As Washington awaits a potential reshaping of the political order on Capitol Hill, multiple sources inside and outside the Trump administration tell CNN that an all but certain shakeup is quietly underway at the White House, as President Donald Trump is poised to reshuffle his Cabinet for the second half of his first term.
Trump acknowledged as much on Monday. “Administrations makes changes, usually, after midterms. And probably we’ll be right in that category as well,” he told reporters at Joint Base Andrews on his way to a rally in Ohio. “I think it’s very customary.”
The President has made little secret of his furor at several members of his Cabinet, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the top of the list. His relationship with Defense Secretary James Mattis has steadily faded, with the two talking far less than they did during the first year of Trump’s term. And his anger toward Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has bubbled into public view on several occasions, with the President blaming her for failing to solve the intractable challenge of illegal immigration.
As the halftime mark of his first term approaches, the President is increasingly talking to allies and advisers about the potential for sweeping change in his Cabinet. While as many as half a dozen may end up leaving, three names in particular– Sessions, Mattis, Nielsen – are at the top of many internal conversations about the Cabinet secretaries most likely to leave, along with White House chief of staff John Kelly. Another is already on her way out. Last month, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced her intent to leave at the end of the year.
Even so, two White House officials and one outside confidant to the President tell CNN that the changes may be less urgent than many people assume. The timetable may also be dictated by the outcome of the midterm elections. “No one leaves quickly around here,” one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss deliberations inside the West Wing. “Even people the President wishes were gone.”
That especially applies to Sessions, whom Trump has spent months openly ridiculing because of his recusal from the Russia investigation, issuing blistering performance reviews in media interviews and tweets, and even going so far as proclaiming, “I don’t have an attorney general,” during an interview with The Hill in September.
For his part, Sessions has generally declined to spar with the President, choosing instead to keep his head down and go about his job while continuing to support Trump’s policies (both privately and publicly). He’s also managed to adopt a stoic sense of humor about his situation. To mark the anniversary of his first year in office, staff aides gave Sessions a bulletproof vest as a gag gift. Many Republican lawmakers have said Sessions should stay put. And Trump’s attacks haven’t gone over well with voters in A