- Two of President Donald Trump’s top officials left within a week.
- Reports indicate more top officials could be gone soon.
- Some have speculated that Trump is seeking to stock his administration with “loyalists.”
- But others say the president is simply tired of his officials not carrying out an agreed-upon policy agenda.
Within the past week, President Donald Trump ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and top economic adviser Gary Cohn resigned from the administration – two of the biggest departures yet.
Meanwhile, outlets have reported that top officials such as national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, and even chief of staff John Kelly could be among the next to be shown the door.
In the midst of such a shakeup, Trump told reporters Tuesday that he’s “really at a point where we’re getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want.”
Washington Post reporter Robert Costa said on MSNBC that the president is seeking to return to his freewheeling campaign days without “constraints.”
Outlets soon reported that the president sought to replace members of his administration with “loyalists.” The New York Times wrote Trump was turning “to loyalists who reflect ‘America First’ views” in a story on the man named to be Tillerson’s replacement, CIA Director Mike Pompeo. And The Daily Beast reported that “Trump wants to stock White House team with Fox News stars, loyalists, ‘killers.'”
But that wisdom was countered by some, who said the president’s falling out with the likes of Tillerson and Cohn had less to do with ideological differences and more to do with their lack of willingness to carry out Trump’s policy agenda.
“I think if you look at the president’s administration, I’d make the argument that it is by a factor of 10 a more ideologically diverse administration than [former President Barack] Obama’s was,” Andy Surabian, a former special assistant to Trump and deputy White House strategist, told Business Insider. “And I think a lot of people like to gloss over that fact. I don’t think people like to give him credit for it. He’s someone who likes to hear divergent opinions and then after hearing everyone out, make an informed decision.”
“So it’s not that he’s trying to reduce that ideological diversity and debate inside the administration, but more that he’s sick and tired of people who work for him resisting his policy agenda, even after he makes a final decision on a given subject,” he continued.
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman seemed to echo some of Surabian’s thoughts, tweeting that Pompeo “is not an America Firster” although he is “more willing to bend to what the president wants.”
“This is not a purge of non-nationalists,” she wrote. “It’s a dismissal of someone who allegedly called Trump a moron.”
Haberman referenced a reported incident from last year where Tillerson called Trump a “moron” and did not deny that he made the remark.
On Wednesday, multiple outlets reported that economist and CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow would be named as Trump’s next economic adviser, replacing Cohn. Of note, both Kudlow and Cohn hold similar views on trade.
“We don’t agree on everything but in this case I think that’s good,” Trump said of Kudlow on Tuesday. “I want to have a divergent opinion.”
Others say the recent turnover is merely a byproduct of the “chaos” the president seems to enjoy creating within his administration.
“Chaos rules,” Terry Sullivan, campaign manager for Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential bid, told Business Insider. “The president creates chaos and then thrives in that chaos. Its what he’s done in his professional life, his personal life and clearly what he’s doing in his political life. We should just get used to chaos.”
Rick Tyler, who served as communications director for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign, told Business Insider that the turnover is not a result of Trump seeking out more loyalists, but of his appointees sticking by their “guiding principles.”
“Competent people have guiding principles to help them in making important decision and setting policy for their departments,” he said. “Trump has no guiding philosophy and is guided by what he believes will make him popular or appear like a strong decisive leader. That fact is, he lacks the basic management skills required to allow good people be their best.”
“He will, therefore attract two types of people – sycophants who will happily suffer humiliation to please the president, and competent navigators who are good at their jobs and are skilled at staying out of the line of fire,” he continued. “The latter are exceedingly rare but I would put [Defence] Secretary [James] Mattis in the second category.”
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