President Trump is burning through staff at a rate much higher than his five predecessors, setting a record of losing 34 per cent of his key White House aides in his first year.
Brookings Institution senior fellow Kathryn Dunn Tenpas crunched the numbers and figured out that Trump’s turnover is more than triple what Democratic President Obama saw in his first year and double that of Republican President Ronald Reagan.
When looking at the most visible positions – jobs like press secretary and White House chief of staff, which Tenpas dubs as ‘Tier One’ posts – half of those individuals left Trump’s staff before January 19 of this year.
Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh, Press Secretary Sean Spicer and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn all left within Trump’s first year. Meanwhile, Rob Porter’s exit has created havoc for Trump this week
BYE GIRL: Omarosa Manigault Newman’s (right) departure contributed to the 34 per cent of Trump staff gone, while Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway (left) remains on the job
Departures from the Trump administration far outpace those of his five predecessors of both Democratic and Republican persuasion, according to data compiled by the Brookings Institution and National Journal
Overall, Tenpas looked at 64 prominent jobs in the Trump administration, consisting of 19 positions unique to Trump, along with 45 prominent job titles that were also used in previous administrations.
The researcher benefited from the fact that the National Journal previously compiled lists of ‘Decision Makers’ within an administration’s first year, a study that started in 1981 with Reagan and concluded in 2009, with Obama’s staff.
Piggybacking on National Journal’s research, Tenpas tried to do the same thing with Trump and then see how many individuals still held down those jobs a year after the Republican president’s swearing-in ceremony.
What she found was that six of the 12 people in ‘Tier One’ positions were already gone.
First to go was National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who resigned on February 10, 2017. He was soon followed by Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh on March 30.
Then there were the double departures of Republican National Committee alumni Sean Spicer, the president’s first press secretary, and Reince Priebus, the president’s first chief of staff in July.
The departures of George Sifakis, assistant to the president, and KT McFarland, deputy national security adviser, also counted toward the six of 12 ‘Tier One’ job losses.
And by comparison, Obama only lost one top-tier adviser in the same amount of time, while President George W. Bush lost zero high-level staffers.
In her paper, Tenpas acknowledged that one person changing positions sometimes creates a domino effect.
Spicer left because President Trump had appointed fundraiser Anthony Scaramucci to be communications director, a job that the New York businessman only held for 11 days.
Priebus’ ouster paved the way for Chief of Staff John Kelly, who had been serving as Department of Homeland Security head. And with Kelly’s appointment, the ex-military man brought in some of his own staff.
Kelly was also responsible for pushing some original Trump hires out: most notably reality TV star Omarosa Manigault Newman, who had served as an assistant to the president.
Manigault Newman’s dramatic departure contributed to the 34 per cent turnover rate, Tenpas confirmed.
Tenpas’ calculation, however, didn’t count for each time a position was filled, just the fact that it was vacated within the first year.
So the fact that Trump has technically had four communications directors – with Spicer first filling in as acting, and then the White House hiring Mike Dubke, and then Scaramucci, and then finally the appointment of campaign press secretary Hope Hicks – only counts against the president once, by this report’s measure.
The researcher also tried to get to the root of the problem, which she attributed to the values the president looks for in his staff.
‘In looking at why Trump has experienced such high turnover, I argue he has valued loyalty over qualifications and suffered from a White House that has functioned in a chaotic manner,’ Tenpas wrote.
‘Both features have made it difficult to retain staff and have contributed to governance difficulties he has encountered,’ she continued. ‘If history is any guide, staff recruitment and retention during his second year could prove challenging as well.’