The White House is quietly removing the cadre of Trump campaign hands who have been dispatched to watch over federal agencies — otherwise known as the ‘shadow cabinet,’ Politico reported on Monday.
The Trump appointees — bestowed with senior advisor titles, yet mostly unfamiliar with the levers of federal government — have frequently clashed with the Cabinet secretaries and career staffers they were assigned to monitor.
The tension prompted Reince Priebus, the chief-of-staff, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, along with other top administration officials to hold discussions on whether to reassign or fire much of the senior advisers, Politico reported.
One senior administration official told Politico the regular meetings the senior advisers have at the White House were “like a roomful of Jonahs,” a sycophantic and oft-hated character from the hit HBO political comedy “Veep.”
The White House told Politico that the “shadow cabinet” advisers were hired on 120-day contracts and that the positions were “never intended to be permanent.”
Here’s a rundown of what’s happening, according to the triple-bylined report:
- At the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary John Kelly has been at odds with senior advisor Frank Wuco. A person close to Kelly told Politico that Wuco, a former Navy officer, “knows nothing” about DHS’s mission.
- Camilo Sandoval, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s White House minder, has reportedly been banished to an office in the basement and is expected to leave the department next month.
- Don Benton, a former Washington state senator, has reportedly been “iced out” of meetings with EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, and has been moved to a new job at leading the Selective Service System.
- Anthony Pugliese is expected to be transferred out of the Transportation Department after he blocked all outgoing mail and told Secretary Elaine Chao he expected to sign off on all policies before they became public. “The Secretary was like, ‘Um, what’s your name again?'” a person close to Chao told Politico.
- Secretary of Defence James Mattis reportedly “blew up,” when his Trump-appointed adviser asked to review his briefings.
The shakeups have come as loyalists from the Trump campaign have slowly lost influence with the White House after a tumultuous first 100 days. Stephen Bannon, the architect of Trump’s campaign and one of its most extreme voices, was demoted from his position on the National Security Council in April and blamed for the failure of implementing Trump’s promised travel ban.
Michael Flynn, an early Trump endorser, was fired from his position as the National Security Advisor after he misled Vice President Mike Pence over his contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign.
Kellyanne Conway, once the face of Trump’s campaign, has reportedly been left out of the loop on key meetings in the White House. And Sebastian Gorka, a White House advisor for national security issues known for his extremist positions on Islam, is reportedly leaving the White House to focus on “countering Islamic extremism.”
Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and Trump surrogate, told The Washington Post in March that the shadow cabinet program — spearheaded by Rick Dearborn, a White House deputy chief-of-staff — is crucial for ensuring Trump’s agenda actually gets pushed through.
“If you drain the swamp, you better have someone who watches over the alligators,” Gingrich said. “These people are actively trying to undermine the new government. And they think it’s their moral obligation to do so.”
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