Yesterday, Tom Price tendered his resignation as Secretary of the department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It is the most recent departure of a member of the Trump administration, but is only the most recent and will, by no means be the last. In fact, this article, which details at length, the ineptitude of Trump’s hirings and dismissals, will never truly be complete, because more chaos and disarray will always be on the near horizon.
Trump’s Hire / Fire Hall of Shame
Beginning with his presidential campaign and continuing throughout the transition as President-elect and then as the chief executive, Donald Trump has made one disastrous hire after another – along with firings that don’t look anything like the scripted ones on The Apprentice.
It began with Corey Lewandowski, who clearly manhandled a female reporter from Breitbart during the campaign, and who was close to being formally charged with battery, but for a weak kneed local prosecutor who knew which side his bread was buttered on.
It continued with another campaign official, Paul Manafort, whose unsavory reputation included meddling in the internal politics of Ukraine during a time of intense strife in that country and his extensive ties to Russian officials – not to mention his firm’s PR work on behalf of a rogue’s gallery of international thugs, many of them war criminals. Now Manafort’s home office has been raided by FBI agents as he is a target of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
When things heat up, hand out pink slips
Shortly after being inaugurated, Trump was forced to fire his newly appointed National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, when it was revealed that he had lied in his confirmation hearings about meetings and financial involvement with Russian entities and officials who were part of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
Following this, Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates, because it became known that she attempted to alert the president and his chief White House Counsel, Don McGahn, that Flynn had been under investigation. The fact that Yates was not championing Trump’s travel ban with sufficient vigor, was likely a strong factor as well.
On March 11, Trump demanded the resignation of the U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara. The ostensible explanation was that the administration wanted to clear out all the remaining Obama-era attorneys. There is a more likely and obvious explanation.
Fire people whose investigations might lead to your front door
Bharara’s firing is particularly revealing, given the fact that the Southern District’s jurisdictional footprint includes Manhattan, home to Trump Tower, and where Bharara was set to embark on a probe of the Trump organization with respect to potential violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
Bloomberg noted, he “was involved in a number of sensitive investigations including one involving Deutsche Bank AG, the largest known lender to Trump’s businesses, and one of 21st Century Fox Inc., the media conglomerate that is [Sean] Hannity’s employer.” (Some suggested the attorney purge came at Hannity’s suggestion.)
Additionally, a ProPublica report revealed that Bharara was overseeing an investigation into stock trades made by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price—trades that became a matter of contention during Price’s confirmation hearing.
For anyone but a thoroughly corrupt man like Donald Trump, Price’s insider trading which influenced his votes in Congress accordingly, should have been a red flag – but Trump is happy to roll the dice. With Price and so many others, the dice came up snake eyes.
Closely following those firings, Trump dismissed then F.B.I. Director James B.Comey. Trump’s erstwhile White House Chief Political Strategist, Steve Bannon, has called Comey’s firing “the biggest political mistake in modern political history”.
While Trump’s communications staff told the media that the firing was accountable to Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton email investigation, Trump contradicted them, telling NBC’s Lester Holt that Comey had to go because “in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won’.”
Conflicts of interest stay, ethics leave
The next departure did not involve a Trump hire, but is extremely revealing in terms of the entrenched corruption of Trump’s administration – corruption that some principled individuals decline to participate in. Trump’s Director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, resigned on July 6, because he actually misunderstood his job as enforcing government ethics.
Shaub framed the disconnect between him and Trump in describing the obligation of elected officials to follow, “the principle that public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws and ethical principles above private gain.”
Shaub drew unfavorable attention to himself by advising the president to divest himself from investments that involved potential conflicts of interest; the New York Times commenting that Shaub, “recommended very publicly on Twitter, and in a rare public speech, that Mr. Trump liquidate his vast business and personal holdings. This arrangement, Mr. Shaub argued, was the only truly ethical option.”
Shaub termed Trump a “do as I say, not as I do” president and the administration, a “laughingstock”:
“It’s hard for the United States to pursue international anti-corruption and ethics initiatives when we’re not even keeping our own side of the street clean. It affects our credibility. I think we are pretty close to a laughingstock at this point.”
It was the voluntary departure of short term White House Communications Director, Michael Dubke, that indirectly precipitated the forced departure of White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
As has been widely reported, both men were targets of Dubke’s replacement, hedge fund mogul, Anthony Scaramucci. Spicer, it could be said, was in an untenable position, having to defend and explain the indefensible behavior of Donald Trump and to be serially contradicted when Trump would later undercut his statements to the press, as in the case of the Comey firing. Spicer is probably breathing easier and sleeping better at night.
The Priebus Purge
Priebus’ situation is multi-faceted. He was initially recommended to Trump for two reasons. Transition officials felt that Trump had to reconcile with the G.O.P. establishment; and secondly – Priebus, in theory, as the former head of the party, would supposedly be highly instrumental in organizing support in the Republican majority Congress for Trump’s legislative agenda.
His failure was predictable though, given that Priebus was always second or third in line influence wise, behind the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner and “chief strategist”, Steve Bannon – two men, who themselves have had a series of much publicized internal battles.
White House observers also note that Priebus was not permitted to organize the chain of command along traditional lines and chaos predictably ensued as a consequence. Priebus, though, may have ultimate vindication even in defeat. He was strongly influential in getting Trump to jump on board with Paul Ryan’s Obamacare replacement initiative. So effectively that in many circles, it is referred to as “Trumpcare” – and now, as we’ve seen, the various iterations of Trumpcare have gone down in flames, with not even enough support in the GOP to hold a vote on the Senate floor.
Trump’s inept role in the failure to make good on his campaign promises, is gradually, but steadily eating away at the approval ratings among his political base. Not as gradually though, as the rest of the country which, according to the latest polling from Quinnipiac University, finds that 69 percent of those surveyed believe that Trump is unfit to hold the office of President.
Bye Bye Bannon?
The Scaramucci story is so well traveled, that it hardly merits a rehashing here, but it sets the stage for the next round of implosions. Steve Bannon is being widely discussed as the next of Trump’s holdovers from the campaign to be shown the door.
Bannon was removed from the National Security Council principals’ committee and briefings by National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. Trump may be telegraphing to Bannon that he should jump instead of being pushed, with deflating comments such as this recent aside to the New York Post, in April:
“I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump said. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.”
Today, Trump added a tag to that, “But we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon.” No vote of confidence there.
And – pre-final draft of this report, Bannon has been fired by Trump; our report on it here.
Trump’s Firings, Dismissals and Resignations since taking office:
The above graphic is already outdated, with the additions of National Security advisor, Sebastian Gorka – whose dismissal we outlined here – and that of Tom Price, just a day ago, for milking taxpayers of thousands of dollars for charter flights when other more frugal means of transportation could have been conveniently secured.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump has publicly castigated as not being sufficiently loyal, remains in the administration only because a number of Senators, including prominent Republicans – along with Bannon, Priebus and Pence, had warned Trump of the category 5 storm that would ensue if he was fired.
In the business world, the board of directors of a corporation will at some point, look at the record of bad hires of a president or CEO and conclude that the firings reflect more on the competence and judgment of the top executive than of the people dismissed.
That is the case with Donald Trump. The head of the fish is rotten and needs to be properly disposed of.