President Trump's brief tenure in office has been marked by a record-setting rate of Cabinet dismissals and other high-profile staff resignations. Defense Secretary James Mattis has hung on longer than many, but a Monday NBC News report citing unnamed current and former administration officials says he is increasingly marginalized by the president.
Last month, for example, Mattis learned second-hand that Trump had decided to exit the Iran nuclear deal, and NBC reports he had to rush to get in touch with Trump to discuss the news before it was made public. Likewise, Trump told Mattis about his plan to suspend Korean "war games" after he'd promised the change to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and Trump "blindsided and overruled his defense secretary by publicly directing the Pentagon to create a sixth military branch overseeing operations in space."
Mattis and Trump "don't really see eye to eye," one source told NBC, while another said the defense secretary, though garnering Trump's respect, has "never been one of the go-tos in the gang that's very close to the president." On foreign policy questions, Trump is more likely to seek the advice of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or National Security Adviser John Bolton, both of whom take a more hawkish approach. Bonnie Kristian
Former Secretary of Homeland Security and current White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is reportedly under consideration for his third Cabinet post in less than two years. With White House physician Ronny Jackson's decision to withdraw from consideration to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, The Wall Street Journal reports that President Trump is considering Kelly as one of several candidates for the job.
"There have been discussions among the senior staff and the president directly about the possibility of Gen. Kelly going [to the VA]," an unnamed source "familiar with the matter" told the Journal. Other contenders reportedly include Anthony Tersigni, head of nonprofit health-care giant Ascension, and former Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), who chaired the House Veterans Affairs Committee and advised Trump about veterans issues on the campaign trail.
While Kelly's military background and strong organizational skills might make him a reasonable choice, the timing of this news seems suspect: On Monday, NBC News reported the chief of staff called Trump an "idiot" in private. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly called Trump a "moron" and, well, he is no longer part of the Trump administration. Bonnie Kristian
Emails appear to indicate Ben Carson and his wife personally 'picked out' that controversial $31,000 dining set
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson claimed he was "as surprised as anyone" to find out his office had ordered a $31,000 dining set, although emails released following a Freedom of Information Act request by liberal watchdog American Oversight appear to show Carson and his wife personally selected the furniture, CNN reports. An email from a career staffer with the subject line "Secretary's dining room set needed," sent in August to Carson's assistant, references "printouts of the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out."
A HUD spokesman previously blamed an anonymous staffer for the purchase after reports about the $31,000 table, hutch, and 10 chairs made headlines. "The secretary did not order a new table," the spokesman said. "The table was ordered by the career staffers in charge of the building." Carson subsequently canceled the order.
When HUD spokesman Raffi Williams was asked about the emails Tuesday, he said: "When presented with options by professional staff, Mrs. Carson participated in the selection of specific styles." Emails between a scheduler and Carson's wife, Candy Carson, clearly discuss redecorating as well as a deadline to use money allocated for that fiscal year. Ben Carson previously told CNN there was "a $25,000 budget that had to be used by a certain time or it would be lost" and the dining room set's quote was for $24,666 in the emails before the final bill.
"Below is the price quote for all of the dining room furniture. I think this is a very reasonable price and the funds are available," wrote one career administration staffer in an email to Carson's chief of staff and his executive assistant. The staffer added: "We also have a justification for the cost (as you know, the furniture hasn't been changed since 1988) so this should not be a problem." Jeva Lange
The latest high-profile departure from the Trump administration is deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka, who was ousted from his post Friday night.
In a resignation letter first reported at The Federalist, Gorka wrote that "given recent events, it is clear to me that forces that do not support the [Make America Great Again] promise are — for now — ascendant within the White House." Gorka specifically critiqued Trump's Monday night Afghanistan speech, asking why the remarks did not name "radical Islamic terrorism" or specify a strategic goal after 16 years of war. The administration promptly issued a response to the letter indicating Gorka "did not resign" but rather was fired.
Gorka was an ally of ousted chief strategist Stephen Bannon in the "economic nationalist" wing of the Trump White House. He recently came under criticism for saying shortly before the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that the media is misguided in focusing on the problem of white supremacy. "Go to the Middle East, and tell me what the real problem is today," Gorka said. "Go to Manchester." Bonnie Kristian