Trump sought to block Pence pick for key national security post

Donald Trump reportedly tried to prevent Vice President Pence from appointing his chosen national security adviser, citing the staffer’s past opposition to Trump’s candidacy.

Axios reported Sunday that Trump was upset when he learned Pence was hiring Jon Lerner to advise him on national security and foreign policy. Lerner currently serves as a deputy for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

The Washington Post reported last Thursday that Pence hired Lerner, and that Lerner would continue to work with Haley despite his new role advising the vice president.

Prior to joining Haley’s team in the Trump administration, Lerner advised the super PAC supporting Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) 2016 presidential campaign.

He also worked as a pollster with the Club for Growth, a conservative group that ran anti-Trump ads during the 2016 campaign and has at times been critical of the president’s policies.

His past roles bothered Trump, Axios reported, citing three sources. He questioned why Pence would hire Lerner, and told chief of staff John Kellyto block the move.

The White House reportedly learned of the hire as Pence was traveling to Peru for the Summit of the Americas. After the vice president landed, he spoke to Trump and reassured him of Lerner’s qualifications, Axios reported.

Pence is in South America for the gathering of leaders of the Western Hemisphere after Trump announced last week he would no longer attend. The White House said Trump would remain in the U.S. to coordinate a response to the recent suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Pence’s addition of Lerner to his national security team comes as Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, reshapes his team as well.

[The Hill]

McMaster’s No. 2 to leave White House amid Bolton overhaul

Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster’s No. 2 is exiting the White House, a spokesperson confirmed Thursday, marking the fourth senior staffer to unveil plans to leave the National Security Council as John Bolton takes over.

White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told reporters that Ricky Waddell, the deputy national security adviser to President Donald Trump, “plans to step down from his position at the White House.”

Walters said Waddell “will stay on board for the immediate future to help ensure a smooth and orderly transition.”

Waddell, an Army reserve major general, became the deputy to McMaster last May. He previously served as commander of the 76th Operational Response Command.

The deputy is the fourth top official to announce they will leave the NSC since Trump fired McMaster and appointed the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to succeed him.

On Wednesday the White House confirmed that deputy national security adviser for strategy Nadia Schadlow will resign effective April 27. Like Waddell, Schadlow said in a statement she will stay on board until then to “help with the transition” of Bolton.

Earlier this week Tom Bossert, a prominent voice on counterterrorism and cybersecurity in the Trump administration and a homeland security adviser, said he will step down. On Sunday, a day before Bolton’s first day at the NSC, agency spokesman Michael Anton announced plans to leave the administration.

The string of departures signals that Bolton, whose hawkish foreign policy views have raised concern among some officials, will have the opportunity to reshape the agency’s leadership structure to this liking.

“Dr. Waddell is highly respected and very well liked within the White House and the United States Army,” Walters added. “We thank him for his continued service.”

News of Waddell’s exit plans was first reported by Axios.

[Politico]

EPA removes staffer who OK’d report on Pruitt’s security

EPA removed a career staffer Tuesday who approved an internal report that undermined Administrator Scott Pruitt’s claims that he needed around-the-clock bodyguards and other expensive security protection, according to two former agency employees familiar with the situation.

Mario Caraballo was the deputy associate administrator of EPA’s Office of Homeland Security, which in February concluded that an earlier assessment failed to identify credible direct threats against the administrator that would justify his heavy security spending.

Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the ranking member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) wrote to Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) on Tuesday requesting oversight hearings and quoting the report, making public its doubts about the need for the heightened security.

One source with direct knowledge of Caraballo’s dismissal said the agency claimed he was let go because of a personnel issue from a previous military job nearly a decade ago that had been resolved then and already been reviewed by EPA several years ago. That source said senior officials also were not happy with the report from Caraballo’s office.

“They’re trying right now to just keep pressure on the wound,” the source said. “They’re trying to find out where these leaks are coming from … They’re in full panic mode right now.”

EPA Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator Donna Vizian said the agency would not comment on personnel matters. But she added that today’s action “was based on a recommendation by the Office of Administration and Resources Management. I am not aware of any connection between the personnel matter and the document mentioned in media reports.”

A career EPA staffer who has worked with Caraballo described him as a “standout manager,” and a “veteran and dedicated public servant and intelligence official to boot.”

