President Trump did not have a great week. His health care bill failed, after 6 months of negotiations and seven years of Republican promises. His tweets announcing a change in military policy for transgender Americans brought bipartisan rebuke and an announcement from the military brass that they would not follow his policy announcement. Trump's comments before a police department about crime policy were denounced by the very department he spoke to. And between last Friday and this Friday, both press secretary Sean Spicer and Chief of Staff Reince Preibus left the White House staff. It's been just over six months of Trump's tenure, and already a shocking number of important people have quit the Trump administration.
UPDATE: On July 31, Anthony Scaramucci was let go as communications director. UPDATE #2: On Aug. 18, The New York Times reported that Steve Bannon will no longer serve as Trump's chief strategist. UPDATE #3: On Sept. 29, White House health secretary Tom Price handed in his resignation to President Trump. UPDATE #4: On Feb. 28, 2018, communications director Hope Hicks said she was resigning that post. UPDATE #5: On March 13, 2018, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired. John McEntee, Trump's personal assistant, was also let go.
The reorganizations of Trump's White House seem aimed at bringing discipline into an incredibly chaotic organization. Perhaps they will—new Chief of Staff, General John Kelly, has a reputation for competence and order that Reince Preibus did not. But based on what we've seen so far of Trump's management style, and some of the issues he's had with his own hand-picked staff, it's likely that there will end up being plenty of future changes—Trump has been publicly undermining his own Attorney General, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is reportedly considering leaving.
Here are some of the biggest staffing shake-ups from the first half a year of the Trump administration. For the purpose of this list, I'm only including high-level staff (apologies to Michael Short and Angella Reid) and people who were expected to work under Trump (so Sally Yates, and the 46 US Attorneys under Obama Trump abruptly asked to resign don't count).
National Security Advisor Michael Flynn
Trump's first National Security Advisor, former Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, broke records for the shortest tenure in that job. After just 24 days, Flynn resigned on February 13, in reaction to reporting in the Washington Post that he had discussed lifting sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition, suggesting he lied to the Vice President when he told him he had not.
Since Flynn's resignation, further reporting has revealed that he had been on the payroll of the Turkish government during the 2016 election, and failed to properly disclose payments from the Russian government as well. The FBI investigation into Michael Flynn has exacerbated the scandal related to the Trump campaign's possible improper interactions with Russia, especially as President Trump reportedly tried to interfere with the investigation by the FBI (more on that below).
Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh
Reince Preibus wasn't the first high level member of Trump's staff to be forced out after a failure in health care legislation. After the House failed to pass its first version of Obamacare repeal in March, Trump's White House shook up its staff, and forced Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh out from her job and towards the outside group America First Policies, which the administration reportedly felt had not been sufficiently helpful in the health care fight. Since Walsh was an ally of the establishment GOP and Chief of Staff Reince Preibus, her ouster on March 30 was an early sign of the administration's slow detachment from the traditional Republican party infrastructure.
Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland
After the resignation of Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor, his replacement, General H.R. McMaster has spent months trying to exert his own control over the National Security Council. On April 9, he successfully had K.T. McFarland, a former Fox News commentator who had been hired by Flynn, removed from the vital agency. Though McFarland wasn't fired, she was reassigned to a post as Ambassador to Singapore.
FBI Director James Comey
It was perhaps the most consequential firing of Trump's administration, or of any presidential administration in decades. Trump surprised everyone and sent Washington into disarray when he suddenly fired the FBI director on May 9, 3-and-a-half years into a 10-year term. Trump initially claimed that Comey's firing was due to his handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation during the 2016 election, but he quickly admitted to NBC's Lester Holt that it was because he was unhappy with the investigation into his own campaign's ties with Russia.
Soon after Comey's firing, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as a special counsel to handle the Russia investigation without interference from the president. James Comey testified in front of Congress on June 8 that before firing him, the president had repeatedly tried to exert influence the FBI, pressure him into dropping the investigation into Michael Flynn and to make public statements that the president was not under investigation.
