Editor’s Note: Ashley Pratte is a political commentator and communications strategist in Washington, D.C. She is the former director of media relations and public affairs at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Before that she served as both the director of media relations and consultant for Better For America during the 2016 presidential election. You can follow her on Twitter @AshPratte. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
President Donald Trump has ousted another senior Cabinet official, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The two men had apparently rarely seen eye to eye on foreign policy, so while the firing isn’t shocking, the timing is.
It comes at a bizarre time, in fact, given that the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee concluded on Monday night that it would be ending its investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The committee determined that there was no evidence to support collusion.
The White House was served a win on a silver platter, a narrative it should’ve let play out over the next few days amid the stories of chaos in the White House and Stormy Daniels’ getting closer to her alleged tell-all about her time with Trump.
However, in true Trump fashion, he had to make headlines, instead.
These headlines are becoming all too familiar as it appears the White House has a revolving door – a record-breaking turnover of staffers -- at 43%, according to newly released data from the Brookings Institution. To break it down further, 34% of Trump’s top advisers and senior staffers have quit, resigned or been forced out within the first year of his administration.
So, about all of those best and brightest he was going to surround himself with? Well, they either don’t want to stay or find themselves at odds with their boss, and out the door.
Within the past two weeks alone, there has been chaos and unraveling, as well as three high-profile exits from the White House.
First, one of his most trusted and loyal confidantes, Hope Hicks, resigned from her role as communications director after acknowledging to the House Intelligence Committee that she sometimes told “white lies” for Trump. At the same time, Trump was in a Twitter feud with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, over Sessions’ sound decision to place the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation over FBI surveillance of Trump’s campaign associate Carter Page into the hands of the Inspector General. Trump’s Sessions-sniping once again showed his disdain for one of his earliest advocates and supporters.
Then came the resignation of Gary Cohn, his chief economic adviser, due, in part – according to news reports – to a dispute over Trump’s hasty and uninformed announcement imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The loss of Trump’s rational adviser on economic policy raised fear among GOP lawmakers that the President could begin a trade war.
At a press conference last Tuesday, prior to Cohn’s resignation, Trump declared, “Everybody wants to work at the White House,” a statement that, the past weeks and year have made clear, couldn’t be farther from the truth.
People of talent won’t work for a boss who discredits and undermines them in public, meaning that the candidate pool for open posts will be very slim or come from within the White House. Even without the blunders, awful rhetoric, Twitter rants and legislative ignorance, the turnover alone is enough to make any sane person reluctant to submit a resume.
And the chaotic and uncertain environment that has been described by current and former staffers surely portrays us in a poor light to the rest of the world.
On the campaign trail, candidate Trump made it clear that he didn’t know much about public policy or the legislative process but that he would surround himself with the best and the brightest in order to legislate effectively and successfully.
But while he has surrounded himself with trusted cabinet members and advisers, he often clashes with them publicly on policy and ends up losing them.
Just when this administration seemed to be getting a grasp on things by rounding out 2017 with a legislative victory on tax reform, it seems as though the President couldn’t resist stirring things up again and sending the media, as well as the general public, into a tailspin in the new year.
As Trump pushes forward into the second year of his presidency, particularly with the looming 2018 midterms, he would be wise to start showing some stability within his administration, instead of continuously rocking the boat.