The source predicted Caraballo’s dismissal would stiffen the resolve of Pruitt’s critics within the agency.

“This isn’t going to frighten staff, this is going to embolden us to leak more to get these criminals out,” the employee said Tuesday. “They need to know we’re not intimidated and we’re going to blow the whistle on anything even borderline questionable.”

In their letter to Barrasso, the two Senate Democrats said the records from the EPA, Secret Service and a terrorism task force fail to justify Pruitt’s use of the multimillion-dollar security detail.

Instead, according to the internal EPA memo, the “threats” include protesters attempting to disrupt one of Pruitt’s closed-door speeches, a letter from a prisoner, and a postcard that included the greeting: “CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL!!! We are watching you,” Carper and Whitehouse wrote to Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

The two Democrats demanded oversight hearings into Pruitt’s security spending, citing an internal EPA review, Secret Service threat assessments and a Joint Terrorism Task Force report.

But Barrasso rejected their request, while bashing the two Democrats for releasing “sensitive information.”

“I am deeply troubled that members of the committee would publicly release lawenforcement sensitive information regarding the safety and security of a cabinet member and his family,” Barrasso said in a statement. “This letter selectively quotes non-public documents.”

Barrasso added that “any reasonable reading” of those documents supported a conclusion that Pruitt faced a “variety of direct death threats.”

To the contrary, Carper and Whitehouse said the Secret Service identified no “reports of behaviors of interest” against Pruitt, and internal EPA reviews dispute “the administrator’s claims that the nature of the threats against him justify his expenditures.”

Pruitt has drawn widespread scrutiny for demanding a round-the-clock security detail, flying first-class to limit contact with threatening passengers, and having a soundproof booth installed in his office, among other steps — all of which offered far greater protection and privacy than his predecessors received. The Associated Press, citing an unnamed EPA official, said last week Pruitt’s “total security costs approached $3 million when pay is added to travel expenses.”

EPA has said Pruitt has experienced a sharp increase in threats compared with his immediate predecessor, Obama-era Administrator Gina McCarthy. Among specific incidents, the agency said one person had approached Pruitt in the Atlanta airport while yelling, “Scott Pruitt, you’re f—ing up the environment.”

In one of the nonpublic documents Carper and Whitehouse cited, the EPA Office of Homeland Security‘s intelligence team concluded that an earlier threat assessment prepared by Pruitt’s security team DOES NOT employ sound analysis or articulate relevant ‘threat specific’ information appropriate to draw any resource or level of threat conclusions regarding the protection posture for the administrator,” according to a section of the Feb. 14 memo reproduced in the senators’ letter (emphasis included). The memo concluded that EPA intelligence officials had “not identified any specific credible direct threat to the EPA administrator,” according to the letter.

None of the incidents listed concern air travel, according to the letter.

The senators said the records don’t match public statements from EPA and President Donald Trump, who tweeted Saturday that Pruitt’s expenses are justified.

One view is “that certain factions within EPA have justified the exorbitant taxpayer spending incurred by the administrator’s first-class travel and large entourage of security personnel through unsubstantiated claims about threats to his security, either at the direction of the administrator himself or others in the agency,” the senators said.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said Tuesday that “Scott Pruitt has faced an unprecedented amount of death threats against him and these threat assessments are conducted within [Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance] using information collected from the [Protective Service Detail], EPA’s Office of Homeland Security, and Inspector General.“ He pointed to interviews with EPA’s inspector general office discussing an increase in threats compared to the previous administrator’s tenure.

[Politico]

Former staffer: EPA fired him for refusing to OK first-class flight

A former top EPA staffer has told Democratic lawmakers that the agency fired him after he refused to retroactively approve the first-class travel of one of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s closest aides, according to letters made public Thursday.

The dismissed political appointee, Kevin Chmielewski, also alleged that Pruitt flouted price limits on hotel stays and office decor, put an aide to work house-hunting for him, arranged taxpayer-funded trips to his native Oklahoma and other destinations just because he wanted to travel there and lied last week when he denied knowing about backdoor raises the agency had granted to two of his top aides, the lawmakers said Thursday in a letter to the agency.