U.S. Census Bureau Director John Thompson
On the same day as Comey's firing, John Thompson, the director of the Census, abruptly resigned, 4 years into a 5 year term. Though no official reason was given, it was in the midst of reports of the bureau being underfunded and unprepared in the run-up to the 2020, the proper functioning of which is vital for numerous government services.
White House Communications Director Mike Dubke
The initial White House Communications Director, Mike Dubke resigned on May 30. The communications team had taken a lot of flak in the wake of the Comey firing for their inability to spin the conflagration, and Dubke, who had reportedly never gelled properly with the rest of the White House Staff, left.
Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub
Ever since the beginning of the administration, Walter Shaub, the director of the Office of Government Ethics since 2013, announced his resignation on July 9. Shaub had been a critic of the Trump administration's approach to ethics since the beginning, and as he resigned he stated that he felt his warnings of unethical behavior in the White House have gone unheeded. He took a job instead as the Senior Director for Ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, working from the outside to force more ethical behavior in government. In addition to his expertise on government ethics, Shaub is also an expert at snarky tweets about ethics in the hopes of raising awareness.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
From the beginning, Sean Spicer's time as the public face of the White House. He was known for combative interactions with the press, for lying about the crowd size at President Trump's inauguration at the very first press briefing he held, for hiding in bushes, for defending Hitler on the use of chemical weapons on civilians, for mispronouncing words, and for the Emmy-nominated impersonation by Melissa McCarthy. By the end of his time in the White House, he was basically a meme in and of himself.
But it wasn't any of those issues, or his reliable lack of helpful information, that led to Sean Spicer leaving the White House. On July 21, he resigned over the hiring of Anthony Scaramucci as his boss in the position of White House Communications Director.
White House Chief Of Staff Reince Priebus
Former RNC chair Reince Priebus was hired to what is normally among the most powerful jobs in Washington and the whole country. But Priebus was treated by many in the government as an incredibly weak Chief of Staff, lacking the trust of the president or ability to speak for him, distrusted by his own staff, and even hated by many of Trump's core supporters.
Preibus was unceremoniously fired, seemingly via tweet on July 28, announcing that General John Kelly, currently serving as Secretary of Homeland Security, would be replacing him.
Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci
And just like that, "The Mooch" was gone. On Monday afternoon, The New York Times reported that Scaramucci had resigned, per Trump's request for him to do so. That request came from Gen. John Kelly, who stepped in to replace Priebus as chief as staff just one working day prior.
Scaramucci had spent just ten days in Trump's administration before his abrupt dismissal. His tenure was brief and fraught: Sean Spicer resigned in protest, and Priebus was let go (see above entries). Scaramucci also delivered a profanity-laden tirade to a New Yorker staffer, in which he lampooned advisor Steve Bannon, soon-to-be-ex chief of staff Reince Priebus, and threatened to "fire everybody."
Chief Strategist Steve Bannon
Bannon had survived several rounds of staff cuts (see above), and this White House chief strategist — a Trump loyalist throughout 2016, and a key reason Trump was able to win the election — seemed indestructible.
However: In the days following Charlottesville, reports flew that Trump was "reluctant" to fire Bannon, but also saw the need to distance himself from a man with ties to xenophobia.
On Friday, The New York Times reported that Trump had determined that Bannon would be leaving the White House. (Bannon's sources, meanwhile, insisted that he handed in his resignation prior to Charlottesville.)
Health And Human Services Secretary Tom Price
On Sept. 29, after a blistering Politico report revealing that Price had taken at least two dozen private flights that cost in excess of $400,000, the health and human services secretary handed in his resignation.
Trump had criticized Price for what he saw as a direct contradiction of his "drawn the swamp" campaign mantra, according to The New York Times. Although Price had sworn to pay for the cost of his chartered flights and expressed "regret" over his decision to fly private, he ultimately left the White House regardless.