In Trump’s orbit, few people are safe. Here’s a look at who might get booted next
It seems at times like a reality television show.
President Donald Trump has ousted more than two dozen members of his administration, creating the impression of chaos and a national guessing game of who will be next.
Most of the casualties have been senior aides — remember Stephen K. Bannon and Anthony Scaramucci? Of his original Cabinet — positions that require confirmation by the Senate — a total of three have been dismissed or forced to resign. They are Tom Price (Health and Human Services secretary), Rex Tillerson (State Department secretary) and, this week, David Shulkin (Veterans Affairs secretary).
But in Trump’s orbit, few people are safe. Here’s a look at some key officials and why they might stay or go:
Ben Carson, secretary of HUD
Why he might stay: Carson is a loyalist, and we all know that Trump favors those. Shortly after Carson dropped out of the 2016 presidential race, he tossed his support to Trump and tried to help him make inroads with black and Latino voters. He’s also the lone African-American with a high-level position in the Trump administration and has defended the president on racial issues. In August, when Trump said “both sides” were to blame for violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Carson said the ensuing criticism was “blown out of proportion.”
Why he might go: He’s been relatively quiet since Trump took office, but in recent weeks that has changed. Carson’s wife bought a dining room set for his office that cost the Department of Housing and Urban Development $31,000. Speaking before a House committee this month, Carson addressed the purchase, saying he’s “not really big into decorating.”
“If it was up to me, my office would probably look like a hospital waiting room,” the former neurosurgeon said.
The furniture order has since been canceled.
Betsy DeVos, secretary of education
Why she might stay: In recent weeks, Trump has shown confidence in DeVos as the two have been in lockstep on a controversial issue: whether to arm teachers. Since the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., both have staunchly supported the idea. This month, Trump tapped DeVos to head a school safety commission that will craft measures to keep students safe and explore how to prevent mass shootings.
Why she might go: Bad ratings. She’s often greeted by protesters — primarily teachers unions — because of her support for charter schools, which are publicly funded and set up by teachers, parents, or community groups, outside the state school system. She was also widely ridiculed for a “60 Minutes” interview in which she gave vague answers on school choice, sexual assault on college campuses and other issues.
Steve Schmidt, a longtime Republican strategist, who served as a senior adviser on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, described the interview in one word: “Bad.”
“She humiliated herself and the administration,” he said. “That’s what Trump hates most — humiliation. But, for now, she remains.”
John F. Kelly, chief of staff
Why he might stay: He’s a retired four-star general, and Trump has said he likes generals. Since he became chief of staff in July, Kelly has sought to bring order to the West Wing, something at the time Trump reportedly said was much needed. In public, at least, Trump says he likes Kelly.
Why he might go: In private, however, it’s been reported that Trump is souring on Kelly. In recent weeks, Trump has complained the management structure in the West Wing doesn’t suit the freewheeling style he employed as a businessman, according to several news outlets. Kelly made negative headlines recently when he acknowledged he mishandled accusations of domestic abuse that were made by ex-wives of Rob Porter, who resigned in February from his job as White House staff secretary.
James N. Mattis, secretary of defense
Why he might stay: He’s a general. And for the most part, Trump has avoided confrontation with Mattis and stayed out his way at the Pentagon. The president has also made concessions at the request of Mattis. Last week, Trump signed a spending bill after threatening a veto. Mattis had been vocal in his support for the bill because it boosts Pentagon funding.
Mattis is a “towering figure that is indispensable to this administration and country,” said Schmidt, the Republican strategist.
“If he goes, it’s not good for the safety of our country,” he said. “He keeps Trump in line.”
Why he might go: His allies are leaving the administration. In recent weeks, it’s been announced that both Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster will be relieved of their duties as secretary of state and national security adviser, respectively. Mattis has also publicly split with the president on issues such as North Korea and Iran. If he becomes more vocal, that could lead to his departure as well.
Steven T. Mnuchin, secretary of treasury
Why he might stay: Mnuchin is a New Yorker and he’s rich — two things he shares with Trump. Mnuchin has also defended the president’s policies relentlessly. At a gathering of global economic leaders this month, Mnuchin faced a barrage of questions about Trump’s plan to hit other countries with stiff tariffs on aluminum and steel imports and never backed down. He said the administration was prepared for a trade war.
“We’re not afraid of it,” Mnuchin said at the Group of 20 finance ministers’ meeting in Argentina. “This administration is going to make sure that we’re treated fairly.”
Why he might go: He’s been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Last summer, Mnuchin took a military jet from New York to Washington, saying he needed a secure phone line. The Aug. 15 flight cost at least $25,000, ABC News reported. Mnuchin and his wife also drew criticism for flying on a government plane to Kentucky, where they viewed the solar eclipse. Treasury officials defended the visit as official travel — Mnuchin attended a luncheon and visited the gold vault at Fort Knox — and said he would reimburse the government for his wife’s costs.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, press secretary
Why she might stay: Huckabee Sanders is a staunch defender of the president. She is willing to battle reporters on issues such as the Russia investigation and Trump’s alleged affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Unlike her predecessor, Sean Spicer, she has avoided drawing ire from her boss.
Why she might go: It’s simple: Trump is his own spokesperson. At any moment, he could become upset with her performance and she’ll be out.
Jeff Sessions, U.S. attorney general
Why he might stay: If Trump fires Sessions, it could open a legal morass. It’s been reported that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, is looking into whether Trump tried to pressure Sessions to resign and whether that could be part of an obstruction of justice case.
In addition, firing Sessions could ignite a strong response in Congress, where many Republicans are still very supportive of the former senator from Alabama. He’s also been willing to implement some of Trump’s most controversial policies, including a travel ban targeting nationals of several majority-Muslim countries.
Why he might go: Since Sessions recused himself from the Russia inquiry last year, Trump has assailed him relentlessly.
“So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?” Trump tweeted last summer.
At some point the humiliation “may just be too much to overcome,” Schmidt said. Sessions “might leave on his own … you would think that might have happened months ago.”
Ryan Zinke, secretary of the Interior
Why he might stay: He is another Trump loyalist. The former congressman from Montana was an early supporter of Trump’s presidential bid. And he’s the point man for Trump’s widely touted plan to expand offshore drilling, including along the Gulf Coast and the California coast. In January, Zinke and Trump released a proposal to open for exploration the largest expanse of the nation’s offshore oil and natural gas reserves ever offered to global energy companies.
Why he might go: Zinke has amassed bad headlines. In October, the Office of Inspector General launched an investigation after news reports revealed that Zinke chartered a $12,375 flight from Las Vegas to an airport near his home in Montana, where he spent the night.
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