In addition, Chmielewski detailed allegations of lavish spending on Pruitt’s personal security and a possible conflict of interest involving his top bodyguard, as well a $100,000-per-month private jet rental that he says EPA looked into at Pruitt’s direction. He also said, as POLITICO reported last week, that Pruitt was frequently late in paying the $50-a-night rent on his lobbyist-owned Capitol Hill condo last year.

The lawmakers, including Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), separately wrote to President Donald Trump and urged him to rethink his public support for the embattled EPA chief.

“… [I]t appears you may not have received all the facts surrounding Administrator Pruitt’s spending, security arrangements, travel, living arrangements, and personnel actions, among other things,” they wrote.

Carper and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) separately asked EPA’s inspector general on Thursday to look into Pruitt’s alleged use of four different email accounts at EPA, and whether federal record-keeping laws were followed.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox declined to specifically dispute the allegations from Chmielewski outlined in the letter, saying the agency would respond to the lawmakers “through the proper channel.” When Chmielewski’s dismissal was first reported last week, Wilcox called him one of “a group of disgruntled employees who have either been dismissed or reassigned.”

Chmielewski, a former Trump campaign staffer, was EPA’s deputy chief of staff for operations and handled many of Pruitt’s travel and logistics coordination. He has emerged as the best-known internal agency critic of Pruitt’s lavish spending and other practices, which have led lawmakers of both parties — and key White House aides — to push for the administrator’s firing.

Among his specific charges, Chmielewski told the lawmakers this week that Pruitt had requested that his aide Samantha Dravis, the head of EPA’s Office of Policy, join him in first class on a return flight from Morocco in December, where Pruitt had gone to promote U.S. natural gas.

Chmielewski told the lawmakers he refused to sign paperwork justifying Dravis’ first-class travel “because it violated federal travel regulations,” the Democrats wrote. He said another EPA staffer eventually signed off on the travel retroactively.

Chmielewski said his refusal to bless Dravis’ upgraded travel “appears to him to have been the final straw that caused you to remove him,” the lawmakers wrote to Pruitt. Ryan Jackson, Pruitt’s chief of staff, subsequently informed Chmielewski that Pruitt “wished to fire or reassign him,” they wrote.

Dravis disputed Chmielewski’s allegations, telling POLITICO that she never spoke with him about the upgrade approval, that she did not request the upgrade and that it was not approved retroactively. Dravis said she flew coach for three of the four legs of the trip, and was upgraded to business class for one of them in keeping with federal regulations about travel exceeding 14 hours.

Democrats and environmental groups have questioned the entire purpose of the Morocco trip, noting that EPA’s mission doesn’t include promoting U.S. natural gas exports. Energy Secretary Rick Perry declined to weigh in on that issue at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Thursday, saying it would be “a little inappropriate for me to be making a public or private observation” about whether Pruitt’s trip was justified.

Chmielewski also disputed Pruitt’s statement last week to Fox News that he did not know about raises that two of his aides, who had accompanied him to EPA from Oklahoma, received despite the White House’s disapproval. Pruitt told Fox that the raises were entirely carried out by unidentified staffers, and that he was correcting the matter after learning of it.

But Chmielewski said the raises were “100% Pruitt himself,” according to a quote included in the Democrats’ letter.

Chmielewski told the lawmakers that his dismissal came in February when the head of Pruitt’s security detail, Nino Perrotta, asked him to give up his government credentials when he returned to the agency after an unrelated overseas trip with Vice President Mike Pence.

According to the letter, Jackson told Chmielewski that Pruitt wanted him removed and one of the Oklahoma aides, Millan Hupp, promoted to his job and pay scale. Chmielewski said the White House would not approve of that arrangement, but that he later was removed and Hupp received the promotion and pay raise via special hiring authority in the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Other allegations made by Chmielewski, according to the letters, include:

— Pruitt’s security detail has purchased bulletproof vests, weapons and biometric locks and new SUVs to transport Pruitt, as opposed to getting vehicles via the General Services Administration. Chmielewski also alleges EPA has awarded security contracts to at least one person who works at the private security firm run by Perrotta.

— Pruitt had Hupp search for housing during work hours.

— Pruitt spent more than the $5,000 legal limit to redecorate his office.

— EPA staff, at Pruitt’s direction, considered a $100,000-per month private jet rental for the administrator. Chmielewski “claimed he successfully prevented this from occurring, as it would have been far in excess of the total travel budget of the office,” the Democrats wrote.

