The revolving door of employment at the Trump White House has been rotating constantly since just days after President Trump took the oath of office. Disgraced National Security Advisor Michael Flynn got the parade started when he was forced out on day 24, and since then at least a dozen Trump appointees have resigned or been fired in a steady stream of departures.
The list of premature resignations and terminations surpasses 20 if you include Obama administration holdovers that have been pushed out, like former FBI director Jim Comey.
Now it appears two more extremely prominent and highly sensitive departures are precariously imminent. Rumors have abounded for days, but Reuters can now confirm that the rumors appear to be grounded in some truth.
John Walcott reported late Thursday that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Chief of Staff John Kelly are considering quitting over “longstanding frictions” with President Trump that are finally boiling over.
Their departure would be disastrous for the country’s foreign policy. The two men – who, along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis – are seen by many as the “adults in the room” that restrain the president’s anti-globalist instincts, instincts that are fed by the White Nationalist acolytes of controversial former chief strategist Steve Bannon that still roam the West Wing and attempt to shape policy.
More from Reuters:
“Both H.R. McMaster and John Kelly are military men considered by U.S. political observers as moderating influences on the president by imposing a routine on the White House. They have also convinced Trump of the importance of international alliances, particularly NATO, which he has criticized as not equally sharing its burdens with the United States.”
McMaster’s departure has long been predicted. The competent, no-nonsense former general was always an odd match for Trump. After the utter disaster that was the alt-right Michael Flynn experiment, Trump had to take a consensus, non-ideological, establishment approved candidate like McMaster to fill the National Security Advisor position.
While the relationship never actually enjoyed a honeymoon phase, it wasn’t openly hostile, either, and any animosity from either direction stayed mostly out of public view. McMaster broke the cardinal rule last week, however, when he contradicted the president’s public position on Russia’s election meddling, essentially starting the clock on his departure.
Expectations of John Kelly’s exit is a somewhat more sudden development. Unlike Mattis and McMaster, Kelly has proven to be much more willing to fall on the grenades the president drops on Twitter and in public statements, and that has endeared him to both the boss and to the staff.
The recent resignation of White House staff secretary Rob Porter, however, has put Kelly in direct confrontation with Trump’s children. Porter entered the spotlight in January when his ex-wives came forward with past incidents of domestic violence he committed against them. Senior officials in the White House knew about those incidents, but hired him anyway – an embarrassing position for the administration in and of itself, and Porter resigned within days.
Soon it leaked that those cases of domestic violence had prevented Porter from attaining the security clearance necessary to do his job, one that requires him to handle and prepare the most highly classified material for the president to review. Kelly, White House Counsel Don McGahn, and perhaps even the president himself, allowed him to hold that office anyway on the interim clearance he was granted during the transition.
Since then, we’ve learned that over 100 administration staff members are working with and around classified material without the appropriate security clearances, including Jared Kushner, the president’s son in law.
Kelly, facing a backlash and an investigation by congress, announced Friday that all interim clearances will be discontinued for White House staff members whose security clearance investigations go back further than June 1, 2017. All staff members who fall under that category will then, presumably, be fired, or moved out of their current roles.
Included in this group is Jared Kushner who, despite his expansive portfolio of responsibilities, has not been able to attain the highest levels of clearances one would assume he would need. He’s been working under his interim clearance just like Porter was.
Kelly and the White House have mostly dodged when asked directly about how the new policy will affect Jared Kushner, but with the deadline set for Friday, we’ll have answers on that front shortly.
Rumors of departures are almost as frequent as the departures themselves, and so until they happen they’re just rumors. Still, the timing and the circumstances make the likelihood that McMaster and Kelly will make a dash for the exits soon quite high.