Trump may be preparing for a wide-ranging firing spree

President Donald Trump. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
  • President Donald Trump may be preparing to fire a host of top administration officials.
  • Those reported to be on the chopping block include the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster; Attorney General Jeff Sessions; Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin; the former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe; and the White House chief of staff, John Kelly.

President Donald Trump may be preparing to fire a host of top administration officials following this week’s abrupt firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Some of the firings may happen as soon as Friday, but no one is quite sure who will be next.

Here are the officials reportedly on the chopping block:

  • H.R. McMaster, national security adviser: Fox News’ White House correspondent, John Roberts,reported Wednesday that McMaster was at the front of Trump’s firing line, with sources calling his departure “imminent.” Tensions between McMaster, a disciplined three-star general who has reportedly chafed with Trump’s spontaneous, disorganized style, have reportedly flared throughout McMaster’s tenure, and at one point he was rumoured to have threatened to quit. Administration officials have told news outlets that the White House is looking for a four-star position in the Army or the Department of Defence to promote McMaster into, moving him out of his current role. Roberts reported that John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, was in line to replace the general.
  • Jeff Sessions, attorney general: Vanity Fair reported on Wednesday that Trump was formulating a plan to fire Sessions, who has been a target of Trump’s ire since he recused himself last year from the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Most recently, Trump publicly condemned Sessions for not launching his own investigation into the handling of the Russia investigation, calling him “DISGRACEFUL” in a brutal tweet in late February.
  • David Shulkin, secretary of veterans affairs: Shulkin has reportedly also drawn ire from Trump following a spate of scandals in his agency, including reports that he misused taxpayer dollars to bring his wife on a trip to Europe and that he’s attempting to purge the VA of employees not loyal to him. Shulkin’s rumoured replacements include Energy Secretary Rick Perry and the Fox News cohost Pete Hegseth.
  • Andrew McCabe, former FBI deputy director: Sessions is reviewing a recommendation from the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility to fire McCabe, The New York Times reportedWednesday. McCabe was forced outof the FBI earlier this year amid an internal investigation by the Office of Inspector General into his approval of unauthorised disclosures to the media in October 2016 about the bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email use. He’s scheduled to retire Sunday, and a firing – which sources told The Times could happen as soon as Friday – could endanger his pension benefits.
  • John Kelly, White House chief of staff: The man brought into the White House to impose some discipline may be forced out, in part as a result of his handling of domestic-abuse allegationsagainst the former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, one of Kelly’s top aides. Some of Trump’s allies say it would be a “lethal” mistake for the president to oust Kelly, who many feel is a stabilizing force within the White House and has helped quell some of the backbiting that plagued the administration for much of its first year.
  • Ben Carson, housing and urban development secretary: Carson is also rumoured to be on the chopping block after he embarrassed the administration with reports of his lavish spending on office decor. Carson ran against Trump during the Republican primaries in 2016 before supporting Trump’s campaign for president.

Trump denies the reports – but then talks about more potential changes

Trump called recent reports of potential staff firings “very exaggerated and false” on Thursday, but he then alluded to more changes to come.

“They wrote a story about staff changes and it was very false,” Trump told a gathering of reporters at the White House. “There will always be change but very little. It was a very false story. A very exaggerated and false story. But there will always be change. And I think you want to see change. I want to also see different ideas.”

Trump added that CIA Director Mike Pompeo, whom he has nominated to replace Tillerson, and Larry Kudlow, a CNBC commentator he picked to replace outgoing top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, are examples of positive change in his administration.

But White House staffers are describing an anxious mood amid rumours of another wave of firings, with one official calling it “the most toxic working environment on the planet,” the news website Axios reported Wednesday.

“There’s no leadership, no trust, no direction, and at this point there’s very little hope,” the official continued. “Would you want to go to work every day not knowing whether your future career was going to be destroyed without explanation?”

Sonam Sheth, Allan Smith, and David Choi contributed reporting.