He became even more famous through the catchphrase, “you’re fired,” and the president is living up to it.
President Donald Trump announced on September 10, 2019 that he had fired National Security Adviser John Bolton, his third person in that position. He also fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Sessions resigned at the president’s request.)
Hope Hicks, one of President Trump’s closest confidantes, announced that she will be leaving the White House and her position as Communications Director. Then, shortly thereafter, Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Before her came the news that Steve Bannon (and a host of others) is out at the White House. Was Bannon “fired” or did he quit? It was mutual, the White House claims. “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best,” White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said in a statement.
To be blunt, you need a flow chart to keep track of it all:
Arguably, FBI Director James Comey was Donald Trump’s most dramatic firing since taking office. However, it’s not the first time that Trump has fired an investigator. That honor goes to Preet Bharara, the crusading U.S. Attorney from New York, although presidents often replace U.S. Attorneys. A series of other important officials have resigned from the administration, some after incurring Trump’s displeasure, and others for unclear reasons. There have also been a revolving door of communications officials.
On July 31, Trump, according to The New York Times, removed Anthony Scaramucci as communications director after only a few days. Trump made the move, the Times reports, at the behest of new Chief of Staff John Kelly, although the White House claimed in a statement that Scaramucci resigned on his own volition. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Press Secretary Sean Spicer also quit, but it was after Trump had reportedly soured on them and hired Scaramucci, a move they opposed, reports said.
Some drew an analogy between Bharara and Comey as both were tough investigators Trump couldn’t quite control. Both were also holdovers from the Obama administration, although Comey has said in the past he identifies as a Republican.
Trump opponents say the White House is in chaos. However, Trump supporters argue that the list of firings and resignations is simply indicative of the president exercising his prerogative to clean house of people tied to the Obama administration and replace them with people who are loyal to him. In the case of Scaramucci and Bannon, though, that argument doesn’t fit. Some of those on the list were accused by Trump supporters of trying to undermine the new president. Scaramucci was a Trump loyalist, at least in recent times. It appears in recent times that Trump is weeding out political types, especially those affiliated with the Republican National Committee, and tightening his circle to military people and family or holdovers from the Trump Organization.
Here’s a list of prominent people Trump has fired since becoming president or who have resigned, some after reportedly losing the president’s favor:
The firing of John Bolton came over disagreements with the president on military intervention and the war in Afghanistan.
“I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week,” the president wrote on Twitter on September 10, 2019.
When the attorney general was forced out in 2018, Democrats expressed concern about the fate of the Robert Mueller investigation, although that investigation did ultimately proceed to its conclusion. You can see Sessions’ resignation letter here.
News that Bannon was out came after days of criticism for Trump’s handling of Charlottesville, and after a #FireBannon hashtag trended on Twitter. The New York Times reported that Trump decided to push Bannon out and was trying to figure out how to do it. A source close to Bannon told the Times that he submitted his resignation on August 7 and an announcement was delayed because of Charlottesville. The Times reports that the resignation would have been effective on August 14, almost a year to the date Bannon joined Trump’s team.
You can read more about the Bannon leaving here:
The White House released a statement on July 31 saying that Scaramucci had resigned to give new Chief of Staff John Kelly a “clean slate.” A report in The New York times, though, says that Trump removed Scaramucci at the behest of Kelly, who wanted him out.
The new communications director for just a few days, Scaramucci’s tenure was marked by controversy. He gave an interview to a New York reporter calling Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House advisor Steve Bannon a series of vile names. His personal life became big news when it was revealed that his second wife, Deidre, had filed for divorce in early July while eight months pregnant.
“Anthony Scaramucci will be leaving his role as White House Communications Director,” the emailed statement from the White House reads. “Mr. Scaramucci felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team. We wish him all the best.”
Michael Short, a senior assistant Press Secretary for Donald Trump, resigned shortly after new Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci revealed he wanted to fire him and vowed to crack down on leaks, Politico reported. Short was close to Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus and had worked for the RNC.
