Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. FBI Director James Comey. Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.
The list of high-ranking officials who have lost their White House roles, voluntarily or not, just seems to keep growing. And though it wasn’t immediately clear Monday whether Scaramucci resigned or was fired, his departure did raise questions about whether the current White House staff’s turnover rate is normal.
The answer is nuanced.
The president has to appoint about 4,000 government employees as part of his transition into the White House, but only about 80 percent of those roles are filled on average at any point, according to CNN. It’s not unusual, for example, for an incoming president to dismiss several U.S. attorneys chosen by his predecessor: Both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did it within the first few months of their terms.
Donald Trump did, too, but when we’re looking at recent firings, Spicer, Priebus and Scaramucci are not appointees from the Obama administration. They’re Trump’s own men.
Historically, there’s also a bit of turnover as a president’s term progresses. Presidential Power, a political science blog run out of Middlebury College, wrote in 2010 that “only about 75 percent of a president’s senior cabinet and White House advisers are retained from the first year of the president’s term into his second year.” The number for the staffers who stick around from the second to third year is even lower.
But, again, we’re not examining turnover at the end of Trump’s term. It’s only been six months, and that makes the shakeup notable.
As the University of Virginia Center for Politics director Larry Sabato pointed out in Politico a few years ago, there were only about 35 significant involuntary departures of top White House officials between 1946 and 2014. The most occurred under Richard Nixon—who got rid of his interior secretary, chief of staff, counsel, adviser and special prosecutor—and Jimmy Carter—who forced out his Office of Management and Budget director along with four secretaries.
Sabato noted that Barack Obama’s most notable firing was of Gen. Stanley McChrystal in 2010, though in 2014 he accepted the resignations of press secretary Jay Carney, veterans affairs secretary Eric Shinseki, health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius and attorney general Eric Holder.
“The White House is not Hotel California,” Bush-era press secretary Ari Fleischer told the Huffington Post in 2014. “You are allowed to leave it, and it’s healthy and good for the president if the staff does turn over.”
Sometimes, that happens quickly. As news of Scaramucci’s departure after 11 days broke Monday, rumors continued to spread about the future of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. After all, Trump’s catchphrase is “you’re fired.”
Posted with permission from Newsweek