— Pruitt allegedly sought to travel to certain destinations and would ask EPA staff to find official business there to justify the taxpayer-funded trips. Chmielewski also says Pruitt told staff to find official reasons for him to be in or near Oklahoma to spend long weekends at home there.

— Pruitt “frequently” stayed in pricey hotels that exceeded allowable per diem spending, and that while Pruitt was reimbursed even when costs went over a 300 percent cap for exceptional circumstances, his bodyguards sometimes were not.

— Pruitt declined to plan to stay at hotels recommended by U.S. embassies during two planned international trips, choosing instead “more expensive hotels with fewer standard security resources.”

“The new information provided by Mr. Chmielewski, if accurate, leaves us certain that your leadership at EPA has been fraught with numerous and repeated unethical and potentially illegal actions on a wide range of consequential matters that you and some members of your staff directed,” the lawmakers wrote to Pruitt in asking for more documents.

Besides Carper and Whitehouse, the letters were signed by Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.).

[Politico]

EPA officials demoted, removed after voicing complaints about Scott Pruitt

At least five officials at the Environmental Protection Agency were demoted, removed, reassigned, put on leave or asked for new jobs after voicing concerns about embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the New York Times reported Thursday.

Pruitt is in hot water after dominating the news cycle this week with reports that he lived in a condo belonging to the wife of a lobbyist, and that two of his top aides received hefty raises. Those stories follow others from earlier this year about Pruitt’s expensive travel. CBS News’ Julianna Goldman also reported Thursday that the agent in charge of Pruitt’s security detail was reassigned shortly after objecting to Pruitt’s desire to use sirens and lights when there was traffic, and he was late to a business meeting.

The New York Times reported that some EPA officials objected to office furniture spending, first-class travel, and additional security coverage — including a 20-person protective detail. One of the officials, political appointee Kevin Chmielewski, was placed on administrative leave without pay, the Times reported, citing two people familiar with the situation. Chmielewski, the Times reported, had voiced some of his concerns about Pruitt to the White House’s presidential personnel office.

Two other officials, career officials Reginald Allen and Eric Weese, were placed in jobs where they had less authority in spending decisions and interaction with the administrator when they expressed their concerns, the Times reported. And another career official, John Reeder, took a position with American University after the EPA told him to take a new job, according to the Times.

A spokesman for the EPA disputed the Times’ version of events.

“This is a group of disgruntled employees who have either been dismissed or reassigned,” said EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox.

Wilcox also responded to a New York Times story claiming Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, is considering leaving.

“EPA Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson, is committed to advancing President Trump’s agenda of regulatory certainty and environmental stewardship and continues to do so under Administrator Pruitt’s leadership,” Wilcox said.

Stories about Pruitt have made headlines since last week, when ABC News first reported Pruitt last year lived in a condo belonging to the wife of a Washington lobbyist. As CBS News has reported, the condo cost Pruitt $50 a night, and he only paid for nights when he was in town. Pruitt has insisted the arrangement was signed off on by an ethics official. In an interview with Fox News’ Ed Henry Thursday night, Pruitt also addressed a report from The Atlantic that two staff members received hefty salary increases. Pruitt blamed whoever made that decision to give the raises, which he said he knew nothing about at the time, and said he had fixed the problem.

“I’m fixing the problem,” Pruitt told Henry.

An EPA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Trump, at least publicly, is standing by Pruitt. The White House is reviewing Pruitt’s actions.

On Air Force One heading from West Virginia to Washington, D.C., Thursday, Mr. Trump called Pruitt a “good man.”

“I have to look at them,” Mr. Trump said of the claims against Pruitt. “…I’ll make that determination. But he’s a good man, he’s done a terrific job. But I’ll take a look at it.”

[CBS News]

Trump officials caught seeking State Department purge

Two top House Democrats allege that high-level political appointees in the State Department and senior White House officials have worked with conservative activists to purge from the agency career officials deemed insufficiently loyal to President Trump.

A letter sent Thursday to White House chief of staff John Kelly and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan alleges that political appointees at the State Department have characterized career officials in “derogatory terms.”

Among the descriptors used for certain career officials were “a leaker and a troublemaker” and a “turncoat,” the letter from Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) reads, citing documents obtained from a whistleblower.