Short denied being a leak to the news media.
The Chief of Staff, Priebus, was not fired; he resigned. However, he resigned after a series of reports that Trump had soured on him and that he had opposed Trump’s elevation of Scaramucci to the position of communications director.
Priebus was the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party. Priebus was then the targeted of an unprecedented verbal barrage by Scaramucci to a New York reporter.
The much mocked press secretary, Sean Spicer, quit after Trump named Scaramucci to the communications director position. Although reports said Trump asked Spicer to stay on, Spicer would have been Scaramucci’s subordinate, a position he reportedly could not tolerate.
Trump praised Spicer in a tweet after he quit, calling him a wonderful person with a bright future. Spicer said he considered it an honor and privilege to have held the position.
Mike Dubke served as communications director in the White House before Scaramucci, and he also quit. Dubke left the position on May 18, and, at the time, CNN reported, he did so “amid swirling speculation about a possible Trump staff shakeup.”
Dubke told CNN only that he was resigning for a number of personal reasons.
Comey and Trump were not necessarily predestined to be foes; after all, Comey has previously said he was a Republican, and he worked in the administration of George W. Bush. And then there’s the matter of Hillary Clinton’s emails; many people, including Hillary herself, believe that Comey’s decision to inform Congress that the FBI was reopening its investigation into newly discovered emails might have contributed to her loss on election day.
The email investigation went nowhere, and, although it’s widely believed to have helped Trump, Comey’s handling of Clinton’s emails was cited as a reason for Comey’s ouster. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote a three-page letter dated May 9 on the Comey firing. In it, Rosenstein says that Comey must be fired because of the way he handled the Hillary Clinton email case.
Critics accuse Trump of pulling off a watchdog, as Comey, in March, confirmed in testimony to Congress that the FBI is investigating Russian interference in the election and whether or not Trump campaign officials were in contact with officials in Moscow. Comey also said the FBI had found “no information” to back up Trump’s claims that President Obama ordered Trump Tower wiretapped before the election.
Some Trump supporters accuse Democrats of hypocrisy; after all, some were extremely critical of how Comey handled the Clinton disclosure. Yet others wonder why, if Trump was so upset about that, he didn’t act sooner.
“I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken,” Rosenstein said.
Trump’s own letter to Comey said in part, “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau. It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions also wrote a letter recommending Comey’s firing.
On May 3, Comey had appeared before Congress and defended his decision to brief Congress about Clinton’s emails shortly before the election, but he said it makes him “mildly nauseous” to think that he might have influenced it.
Bharara is a crusading U.S. Attorney from New York. Although he has long-standing ties to Democrats like Chuck Schumer, he forged a reputation in New York as a crusader against public corruption.
As the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, some believe that Bharara could have been positioned to investigate such things as the Trump Foundation.
Bharara was fired by the Trump administration after refusing to resign.
That news came from Bharara himself, who tweeted it, one day after he launched an extraordinary showdown with the new president and his Attorney General by refusing orders to step down.
Making matters even more confusing, Bharara, who was responsible for handling the Anthony Weiner case that helped derail Hillary Clinton’s campaign, was reportedly investigating the Clinton Foundation with the FBI.
Bharara had support even among some Republicans, but he also has old ties to a top Democratic Trump critic. “Like all of the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys, Bharara is a political appointee who is typically replaced when a new president takes office,” according to Reuters.
Some didn’t find the firing shocking at all. “Breathless reporters ‘shocked’ @POTUS fired Schumer ally as NY US Atty. Really? Arrogant Bharara won’t resign as asked; gets fired-move on!” former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee tweeted.
“President Barack Obama nominated Bharara to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York post in May 2009. The Senate unanimously confirmed his nomination, and he was sworn into office that August,” said a Columbia University bio of the prosecutor.
The former acting Attorney General has been in the news a lot, giving testimony to Congress that she did not believe Trump’s travel ban to be constitutional.
