Keeping track of the torrid pace of White House turnover under Trump

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
President Donald Trump

Ten days ago, I stumbled upon (and passed along), the work of Brookings Institution government studies fellow Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, who has set up a template for tracking and comparing turnover among top-level administration officials over the last six presidencies.

As of then, the current incumbent had set a record pace for firing people whom he previously thought were qualified for various high White House posts. Tenpas doesn’t count cabinet positions but follows turnover in the 65 most influential and high-profile White House jobs. At the end of his first year, Trump had fired (or accepted the resignations of) occupants of 34 percent of those 65 jobs. His 34 percent replacement rate was precisely double the previous record for a first-year president.

But, two months into his second year, he is not letting up. The recent firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson didn’t even count since, as I mentioned, Tenpas doesn’t score cabinet positions, in which Trump is also setting a blistering pace. And yesterday’s news of the departure of National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster didn’t affect the count either, because (for reasons that must make sense to her) Tenpas counts just one turnover in each position, and McMaster had already replaced Trump’s short-tenured first National Security Advisor, the now-indicted Michael Flynn.

Nonetheless, Tenpas’ latest count of the portion of top White House positions in which there has been at least one change of occupant is now up to 48 percent. He is deep in record territory and continues to set a torrid pace.

The portion is even slightly higher if one focuses on the 12 highest ranking positions, which Tenpas called the “Tier One” White House jobs. In a piece that Tenpas herself posted yesterday on the Brookings site, she divulged that of the original 12 members of Trump’s “Tier One,” just five are still in the jobs in which they started. That’s a 58.3 percent turnover rate.

Her update was titled “McMaster out and turnover on the White House ‘A Team’ continues at a steady clip.”

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/23/2018 - 06:54 pm.

    At least

    he’s hiring people smart enough to get out.

  2. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 03/24/2018 - 09:11 am.

    Who in their right mind

    would ever consider working for Trump? Why does anyone want to sully their name and/or their career history to work for a irrational back stabber. Trump has said he could do it alone. I think that is because Trump knows at some point he won’t be able to find anyone that will work for him. That is the reason he relies so heavily on family. Everybody is expendable in Trump immoral world, even family. One or more family members could possibly be indicted by Mueller along with Trump. Notice Don Jr. has gone silent. It seems Trump supporters are silently retracting into the shadows of social media as not even they can justify Trump at this point. They never have been able to rationally justify Trump. Their rationalization has always come from the alternate universe they live in. If voters can’t correctly figure it out in 2018 we are a very sick society.

  3. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 03/24/2018 - 10:31 am.

    Hiring sycophants instead of capable people for these jobs, and then firing them when they somehow lose his favor, is something Donald Trump knows how to do from his business empire and reality TV history. But it’s all he knows how to do, because he is ignorant of the information he needs to perform the duties of leadership in the office of President of the United States. He also lacks any desire to learn the skill and facts for his job–that underlies his whimsical now-this, now-that decision-making on what goes by “policy” in his White House.

    So instead of governing, he keeps up a fast pace of hiring and firing (he’s a bit of a coward in that, using Tweets instead of personal meetings to dismiss people, the more to humiliate them).

    This activity is a direct function of Trump’s unsuitability for the office he holds. He flails away, insisting on a “Look, Mom! No hands!” fixed attention from all of us.

  4. Submitted by Howard Miller on 03/24/2018 - 02:38 pm.

    John Bolton

    represents the perfect storm of hiring those on the fringe and having huge turnover for a legion of reasons …. Trump, the contrarian, cares little that Mr. Bolton is viewed as incendiary folks on both left and right ends of the US political spectrum … because he is in the real world. Not a good amplifier to Trump’s own incendiary ways. This is an appointment that should not go forward.

  5. Submitted by Brian Simon on 03/26/2018 - 02:24 pm.


    I don’t recall the source, but read someone this weekend who noted that the new hires tend to be prominent TV guests who, at least on air, agree with President Trump. The example of Bolton was interesting in that, in many areas he and Trump disagree, but Bolton is largely complementary of his new boss, despite having some drastically different views in some areas (e.g. Russia).

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