In a report by Axios this morning, citing White House sources, President Trump is reportedly considering a "huge reboot" of his core staff and cabinet members that could lead to the termination of everyone from Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, to counsel Don McGahn and press secretary Sean Spicer: "He's frustrated, and angry at everyone."
According to Axios, the conversations intensified this week as the fallout from the Comey firing "pushed the White House from chaos into crisis" and notes that Trump's friends are telling him that many of his top aides don't know how to work with him, pointing out that "his approval ratings aren't rising, but the leaks are." As a result the advice he's getting is to "go big — that he has nothing to lose," the confidant said. "The question now is how big and how bold. I'm not sure he knows the answer to that yet."
Additionally, Trump reportedly feels he has been "ill-served" by several of his Cabinet officials.
Trump has two complaints about Cabinet members: Either they're tooting their own horns too much, or they're insufficiently effusive in praising him as a brilliant diplomat, etc. Among the cross-currents:
Under threat are some of his key economic and domestic policy advisors, including:
- Wilbur Ross took what was perceived as a victory lap on a China trade announcement that does little new in actuality.
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a big announcement about increasing prison sentences, at the same time that Jared is working on criminal-justice reform.
- HHS Secretary Tom Price shares the blame for the glacial pace of health-care legislation.
Axios notes three caveats:
- i) no Cabinet member is expected to "go this soon", even though a West Wing shuffle looks likely. "One obstacle to recruiting new top aides is finding people who would have real clout with a president not prone to enforced order";
- ii) it could be just Trump venting: "Trump often talks about firing people when things go south and does not follow through on it. So it's possible these conversations are his way of venting, and seeking reassurance"
- iii) any internal moves could take a while: "Trump heads out on his first international trip at the end of the week. Also, there's an internal argument for minimizing drama by cutting people out of the information flow rather than firing them."
In all, it appears that virtually everyone is in danger of losing their jobs, except for the core cadre of ex-Goldman advisors who have now effectively taken over Trump's "circle of trust." One other official winning Trump's approval is SecState Rex Tillerson, who will be on "Meet The Press" this morning defending his boss.
While a major cabinet shakeup is possible, another major problem emerges, however: if Trump does purge Priebus and Bannon, gutting the core of his inner circle, what would be left is "a straight line of mid-30s family members with scant governing experience: Jared and Ivanka. So while the fighting and leaking might ease, the problems may not because it's the president, not the staff, calling the shots."
In other words, Trump may unleash a firing spree, and shift the blame for the fallout from last week's turbulent events to his top advisors, but once the internal purge is complete, it will be only Trump - and his immedite family members - left to take the blame... and there are still 3 years and 8 months left.