By Logan Rader—Opinion Editor
The White House under Donald Trump has been a whirlwind of hires and fires, and it does not seem to be slowing with time. 2019 has seen record-breaking turnover in the Trump administration, seeing 65 members of high-profile cabinet positions being removed from the president’s staff in two years, according to the Brookings Institute. The only other executive to experience more turnover so far in a single administration was Bill Clinton, but that amounted to 70 “A-Team” turnovers, but that was in four years.
Sure, some of these job transitions result in promotions. Mike Pompeo, former CIA director was promoted to secretary of state, and he was succeeded by former deputy CIA director Gina Haspel. The vast majority of hires and fires, however, are cases of either resigning under intense pressure from Pres. Trump himself (RUP), or they resigned due to personal opposition to the operations of the administration.
Former Defense Secretary James Mattis, for instance, resigned due to the administration’s decision to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from the tense situation in Syria, because “ISIS has been defeated,” according to Pres. Trump. In contrast, an example of a high-profile official resigning under pressure is former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He recused himself from the investigation into the president’s potential coordination with Russian officials, and this did not sit well with Pres. Trump for over a year, thus Sessions promptly “resigned.”
To scholars of the presidency, all of the turnover within the Trump White House is reminiscent of Andrew Jackson’s era of party patronage and unquestioned hire-fire power. With a perceived mandate from the people, Jackson forced his entire cabinet to resign. His underlying logic was that the cabinet was formed as an entire administrative unit, so if one or two resigned, then the cabinet as a whole unit must be replaced.
Before his Secretary of State Martin Van Buren suggested it would not be politically viable to do so without any willful resignation to preempt the move, Jackson was initially going to do a clean sweep of the cabinet, firing all of them at once without any real legitimation other than the Eaton affair. It should be noted, too, that a massive bureaucracy has been formed since then which are also under the president’s executive authority. Apparently, the notion of political suicide does not apply to Pres. Trump, and the hire-fire power has persisted for every president afterward. There is something more chaotic, though, about the current administration’s rampant turnover.
Donald Trump is the first president to almost exclusively use the social media platform, Twitter, for his messages to the people. This provides him a perfect setting to reach the people directly, furthering his legislative agenda and, more importantly, gathering support for ridiculing those in the “Trump orbit” who have fallen unfavorable with the president. One such individual has fallen under harsh recent scrutiny which led to his attempted delay of testimony to Congress: Michael Cohen.
While not a civil service member, Pres. Trump’s longtime lawyer and “fixer” was scheduled to lay out the entirety of the president’s alleged dealings with individuals in Russia during the time of the 2016 presidential campaign on Feb. 7. Ultimately, Congress issued a subpoena for Cohen to appear in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee next month anyway. The attempted delay came after Pres. Trump and his television-lawyer Rudy Giuliani have suggested investigation into Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, for “criminal activity.” After these attempts at intimidation, Cohen issued his delay, citing concerns about his family receiving “threats from the president.”
Though Jackson did not have the luxury of reaching a heightened level of influence through social media and sound-bites on daytime news networks, Pres. Trump and his contracting circle have made clear their tactics concerning both the legal jeopardy of the president himself and his narrow agenda. “If we commit our crimes out in the open, everything will be fine.”
If the president would have sent his tweets in the form of official emails, he would be subpoenaed immediately. But hey, it’s Twitter.