01:48 - Source: CNN
Burnett on Bolton: It's like 'The Apprentice'
CNN  — 

In the last 16 days, President Donald Trump has replaced his top economic adviser, his top foreign policy adviser and his top national security adviser.

Let me repeat that: In the last 16 days, President Donald Trump has replaced his top economic adviser, his top foreign policy adviser and his top national security adviser.

Here’s the timeline:

There’s two things worth noting about that slew of changes: 1) They come in the first 14 months of Trump’s presidency and 2) They represent a wholesale policy pivot from the people who were moved out.

This would be a lot of change in critical positions for any president at any time during their tenure. Let’s say that a president had just won a second term and made this series of changes. It would be a BIG deal. He’s changing things up as he gets ready for the challenges of a second term! He’s bringing in fresh blood to get done what he couldn’t get done in the first four years! And so on.

But this isn’t a president overhauling his team as he preps for a second term. This is a president who has been in office for just over 14 months or, to be exact, 427 days.

In most White Houses, your senior policy people – head of the NEC, secretary of state, etc. – are just beginning to settle into their jobs at this point of your term. They have launched – or are preparing to launch – the one or two major initiatives they and the president have agreed upon as goals for a first term.

In the Trump White House, those people are now out. And not just out, but replaced by people who, in several instances, have radically different views on major issues.

01:58 - Source: CNN
Gary Cohn to resign as WH economic adviser

Start with Cohn. He resigned after losing an internal fight with the President (and the protectionist element within the White House) over instituting a series of tariffs. Cohn opposed such a move. Trump did it anyway. Cohn resigned. While Trump replaced Cohn with Larry Kudlow, another free trade proponent, it appears to be under the assurance that Kudlow won’t get in Trump’s way on tariffs and broader trade policy.

“[Kudlow] wouldn’t have taken the job just to be a thorn in the President’s side,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Thursday.

02:32 - Source: CNN
Trump signals wider West Wing shake-up

Tillerson, who regularly disagreed with Trump on a variety of issues – most notably Russia – will be replaced by Mike Pompeo. Pompeo has risen up the ranks in Trumpworld thanks to his consistent loyalty to Trump. In announcing Pompeo’s selection, Trump made a point of noting that he and the former Kansas Congressman are “always on the same wavelength.”

And finally, the switch of McMaster for Bolton. While Bolton said Thursday that his past views have no bearing on how he will execute his new job as national security adviser, those past views represent a huge change from the more traditional Republican foreign policy views espoused by McMaster.

01:57 - Source: CNN
Trump replaces McMaster with Fox News analyst

“The replacement of H.R. McMaster as national security adviser with Amb. John Bolton is not merely a changing of the guard,” said Frank Gaffney, the head of the Center for Security Policy, who among other things repeatedly suggested President Barack Obama may be a Muslim. “It is a sea-change, one that holds promise of allowing Mr. Trump to accomplish his national security and foreign policy objectives, rather than endlessly contend with them being sabotaged by his own insubordinate subordinates.”

Indeed. Bolton has, among other things, advocated for the bombing of both Iran and North Korea. He was also one of the staunchest supporters of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a decision Trump insists he opposed at the time. (He didn’t.)

Broadly speaking, these moves represent Trump pushing out people with whom he has clashed or who stand up to him on matters of policy and replacing them with people who are much more likely to rubberstamp whatever policy decisions he makes – whether it contradicts his past views or looks (or is) misguided. The new team has been chosen for their willingness to carry out the whims and wishes of the President.

But that Trump has done so this early in his administration – and over a two-week period – remains totally remarkable. You are talking about a full-scale re-engineering of a good chunk of your top advisers less than 500 days into your presidency.

What does that say about your original picks? (Remember, too, that McMaster was the second national security adviser for Trump, following the firing of Michael Flynn.) What does it say about your policy convictions or priorities if you are willing to change horses before you even get to the stream? And, most importantly, what does it say about where we go from here?