When candidate Donald Trump traveled across the country to make the case for his presidency to the American people, he promised time and time again that he would find the ”best and most serious people” to come into his administration. He was going to drain the swamp of Washington and bring in the “top, top people.”
It was, after all, the skill that most of the country knew him for on “The Apprentice.” Trump boasted of his unique ability to spot talent and surround himself with those stars. He could do it in business, and he’d do it in government.
But many members of the team Trump assembled have shown few of those qualities, and the president has not been the manager he advertised himself as. In just eight months in office, the president has had to part ways with a shockingly high number of top officials because of misdeeds, controversy and infighting. It’s led to an administration without a significant legislative accomplishment under its belt.
On Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned after revelations that he flew on private and military jets that unnecessarily cost taxpayers more than $1 million. The scandal was particularly ironic for Price given that he had branded himself as a fiscal conservative during his days in Congress.
Price is just the latest Trump pick to flop.
Michael Flynn was the first casualty. The retired lieutenant general resigned as national security adviser less than a month into the administration after it was revealed he discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador prior to Trump’s inauguration and then lied about doing so. Later, it was revealed the White House knew Flynn was under federal investigation for undisclosed foreign lobbying but gave him the national security job anyway, casting doubt on Trump’s boasts about selecting only the “best people.”
Less than three months later, Trump forced out FBI Director James Comey in part because of his agency’s investigation into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia. In firing Comey, Trump inadvertently set off a series of events that led to the appointment of a special counsel to lead the Russia probe, again underscoring the shortcomings of his management skills.
Trump’s communications shop has been an epicenter of tumult, making headlines more often than Trump’s legislative agenda did. The first shakeup came in May. Communications director Mike Dubke resigned after just a few months on the job. While details about Dubke’s decision to leave remain scant, its timing so soon after Comey’s ouster suggested the fallout from that may have been a factor.
Next to depart was press secretary Sean Spicer, who became a national punchline after starting off his tenure by lying to reporters about Trump’s inauguration crowd size and continuing to present misleading statements throughout the remainder of his time in the press office. After six months of gaffes and little support from the president himself, Spicer finally called it quits once outspoken Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci was selected to run the communications office.
Scaramucci, of course, turned out to be the most short-lived pick of all, lasting a mere 10 days on the job. His short reign over the press office will be best remembered for his profanity-laced tirade to a New Yorker reporter.
Meanwhile, details of the infighting between Trump’s most senior advisers regularly made headlines in publications like Politico and the New York Times. Two of the figures most involved in those fights — chief of staff Reince Priebus and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon — both resigned within one month of each other. Priebus, representative of the GOP establishment, and Bannon, a principal figure in the nationalistic “alt-right” movement, reportedly clashed for months over control at the White House, leading to countless embarrassing leaks to the press and contributing to the image of an administration in chaos.
In February, Trump insisted that his administration was running like a ”fine-tuned machine.” But after seven months of almost constant upheaval and internal chaos, it’s hard to square that rosy assessment with reality.