There are fresh rumors out of the West Wing that H.R. McMaster and John Kelly are the next dominoes to fall in what some White House employees are referring to as a “purge,” reports CBS correspondent Major Garrett.
The next to go could be National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, expected to be replaced by former Bush administration official and frequent Fox News analyst John Bolton. Bolton is a hawk on Iran and North Korea, like new Secretary of State nominee and current CIA chief Mike Pompeo.
The man brought in last summer to impose order in the White House, Chief of Staff John Kelly, may also be on the way out, according to congressional and administration sources. –CBS News
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin may also receive a pink slip, after the VA Inspector General determined that Shulkin used taxpayer dollars on a lavish trip to Europe for his wife. The money was repaid after it became public.
Trump joked last summer about firing Shulkin, who would be replaced by Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
“It will be properly implemented, right David? It better be David, or [mouths “you’re fired”]. We’ll never have to use those words on our David,” Mr. Trump said.
HUD director Ben Carson’s job is also at risk, after a $31,000 order for an office dining room set was discovered and subsequently canceled.
So far over 20 senior administration staffers have been fired, resigned or reassigned. Last week, Vanity Fair‘s Gabriel Sherman wrote that Trump is reportedly “tired of being reined in,” and is ready to clean the slate in the West Wing to his liking.
With the departures of Hope Hicks and Gary Cohn, the Trump presidency is entering a new phase—one in which Trump is feeling liberated to act on his impulses. “Trump is in command. He’s been in the job more than a year now. He knows how the levers of power work. He doesn’t give a fuck,” the Republican said. Trump’s decision to circumvent the policy process and impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum reflects his emboldened desire to follow his impulses and defy his advisers. “It was like a fuck-you to Kelly,” a Trump friend said. “Trump is red-hot about Kelly trying to control him.” –VF
Sherman writes that the purge is a total changing of the guard: “Trump is going for a clean reset, but he needs to do it in a way that’s systemic so it doesn’t look like it’s chaos.”
In late February, both CNN and Reuters reported that Kelly and McMaster were reportedly close to quitting or being fired over various issues, including Jared Kushner’s security clearance which was downgraded two weeks ago.
“There have been running battles between Trump and his generals,” said one of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Kelly is a retired Marine general and McMaster an Army lieutenant general.
“But the clearance business is personal, and if Trump sets special rules for family members, I‘m not sure if Kelly and McMaster would salute,” the official said. –Reuters
While there haven’t been any new rumors about Jared Kushner and wife Ivanka Trump, last week we reported that Kushner may be out over recent negative headlines over his family’s financial frustrations with their infamous 666 5th avenue property. Kushner’s finances are reportedly a central focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The president’s son-in-law is in a weakened position, which Trump may feel will be a detriment going forward.
One scenario being discussed is that Kushner would return to New York to oversee Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign with his ally Brad Parscale, who was hand-selected by the Trump family. One Trump friend referred to it as a “soft landing.” Ivanka will likely stay on longer, perhaps through the summer, before decamping home to New York to enroll the children in a Manhattan private school. Both are presumed to remain in close contact with Trump, who often places significant value on the opinions expressed outside his administration, anyway. –VF
What about Sessions?
According to CBS, “there are conflicting interpretations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ job security,” following a contentious relationship between the president and his Attorney General. Word has it that EPA administrator Scott Pruitt would replace him, however other sources suggest Sessions’ job may be safe because a battle over his replacement’s confirmation would be “too drawn out.”