By Lindsay Poss The Trump administration has been rocked by scandal after scandal, from Trump infamously bragging about sexual assault to the administration’s purported connection with Russia. These scandals, coupled with the President’s difficult personality and reported disdain for his staff, have turned the White House into a hostile work environment. Cabinet appointments are made and changed spontaneously, many spots have been left unfilled, and Trump continues to fire seemingly at will. The lack of consistent staff stifles the ability to get anything done. The statistics are stunning. After one year in office, 34% of President Trump’s most senior staff had quit, switched roles, or been fired. At the same mark, Obama had a loss or change of 9% and George W. Bush had 6%. Reagan held the previous record at 17%, which the Trump administration has shattered. In the last two months alone, the rate of staff turnover has climbed to 43%. The situation becomes even more unbelievable when considering that each a change in position is counted only once; Trump has gone through four press secretaries in a little over a year, but under the official rate this is counted as a single instance of change. The following extensive graph shows time in office for all Trump officials who have been fired, left, or have said they are leaving: Aside from a simple lack of stability, the theory behind Trump’s hiring and firing is startling: any time there is pushback from a staff member or disagreement with the President, that member is asked to leave the White House. The pattern continued with the firing of Jeff Sessions (who was notified of his release when scrolling through Twitter) and dismissal of national security advisor H.R. McMaster, and may continue later in the month as Trump is reportedly considering dismissing current Chief of Staff John Kelly. Trump reportedly is nearing his “ideal staff,” but considering his tumultuous time in office thus far and recent discontent with many of his staff members, that statement seems unlikely to be true. Staff turnover is a problem for several reasons. First, if Trump is “nearing his ideal” by ousting those who disagree with him, he may finally be able to push an agenda that does not prioritize equality across all groups. Detrimental groupthink will run rampant and will be dangerous as Trump pushes further into an agenda out of touch with reality. Secondly, Trump is appearing to target staff members who speak ill of Russia. Shortly before his firing, then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson harshly criticized the Russian government over a suspected assassination attempt of a British spy. Several other ties to the Kremlin and the Republican Party’s recent adoption of a pro-Putin stance raise high concerns that Vladimir Putin is heavily influencing American democracy. If White House staffers who speak out against Russia are quickly ousted, the ones that remain are likely to have strong connections to Russia. The current situation endangers the survival of American democracy, which is compromised when outside countries have an effect on election processes and executive decision-making. Lastly, the high rate of turnover signals an inability to form a clear stance on any issue, or truly push any agenda. Current appointments are filled with politically-inexperienced people, and new appointments are subject to even less qualified candidates. Trump is not interested in finding the right person to advise on complex policy issues, but rather is interested in being validated in his own beliefs without backlash. The high turnover rate in Trump’s first year is unprecedented. The iconic campaign chant “drain the swamp!” has been taken quite literally, time and time again (though the backgrounds of the people in office don’t fit Trump’s “drain the swamp” mantra). The volatility of this administration has worrisome implications for the very foundation of the government, but unfortunately there is no end in sight. Lindsay Poss is a second-year student in the Public Policy and Management (PPM) program at Heinz. Before graduate school, she completed a Bachelors of Science in Decisions Science also at Carnegie Mellon University. She represented CMU as part of the Women’s Basketball team, and has a continuing passion for basketball which she pursues as the head coach of the Men’s Club Basketball team at CMU. After graduate school, Lindsay hopes to pursue a career in International Relations, specifically working in U.S.-Russian diplomacy.]]>
About the author
The Heinz Journal is a student-run publication of the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, dedicated to publishing works that link critical and theoretical analysis with policy implementation.