top Middle East strategist. Scaramucci says he will continue a campaign against “leakers” in the White House that may lead to several more firings.
The problem, Scaramucci told CNN, is that people within the administration believe it is their job to “save America from his president.”
“It is not,” he added.
Thus began a campaign to purge staffers disloyal to the president. How John Kelly will manage this new staff structure is anyone’s guess.