Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will be leaving by the end of the year, US President Donald Trump announced Saturday. That will make him the latest top official to exit the US leader’s circle of close advisers.
Dozens of White House aides — from attorney general Jeff Sessions to press secretary Sean Spicer to chief of staff Reince Priebus — have either left or been sacked from their posts since Trump took office on January 20, 2017.
Here is a sampling of senior departures:
– Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke –
Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and ex-member of the House of Representatives, was one of the main executors of Trump’s efforts to reduce environmental protections in the United States.
He managed to hold onto his post for some two years despite a series of scandals over expenditures, including reports that his department was spending nearly $139,000 to upgrade three sets of double doors in his office — a cost he later said he negotiated down to $75,000.
Zinke has also faced criticism over costly US Park Police helicopter flights last year that allowed him to return to Washington for a horseback ride with Vice President Mike Pence, and several other flights on non-commercial aircraft.
– Chief of staff John Kelly –
Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, has been credited with helping restore a degree of order to the often-chaotic Trump White House.
But in the process he clashed with members of the Trump clan, and at times infuriated Democrats with his blunt comments.
Trump, who once said he wanted his aide to stay with him until the presidential election year of 2020, had made it clear of late that the relationship had chilled.
“At some point he’s going to want to move on,” the president said in mid-November.
Indeed, Kelly, 68, made it known he did not always love the job — one of the most vital in any White House, quipping, “God punished me, I guess.”
– Attorney General Jeff Sessions –
Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama, was the first member of the Senate to back Trump’s insurgent bid in 2015 for the Republican presidential nomination.
After winning the presidency, Trump rewarded Sessions by naming him to head the Department of Justice.
But relations between the two quickly soured after Sessions recused himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia to get him elected.
Trump personally attacked Sessions on several occasions for failing to protect him from the Mueller probe.
“I don’t have an attorney general,” Trump told Hill.TV in an interview in September. “It’s very sad.”
– UN Ambassador Nikki Haley –
Haley, who announced in October that she would leave the administration at the end of 2018, was a shining star of the administration from the start.
Thrust onto the international stage, she quickly became an astute advocate for Trump’s foreign policy, using forceful language against North Korea, Syria and Iran.
The former South Carolina governor was also unafraid to speak her mind, often in fairly undiplomatic language, and built a reputation for standing up to Trump when she felt it was warranted.
Her aggressive criticism of Russia won plaudits, even as she stepped beyond the position held by the White House.
Her resignation announcement last month sparked speculation about her political future, though she denied any plans to challenge Trump in 2020, saying she would remain loyal to the president.
– Environment chief Scott Pruitt –
Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt’s tenure was beset by scandal, and Trump pushed him out in July.
A former Oklahoma attorney general with ties to fossil fuel industries, Pruitt was accused of using his position to enrich his family’s lifestyle in violation of federal law.
– Secretary of State Rex Tillerson –
Rex Tillerson was fired by Trump in March, ending a rocky tenure for the former Exxon chief executive as the nation’s top diplomat.
Tillerson was frequently at odds with the mercurial president. They notably disagreed on the Iran nuclear deal, from which Trump withdrew in May.
During his brief stay at Foggy Bottom, Tillerson frequently found himself out of the loop and caught unawares by policy shifts announced in Trump tweets.
In one of his first public criticisms of the president since stepping down, Tillerson told a gathering in Texas earlier this month that Trump was undisciplined, did not like to read briefing papers and sometimes asked him to do things that were illegal.
Trump shot back on Twitter that Tillerson was “dumb as a rock.”
– Chief strategist Steve Bannon –
The architect of Trump’s nationalist-populist campaign and his election victory, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was nicknamed the Prince of Darkness and the Shadow President.
His economic nationalism became the lynchpin of Trump policies, even as many of Bannon’s other ideas were rebuffed by policy rivals.
Bannon’s constant clashes with other advisors became untenable, as did his ties to the extreme right. Bannon left in August 2017.
– National Security Advisors Flynn, McMaster –
Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, was being investigated for his contacts with Russians and eventually pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
He lasted only 22 days as national security advisor.
Flynn’s replacement, HR McMaster, also a lieutenant general, lasted barely a year.
He never really clicked with the president, who bristled at McMaster echoing the US intelligence establishment consensus that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
Here’s the ugly racist history behind tipping — and how it still persists today
On Saturday, writing for Politico, minister and civil rights activist Rev. Dr. William Barber applauded House Democrats' plans to not only raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024, but eliminate the much lower "tipped wage" of $2.13 an hour and require tipped workers to also be paid at least the minimum.
This is important, wrote Barber, because the roots of businesses forcing their workers to rely on tips for a proper wage is deeply rooted in America's history of racial tension.
Black GOP strategist called on the carpet by Joy Reid for trying to sidestep Trump’s racist rally as ’empowering’ voters
An "AM Joy" panel on MSNBC descended into talking over each other as host Joy Reid confronted a black GOP consultant over Donald Trump's racist rally in North Carolina.
Presenting the conservative point of view, Republican strategist Lenny McAllister was asked point-blank by the host, "Lenny, hold on a second, because you as a man of color yourself -- do you feel comfortable in a party that does rallies like that?"
McAllister pushed back saying he had walked away from just those type of events, before admitting, "To the greater point. They're using racism as an avenue through which people feel empowered, they lend you the loyalty, they give you the vote. What Republicans need to do is continue to empower people, but not by using racism and not by using phobia."
Dershowitz and Trump should both be worried what Jeffrey Epstein will reveal when he looks to cut a deal: ex-prosecutor
On Saturday, Georgetown Law professor and former federal prosecutor Paul Butler discussed the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking case with MSNBC's Joy Reid, and the conversation turned to Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz's increasingly furious battle with David Boies, a prominent lawyer representing some of Epstein's alleged victims. Dershowitz has been accused by one of the women of also abusing her at one of Epstein's parties, a claim he categorically denies.
"I've had sex with one woman since the day I met Jeffrey Epstein," said Dershowitz in a Fox News clip Reid played for her viewers. "I challenge David Boies to say under oath that he's only had sex with one woman during that same period of time, he couldn't do it. So he has an enormous amount of chutzpah to attack me and to challenge my perfect, perfect sex life during the relevant period of time."