We've heard this one before...
Even as polls have shown that Democrats' efforts to stymie the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, as well as their continued support for open borders as a migrant caravan trudges ever closer to McAllen, Texas, have only galvanized Republican voters ahead of the Nov. 6 midterms, the mainstream media has continued to push the narrative that the imminent blue wave will almost certainly wrest control of the House away from the GOP, forcing Trump and his cabinet officials into an uncomfortable position, as Democrats leverage their newfound power to subpoena staffers, senior officials and perhaps even the president himself. Fearful of being caught up in a drama with potential legal ramifications, Trump administration officials are preparing for a mass exodus during the lame-duck session that could leave the West Wing and the bureaucracy dangerously understaffed, according to Politico, Bloomberg and several other media organizations, all of which have in recent days published stories about rumored staff departures.
The message from the mainstream media is clear: After a surprisingly successful run at the helm, the Trump administration is finally sinking under the weight of the profusion of scandals, and with key officials like White House counsel Don McGahn II already on their way out, it's unclear who, exactly, will act as a bulwark between Trump and his political enemies.
As Steve Bannon said, staffers, the majority of whom aren't well paid, are worried that they will find themselves embroiled in some legal fiasco that might force them to blow all of their savings on legal fees.
“How do you restaff with top quality folks knowing that you’re going to be subpoenaed? If you go in, you better be wealthy because you’re going to need to pay a lawyer,” said Steve Bannon, the former White House adviser who has had to hire his own lawyer to respond to inquiries about his time in the administration. “This whole thing is psychological warfare, and it’ll affect the ability to attract great people.”
According to Bloomberg, the White House is bracing for a "staff exodus" after Nov. 6 as many in the administration believe Democrats will almost certainly take back the House. Anxious staffers, according to BBG, are worried that Democrats could unleash a flurry of subpoenas and investigations.
While talk of a 'red wave' hasn't stopped entirely, it has slowed, as Trump's political advisers coordinate a strategy for shifting blame from the president to Congressional candidates who have struggled to out-raise their Democratic opponents. Trump has privately complained that Republicans haven't done enough to engage donors, while Democrats have more easily tapped into the culture of outrage that has inspired wave after wave of unruly street demonstrations.
According to an aggregate poll from Real Clear Politics, Democrats are leading by 8 points, which suggests that they will take back the House.
And although polls have been wrong before, they also have suggested that it's equally likely Republicans will expand their majority in the Senate, as no fewer than 10 Democrats are up for reelection this cycle in states that went for Trump in 2016. As poll after poll has shown, Trump's approval rating among Republicans has steadily improved since his inauguration and currently stands above 80%.
But even if Republicans do manage to hold on to the House and Senate, another wave of spring cleaning in the upper ranks is all but assured, according to Politico, which named six Trump cabinet officials or senior staff who are expected to leave - or be fired - after the midterms. They include John Kelly, Jeff Sessions, Kirstjen Nielsen, Ryan Zinke, James Mattis and Wilbur Ross. Ultimately, the administration is hoping to remold the cabinet into less of a political liability, as the numerous corruption scandals involving using public funds for private travel to overspending on furniture have tarnished the administration, per Politico.
In the president’s first two years in office, his Cabinet has seen far greater turnover than those of presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama over the same time period, according to a Cabinet tracker by the Brookings Institution.
“Getting people vetted and confirmed is no easy thing, even if the Republicans keep their majority in the Senate,” said Chris Lu, White House Cabinet secretary during Obama’s first term. “It could be well into 2019 before the president has a full Cabinet that is up to speed and carrying out his agenda.”
White House staff members have felt exasperated over the past two years by a Cabinet that has felt uncontrollable. While Cabinet officials are always quick to offer pledges of loyalty to Trump during in-person meetings in the Cabinet room, some Trump aides have complained that some of those same officials show little interest in traveling to promote the president’s legislative and political agenda.
Nor have Cabinet officials always accepted the help or advice of the White House communications and press team to prep for contentious hearings, or media interviews.
The goal for 2020 is to ensure that the Cabinet is a political asset — not a source of embarrassing headlines.
But as long as the GOP retains control of the Senate, Democrats won't be able to easily stop Trump from pushing through confirmations. And just as the last round of "spring cleaning" earlier this year saw Trump shake up his cabinet for the better, change on the personnel front isn't necessarily bad. Though we imagine the media will continue to fixate on the turnover rate while paying little attention to how well each cabinet official is doing their job.