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Washington CNN  — 

Having overseen the highest turnover rate in presidential history, President Donald Trump was bound to have a few disgruntled ex-aides.

Instead, a steady succession of ex-administration advisers – including some of his highest-ranking Cabinet officials who spoke or met with him regularly – have spoken out against his leadership and character, a remarkable break in precedent for a norm-shattering president.

While there are many administration officials who resigned or were fired and still remain loyal to their former boss, there are also several who have become vocal in their dissent of the current commander-in-chief.

Some of those once in his innermost circle have described an impulsive president who disregards advice and lacks adult sensibilities.

Others have questioned his motivations and ability to lead.

All White Houses find themselves confronting the odd tell-all memoir or interview from a jaundiced aide. But Trump, who is famous for demanding loyalty, has not appeared to inspire great confidence in those who quit or were dismissed from his administration.

Those officials aren’t just comprised of holdovers from the Obama administration, staff compelled to testify under oath, or career intelligence and Justice Department officials Trump has dubbed as being part of the so-called “deep state.”

There’s a long list of allies-turned-critics that includes several of the men and women Trump hand-selected to lead agencies across the federal government. Here’s a working list.

Military leadership

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Former Defense Secretary James Mattis

In 2018, Mattis wrote a scathing resignation letter, writing that his views were not aligned with Trump’s, spurred by the President’s plans to withdraw troops from Syria.

He wrote that his resignation came after “concrete solutions and strategic advice, especially keeping faith with our allies, no longer resonated.”

Mattis spoke out again on Wednesday, criticizing Trump’s handling of demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

He called Trump “the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people.”

“We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children,” he wrote.

“We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution,” his statement said.

Former Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer

Spencer was fired for going outside his chain of command by proposing a secret agreement with the White House over Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s case. In a Washington Post op-ed, Spencer called Trump’s intervention in the war crimes case “shocking and unprecedented.”

“It was also a reminder that the President has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices,” he wrote.

Inside the White House

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Former White House national security adviser John Bolton

Trump abruptly announced that he had asked Bolton to resign, saying that he “strongly disagreed with many” of Bolton’s suggestions “as did others in the administration.”

In his first public remarks after being asked to resign, Bolton strongly disagreed with Trump’s North Korea policy.

In a draft manuscript of his book, Bolton wrote that Trump directed him to help with his pressure campaign in Ukraine to dig up dirt on Democrats. The manuscript also reportedly claimed that Trump directed Bolton to set up a meeting between the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, and Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Trump has denied the allegations.

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly

Kelly has said he believes Bolton’s accusation – that Trump told Bolton US security aid to Ukraine was conditioned on an investigation of the President’s political rivals.

“If John Bolton says that in the book I believe John Bolton,” Kelly said.

Kelly has also said that Trump would not be in the middle of an impeachment process if he were still chief of staff and that he advised Trump not to hire a yes man to replace him.

“I said, whatever you do – and we were still in the process of trying to find someone to take my place – I said whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth – don’t do that,” Kelly said at the time. “Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached.

On Friday, Kelly said he agreed with Mattis about Trump’s handling of demonstrations in the wake of Floyd’s death.

“There is a concern, I think an awful big concern, that the partisanship has gotten out of hand, the tribal thing has gotten out of hand,” Kelly said. “He’s quite a man, Jim Mattis, and for him to do that tells you where he is relative to the concern he has for our country.”

Kelly also said he would have cautioned Trump against the idea of using law enforcement to clear Lafayette Square ahead of his photo-op outside of St. John’s Church.

“I would’ve argued against it, recommended against it,” Kelly said. “I would argue that the end result of that was predictable.”

Former White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster

McMaster has not directly attacked the President, but amid the Ukraine scandal and subsequent impeachment inquiry, McMaster took part in a panel and was asked by a reporter if it is appropriate for a president to solicit foreign interference in the US political process.

“No, it’s absolutely not,” McMaster said. However, he also maintained he had never witnessed Trump soliciting foreign assistance.

Former Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert

As Trump was dealing with the Ukraine scandal, Bossert told ABC’s “This Week” he was “deeply disturbed” by the contents of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian President. However, he also warned not to rush to judgment. In the same appearance, Bossert said he had told Trump there was no basis for the theory that Ukraine intervened in the 2016 US presidential election to assist Democrats.

Bossert has also criticized Trump for not wearing a face mask in public amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Do as I say, not as I do isn’t very useful,” Bossert told “This Week.”