Those documents also contain communications with high-profile conservative activists, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and David Wurmser, a former adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

In one email forwarded by Gingrich to Trump-appointed officials at the State Department, Wurmser wrote that “a cleaning is in order here,” apparently referring to removing career employees believed to be disloyal to Trump.

“I hear [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson actually has been reasonably good on stuff like this and cleaning house, but there are so many that it boggles the mind,” Wurmser wrote.

The allegations highlight what critics have said is Trump and his aides’ intense concern about loyalty within the government, particularly in the State Department. The president and his allies have in the past suggested the existence of a “deep state” bent on undermining his agenda.

The State Department has seen a particularly significant exodus of career officials since Trump took office last year. While some of those departures were attributed to planned retirements, others have reportedly left amid dwindling morale.

The letter from Cummings and Engel points to one case, in particular — that of Sahar Nowrouzzadeh.

Nowrouzzadeh, an Iran expert and civil servant, raised concerns to her boss, Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning, last year after she was targeted by an article in a conservative news outlet.

“I am and have been a career civil servant for nearly 12 years now,” she wrote in an email to Hook, noting that she began her government career under the Bush administration. “I’ve adapted my work to the policy priorities of every administration I’ve worked for.”

In the email, she asked Hook for advice on how to “correct the record.”

But Hook, according to the lawmakers’ letter, instead forwarded Nowrouzzadeh’s email to White House officials, and it later served as the basis for an internal discussion about her loyalty to the Trump administration that touched on her work on the Iran nuclear deal.

One email from Julia Haller, a White House liaison to the State Department at the time, falsely claimed that Nowrouzzadeh was born in Iran and alleges that she “cried when the President won” the 2016 election.

Nowrouzzadeh was eventually removed from her detail on the State Department’s policy planning staff three months early, Cummings and Engel said.

The letter requests a trove of documents and communications about the actual or proposed reassignments of career employees at the State Department related to “alleged personal political beliefs, prior service with previous Administrations, or work on prior Administrations’ foreign policy priorities.”

The lawmakers have asked for those materials to be turned over by March 29.

Heather Nauert, the acting undersecretary of State for public diplomacy, said on Thursday that the State Department would comply with the lawmakers’ requests, but noted that she had never witnessed any kind of disloyalty on the part of career officials at the agency.

“I have found my colleagues to be extremely professional,” Nauert said at a department press briefing. “Those on staff who have been here for many years, I have found them almost blind to politics.”

[The Hill]

White House Cans State Department Aide Who Said Tillerson Had No Idea He Was Going to Get Fired

Rex Tillerson is not the only member of the State Department getting fired today. Now there are reports that one of Tillerson’s top colleagues is also on his way out for contradicting the White House’s characterization of President Trump‘s decision to fire the secretary of state.

Shortly after Tillerson’s ouster was publicly confirmed, State Department Undersecretary of Public Diplomacy Steve Goldstein released a statement saying Tillerson never spoke to Trump about today’s decision, and had every intention of remaining in his position. This directly challenges the notion that the White House told the secretary he would be phased out, and it also rebukes what Trump said about how he and Tillerson have spoken about this for “a long time.”

As it were, multiple reporters have heard that now Goldstein is about to get the boot:

And now, Goldstein himself has confirmed — via Dave Clark of Agence France.

[Mediaite]

 

Trump fires Rex Tillerson, selects Mike Pompeo as new Secretary of State

President Donald Trump asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to step aside, the White House confirmed Tuesday, replacing him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

In a tweet, Trump thanked Tillerson for his service and said Pompeo “will do a fantastic job.”

The ouster ends months of discord between Trump and Tillerson, who often seemed out of the loop or in disagreement with the president on major foreign policy decisions. The president also named Gina Haspel as the new head of the CIA, pending the confirmation process. Those hearings are expected to dredge up debates about controversial interrogation tactics, like waterboarding, that might make her path to permanence a rocky one.

The exit was not a voluntary one, the State Department confirmed in a startling statement Tuesday. Tillerson “did not speak to the President and is unaware of the reason” for his firing, Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein said in a statement Tuesday morning, “but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve.”

Hours after Goldstein’s statement contradicting the White House’s account on Tillerson, a senior State Department official confirmed to NBC News that he had also been fired.

