As President Trump’s woes heat up, both in terms of policy and in terms of politics, he’s remaking the face of his administration. And it seems that the first people to go are those who have been insufficiently attentive to his personal needs, those who have sought to weaponize Trump’s popularity and magnetism for their own political agenda. He’s replacing them with sycophants and hangers-on, most of them left-leaning, all of them pathologically incapable of telling the president the truth about his decisionmaking.
Management starts at the top. In the Trump administration, it finishes there, too.
Take, for example, Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions was one of Trump’s first boosters, a sitting Senator with a commitment to a crackdown on illegal immigration; Sessions’ top aide, Stephen Miller, would become Trump’s go-to guy on immigration policy. But this week, Trump stated that he never would have selected Sessions at all if he had known that Sessions would recuse himself on the Russia investigation. Never mind that the only reason that a special counsel exists is that Trump couldn’t keep his mouth shut to Lester Holt on national television about why he fired FBI director James Comey. No, Sessions is the problem. He didn’t serve Trump properly.
Or take, as another example, Sean Spicer. Spicer put his reputation on the line over and over again for Trump. He conducted a series of press conferences so humiliatingly ridiculous that Saturday Night Live’s Melissa McCarthy became nationally known for mimicking them. He attacked the press with forced brio, and his awkward gusto destroyed his credibility. Now, Trump is throwing him out in favor of Anthony Scaramucci, a gun control-supporting, global warming-backing, Obama-donating New Yorker with a Wall Street insider background. But Scaramucci stood up for Trump on television and ripped CNN a new one, forcing them to retract a story.
Or how about Steve Bannon? Bannon turned Breitbart into a house organ for the Trump campaign; he offered to fill in the gaps in Trump’s philosophy with his own nationalist populist philosophy. Now he’s been marginalized in favor of Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, both of whom care little about Trump’s campaign promises to the Breitbart crowd.
And then there’s poor Reince Priebus, the naïve waif who thought he could knit together Trump with House Speaker Paul Ryan. Instead, Priebus has been tossed under the bus so many times that his back actually has ingrained tire treads. The rumors are starting up again that he’ll be ousted, all for the sin of attempting to get Congress to work with Trump. The man rumored to take his place is Gary Cohn, a lifelong Democrat Wall Street insider from Goldman Sachs.
So, here’s where we are: the policy insiders who were originally slated to guide Trump have largely been marginalized. That's not shocking, given that the Trump administration has virtually banned anyone who criticized Trump during the election cycle (and humiliated them for good measure — see Romney, Mitt). The loudest voices inside the White House are now family members and career Democrats with Wall Street backgrounds. But at least Trump feels more comfortable on a daily basis. There won’t be anyone to tell him he’s wrong or check his worst impulses; it's difficult to imagine which of these people will tell him he can't can special counsel Robert Mueller, for example, especially given his history of dumping anyone who crosses him. Trump may even be tempted to earn praise by moving left. Trump was never going to consent to becoming a mere vehicle for the agendas of others. He’s going to run this White House his way. And that way looks much more like the Trump Organization than like the Reagan administration.