Cliff Sims, former special assistant to the President and director of White House Message Strategy

Sims wrote “Team of Vipers,” claiming, among other things, that Trump created an “enemies list” consisting of members of his own administration.

In early 2019, after the book was published, Sims sued Trump and sought an injunction against the nondisclosure agreements Trump had him agree to when he worked at the White House.

Omarosa Manigault Newman, former director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison

Manigault Newman recorded her firing while in the White House Situation Room and it was subsequently shared with news organizations. She claimed she was fired because she knew too much about a possible audio recording of Trump saying a racial epithet.

After being fired from the White House, her book, “Unhinged: An Insider Account of the Trump White House,” contained several unflattering claims against the President and his staff.

“Donald Trump, who would attack civil rights icons and professional athletes, who would go after grieving black widows, who would say there were good people on both sides, who endorsed an accused child molester; Donald Trump, and his decisions and his behavior, was harming the country. I could no longer be a part of this madness,” she wrote in her book.

Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci

Scaramucci initially continued to defend the President after being fired from his job at the White House – a stint that lasted less than two weeks.

But last year, after Trump visited El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, following two mass shootings, Scaramucci described the visits as a “catastrophe.”

“For the last 3 years I have fully supported this President,” Scaramucci tweeted in September 2019. “Recently he has said things that divide the country in a way that is unacceptable. So I didn’t pass the 100% litmus test. Eventually he turns on everyone and soon it will be you and then the entire country.”

A month earlier, Scaramucci had called Trump’s attacks on four minority congresswomen “racist and unacceptable.”

He no longer supports Trump’s reelection bid.

Gary Cohn, former National Economic Council director

Cohn said last year that he was “concerned” there was no one left in Trump’s staff to stand up to him and tell him what he didn’t want to hear.

“We had an interesting nucleus of people when I was in the White House – the initial team. We were not bashful. It was a group that was willing to tell the President what he needed to know, whether he wanted to hear it or not,” Cohn told CNN’s David Axelrod in an interview on “The Axe Files” podcast. “None of us are there any more. So I am concerned that the atmosphere in the White House is no longer conducive, or no one has the personality to stand up and tell the President what he doesn’t want to hear,” he said.

Former White House counsel Ty Cobb

Former White House lawyer Ty Cobb’s views about special counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation have been at odds with the President.

After leaving the White House, he said he did not think the special counsel’s probe was a “witch hunt.”

“Bob Mueller is an American hero in my view,” Cobb also said, noting Mueller’s service as a Marine.


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Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley

Haley said the President’s decision to remove US troops from northern Syria during Turkey’s plans to launch a military offensive in the region would equate to the US leaving its Kurdish allies “to die.”

And after Trump tweeted: “Really bad news! The Baltimore house of Elijah Cummings was robbed. Too bad!” Haley replied: “This is so unnecessary.”

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Tillerson told lawmakers in 2019 that Russian President Vladimir Putin was more prepared than Trump for a meeting in Germany, putting American officials at a disadvantage. At the time, he told lawmakers he was guided by “American values” such as democracy and freedom, but could not or would not offer an assessment as to whether the same could be said for Trump, according to a Democratic aide.

Tillerson also called Trump “undisciplined” and Trump would ask him to do things he didn’t understand were a violation of the law.

Tillerson also took a swipe at Trump’s actions during the Ukraine investigation, saying that clearly asking for personal favors and using United States assets as collateral is wrong.”

Former US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker

Volker told BBC News in his first television interview since the Senate impeachment trial he thought “it was a mistake” for Trump to try and withhold aid from Ukraine for political reasons.

Agency leadership

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Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Sessions has maintained that he supports the President’s political agenda, but after Trump endorsed his Senate primary opponent and slammed Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, Sessions tried to defend himself.

“Look, I know your anger, but recusal was required by law. I did my duty & you’re damn fortunate I did. It protected the rule of law & resulted in your exoneration,” Sessions tweeted. “Your personal feelings don’t dictate who Alabama picks as their senator, the people of Alabama do.”


The anonymous author of a 2018 New York Times op-ed and a subsequent book titled “A Warning” lodged several criticisms against the President, but it’s unclear what role they have played in the Trump administration.

In the op-ed, the author claimed administration officials “are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of [Trump’s] agenda and his worst inclinations,” adding that “the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.”

In their book, the anonymous senior administration official claimed that members of Trump’s team considered sabotaging him to prompt his resignation from office, that some in the President’s inner circle worried he was in the pocket of Putin, and that many administration officials kept letters of resignation in their desks or on their laptops.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Sam Fossum, Nicky Robertson and Sarah Westwood contributed to this report.