President Donald Trump announced Saturday that his Chief of Staff, John Kelly, would leave the White House before the end of the year.
The President did not indicate who would take his place. Nick Ayers, the young White House operative who served as Chief of Staff to Vice President Mike Pence, was widely seen as Kelly’s likely replacement. But over the weekend the New York Times reported that Ayers had declined the post.
The cabinet shake-up comes at a time of growing turmoil for the Trump administration, as the Russia probe and a second investigation into campaign finance violations look likely to implicate the President and members of his inner circle in serious wrongdoing during the 2016 election.
In an article published Monday, Politico chronicled how the Trump White House transformed the job of Chief of Staff from dream appointment to a position no one qualified seems to want.
“For decades, the job of White House chief of staff was among Washington’s most desirable jobs — a pinnacle of access and power,” they write. “Like so many other things in the White House, that has been changed by President Donald Trump.”
Both John Kelly and Reince Priebus are arguably worse off now than before taking on the job of imposing order and discipline on Trump’s chaotic administration.
“Priebus was marginalized and mocked before he was abandoned on an airport tarmac,” Politico points out. “Kelly was subjected to analyses of his facial expressions during awkward moments, repeatedly threatened to quit, and wasn’t even allowed to announce his own resignation despite a reported agreement with Trump that he could do so.”
Beyond the standard disorder that’s to be expected in Trump’s administration, there are upcoming troubles that would make the job of chief of staff even tougher.
Chris Whipple, a historian who’s written about White House chiefs of staff, likened the scenario to Richard Nixon’s final days in office.
“This White House is headed into a world of trouble — a Democratic Congress, Mueller closing in, and anybody who comes into this White House has to be thinking about lawyering up. Worst case scenario you could become H.R. Haldeman,” Whipple told Politico. Haldeman spent more than a year and a half in prison.
It’s not clear if President Trump had a second choice, but some insiders have pointed to Matthew Whitaker, the acting Attorney General.