Trump fired Yates when she instructed Justice Department attorneys not to defend the ban. She has also said she warned members of the Trump administration three times that then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn could be open to blackmail from Russia because he misled Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his phone calls to the Russian ambassador.
The White House letter explaining Yates’ termination was laced with strong rhetoric. It said in part,
The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States. This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel.
Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.
It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals travelling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country.
Yates, a Barack Obama appointee, had written an extraordinary letter by historical standards, telling Justice Department lawyers not to defend the Trump executive order, which had spurred protests at airports throughout the country. Yates was serving as the acting AG until Trump’s nominee Jeff Sessions took over the position.
Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer has called Yates a “political opponent” of Trump.
On May 8, testifying before a Senate subcommittee, Yates said that she can’t talk about whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia because doing so would cause her to reveal classified information.
Trump fired Reid as the White House usher. The reason is unclear, although there were reports that Trump wanted a loyalist in the position.
The Washington Post first reported that Angella Reid had been relieved of her duties on May 5. The newspaper said that no reason was made public and quoted an official as saying, “We are very grateful for her service and wish her the very best.”
Reid was appointed to the job in October 2011, and she took the place of the first African-American to hold the post, Adm. Stephen W. Rochon.
“Reid joined the White House in 2011 under then-President Obama. While Trump officials said it isn’t uncommon for staffs to transition between administrations, it is unusual for a chief usher to be dismissed,” reports USA Today.
There was a time that Chris Christie seemed joined at the hip with Donald Trump. After all, who can forget the images of Christie looking shell-shocked behind Trump on the campaign trail?
Since Christie was an early supporter of the president, it surprised some when he was unceremoniously dumped – some said fired – from the Trump transition team.
A former U.S. Attorney, Christie once prosecuted the father of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and some said that was the reason that Christie had seemingly fallen from favor. Politico reported that Trump was concerned about “Bridgegate,” the scandal in which the governor’s former top aides were convicted after accusing Christie “of knowing more about the shutdown of the George Washington Bridge than he let on.”
However, Christie is back in the president’s good graces, as he’s now been appointed to lead a task force to combat the opioid epidemic.
That brings us to Flynn himself.
The retired lieutenant general, who was serving as Trump’s national security adviser, technically resigned after reports hit the news, via leaks, that Flynn had spoken about sanctions to the Russian ambassador before Trump took office. He stepped down 18 days after Yates says she warned the White House about him.
However, the Trump administration has made it clear that Flynn was asked to go.
Trump and his underlings have decried the leaks, while saying that Flynn’s offense was not being entirely forthcoming with Pence on the matter.
“Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador,” Flynn said in his resignation letter. “I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology.”
Questions were swirling for several weeks that Flynn violated the Logan Act by discussing sanctions with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during a phone call, which was possibly recorded by the FBI as part of its surveillance of Russians in the U.S.
Flynn and other members of the administration initially denied that he discussed sanctions during the call. Vice President Mike Pence denied the accusations during an interview with CBS in January. Trump has attempted to turn the public’s attention toward anonymous leaks to the news media of classified information.
As with Flynn, Monica Crowley wasn’t fired. In her case, she decided not to take a job in the Trump administration.
However, she’s making the list because of the controversial nature of her decision to leave.
Crowley is a conservative author and pundit who left the Donald Trump administration under the shadow of plagiarism allegations.
Crowley, 48, was going to assume the position of senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council in the Donald Trump administration.
She will no longer take the job. That revelation came a short time after CNN’s KFile published what it said were numerous instances of plagiarism in Crowley’s writing, and Politico then found examples in other work.
In a written statement explaining why she wouldn’t join the Trump administration (she was supposed to work under National Security Adviser Mike Flynn), Crowley said, according to The Washington Times: “After much reflection I have decided to remain in New York to pursue other opportunities and will not be taking a position in the incoming administration.”