NBC News learned Tuesday from sources familiar with the situation that Chief of Staff John Kelly spoke with Tillerson by phone on Friday and told him that Trump intended to ask him to “step aside.” In that call — which came while Tillerson was traveling through Africa — Kelly did not specify when that change might come. Kelly also called Tillerson again on Saturday, a senior White House official said, expressing once again the president’s “imminent” intention to replace his secretary of state.

The Associated Press, citing senior State Department officials, reported Tuesday that Tillerson had been even more blindsided, saying that Kelly had warned him on that Friday call that there might be a tweet from the president coming that would concern him, but did not detail what the tweet might say or when it would post.

A senior State Department official told NBC that Tillerson officially found out that he had been fired when Trump tweeted the news that he’d been replaced.

Tillerson, said Goldstein, had “every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security.”

[NBC News]

Reality

Trump regularly fires people who do not display total loyalty to him and Tillerson did not.

Tillerson once called Trump a “moron” disagreed with him on Putin, the Paris Climate Agreement, Iran Nuclear Deal, North Korea, moving the Jerusalem embassy, etc…

Trump says there’s no CHAOS in White House amid unprecedented staff upheaval

President Trump sought to push back Tuesday on news reports that “chaos” has enveloped his White House, saying staff turnover and infighting are part of the normal course of business.

He also warned that more dismissals may be on the way.

“People will always come & go, and I want strong dialogue before making a final decision,” Trump said in a morning tweet, later adding: “There is no Chaos, only great Energy!”

Amid real and rumored staff departures, Trump also said that “I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection),” but he did not specify who he might be referring to.

Later in the day, during a joint news conference with the prime minister of Sweden, Trump again dismissed the idea of staff turmoil, and said he won’t have any trouble filling all the jobs that have opened up.

While some Republicans in Washington have questioned whether they would like to work in the Trump White House, the president said, “maybe people don’t want to work for Trump,” but “everybody wants to work in the White House.”

Not only does it look good on a resume, Trump said, but the White House is “just a great place to work; it’s got tremendous energy.”

While aides have fought, sometimes publicly, over issues ranging from trade to foreign policy, Trump told reporters that he likes “conflict” among his advisers.

“I like having two people with different points of view, and I certainly have that,” Trump said. “And then I make a decision. But I like watching it. I like seeing it. And I think it’s the best way to go.”

Staff turbulence has been a regular feature of the Trump administration since he took office on Jan. 20, 2017.

Within a month, his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned over claims he had lied to the FBI about contacts with a Russian ambassador; within seven months, his chief staff, press secretary, and two communications directors left amid various disputes; Trump and much of his staff became embroiled in an investigation of Russia influence during the 2016 election.

In the past week, another communications director, long-time aide Hope Hicks, announced her resignation, while aides fought it out in the press over the timing and wisdom of Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

As aides fought, Trump himself tweeted that “trade wars” would be “good” and “easy to win,” further roiling markets already worried about the impacts of tariffs.

Trump is looking for his fifth communications director; he has had four if you count then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who did both jobs before his resignation in July.

Spicer left when Trump brought in Anthony Scaramucci to run communications; he lasted 11 days after getting caught after on tape trashing other White House officials.

After Trump’s denial of chaos, Scaramucci sent out a tweet quoting comedian Mel Brooks: “If you’re quiet, you’re not living. You’ve got to be noisy and colorful and lively.”

[USA Today]

Reality

The Trump White House has had more first-year departures than any other president in at least 40 years.

H.R. McMaster, Rex Tillerson, John McEntee, Gary Cohn, Andrew McCabe all resigned or were fired since this tweet.

Trump asked Rosenstein about Russia probe, if he was on Trump’s ‘team’

President Trump reportedly asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if he was on Trump’s “team” at a December meeting.

CNN reported that Rosenstein met with Trump in hopes of getting his support against House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who was seeking sensitive documents for his classified memo purporting to detail surveillance abuses by the government.

At the meeting, Trump reportedly asked Rosenstein about the direction of the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, and asked directly if Rosenstein was “on my team.”

Rosenstein replied, “of course, we’re all on your team, Mr. President,” according to CNN’s sources.

Trump has considered firing Rosenstein in recent weeks according to a recent CNN report, telling aides “let’s fire him.” Rosenstein is the top Justice Department official in charge of the Russia investigation.

[The Hill]

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