Chaos rules: Left and right, Trump advisers in hot water

Mar 16, 2018

Chaos rules: Left and right, Trumps Cabinet members, advisers, are in hot water

WASHINGTON — Look left. Look right. Maybe offer a pre-emptive farewell.

For people in the top levels of the Trump administration, the only certainty is that someone around them won't be there for long. Here's a look at who's in jeopardy among Trump's brain trust:


The president is moving toward replacing his national security adviser but has not settled on exact timing or a successor, said four people with knowledge of White House deliberations. Trump complains that McMaster lectures him and has sidelined his aide in some internal discussions. Disagreeing with Trump on the Iran nuclear deal is part of what got Tillerson fired, the president said. The position is not subject to Senate confirmation, so Trump could quickly replace him.


Trump's attorney general has long been on the president's hit list because Sessions, formerly Trump's top man in the Senate during the campaign, recused himself from the investigation into Russian election meddling and obstruction. Trump railed at his attorney general in person and has attacked him on Twitter for being "weak." But Sessions has refused to quit, and special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Trump and his associates still churns.


Trump's Veterans Affairs secretary is under fire for ethics violations, and the White House hinted at the possibility of "personnel changes" at the top of the troubled agency. Shulkin, the lone Obama administration holdover in Trump's Cabinet, has faced several investigations, including a bruising VA watchdog report that found violations in connection with a trip to Europe with his wife last summer. He's faced an insurgency over fresh allegations that he used a member of his security detail to run personal errands.


Trump's White House chief of staff has been credited as a stabilizing force amid the tornado of rivalries in the West Wing. But scarcely eight months after Trump moved Kelly from the helm of the Homeland Security Department to the White House, the president and the general have clashed. Trump was said to have considered firing Kelly over his handling of ousted White House aide Rob Porte, who was accused of domestic abuse. The president also was said to be deeply unhappy with Kelly's remark on Fox News in which Kelly suggested that Trump had "evolved" on his vow to build a border wall with Mexico.


Trump's housing secretary and the only member of the Cabinet who is black has embarrassed Trump over a $31,000 dining set that had been ordered for his office. Recently released emails suggest that Carson and his wife, Candy, had a hand in choosing it, despite claims from the agency and the secretary himself that he didn't play a role in making that selection. Following reports of the dining set's cost, Carson asked that the order be cancelled.


Trump's interior secretary told a House committee this week that the cost of three sets of double doors in his office had been reduced "down to $75,000." That was after The Associated Press reported that Interior was spending nearly $139,000 to upgrade the doors in his sixth-floor office. Zinke's been under scrutiny for spending $53,000 on three helicopter trips last year, including one that allowed him to go on a horseback ride with Vice President Mike Pence.


Also in question over his spending of taxpayer money is Trump's Environmental Protection Agency administrator. Pruitt is under the microscope about $25,000 spent on a soundproof "privacy booth" inside his office to prevent eavesdropping on his phone calls and another $9,000 on biometric locks.


Like Sessions, Rosenstein has been a frequent target of Trump's bitter complaints. Rosenstein is overseeing Mueller's inquiry after Sessions stepped aside. Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel after Trump fired James Comey as FBI director last May. Rosenstein recently pushed back against Trump's complaints about Mueller, telling USA Today, "I don't believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel."


Trump frequently has singled out the FBI's deputy director as part of his argument that the federal law enforcement agency is biased against him. Trump points to campaign contributions that McCabe's wife received during a failed state Senate run from a close ally of Hillary Clinton. A yet-to-be released internal report is expected to conclude that McCabe leaked to the news media and was not forthcoming about it. The 20-year FBI veteran was at the Justice Department this week trying to delay his firing until his retirement on Sunday.


The president reportedly already has contemplated firing the special prosecutor and former FBI director probing Trump, his campaign and possible wrongdoing connected to Russia. The New York Times and other publications reported that Trump last June ordered White House lawyer Don McGahn to oust Mueller. McGahn reportedly refused and threatened to quit if Trump pressed the issue. Trump denounced the reports as "fake news."


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