The Trump administration has long established its penchant for kicking senior officials out as quickly as new ones come on board to the point of setting a record for senior staff turnover in its first year. The day after the midterm elections concluded last week, President Donald Trump pressured Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign — and now, chief of staff John Kelly (along with Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen) may be next. POLITICO has now shared the identity of an official taken as a top contender to replace Kelly by White House insiders — Nick Ayers, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence.
According to the outlet’s report, Trump has been getting more fond of Ayers for awhile. His name first came up as a potential Kelly replacement this past summer before the chief of staff insisted he’d stay on through 2020, but in the time since, Ayers has continued to make his mark through means including Pence’s midterm elections campaigning strategy. On election night last week, he “was seen huddled with the president” himself, according to POLITICO, while Kelly avoided the Trumps. Trump and Ayers discussed the White House chief of staff job, according to an anonymous source briefed on the interactions.
Outside of that instance, Ayers has built further relationships with the Trumps, a factor that has emerged prominently in presidential decision-making, including over staffing, in the past. Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner, and former Trump campaign chairman Steve Bannon all pushed Ayers to join the administration in the first place after a successful stint as a Pence aide during the 2016 campaign season. According to POLITICO, he’s also seen favorably by Donald Trump Jr. and the other individuals outside the formal administration, like former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who stay close with the president.
Taking the bulk of the situation into account, a pair of unnamed White House officials “who were skeptical this summer of Ayers’ chances of becoming chief of staff both said this week that they think Trump is now serious about wanting to tap him.”
If the move happens — with the president taking on a third chief of staff in as many years — it would represent the further politicization of Trump’s top officials. Kelly is ideologically aligned with plenty of the president and GOP’s platforms, sure, but he’s sought, according to reports, to impose an order on the West Wing that Trump simply hasn’t gone along with.
Just last week, after pushing Sessions out, Trump placed another political appointee in a high ranking position. He replaced Sessions with Matthew Whitaker, an inexperienced official with a questionable business and legal background who’s come out strongly against the Mueller investigation.
As acting attorney general, he joined officials like national security adviser John Bolton, the political war hawk who he replaced retired Gen. H.R. McMaster with.
The moves fit into a broader pattern of Donald Trump seeking to subject the office of the presidency and the U.S. government as a whole to his personal wishes.
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