President Trump's high staff turnover rate was already record-breaking months ago, as the White House hemorrhaged high-ranking officials one after another after another. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson became the latest official to fall, fired by Trump essentially over Twitter.
A full 37 Trump-appointed staffers have resigned, been fired, or been reassigned, since Trump took office — a higher rate than the five most recent presidents. Analysis from the Brookings Institute found that, as of last week, Trump's White House has endured a 43 percent turnover rate. The list of departed staffers is long, and even longer with the inclusion of pre-Trump staffers, like former FBI Director James Comey and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. Starting with Michael Flynn, through the end of the Stephen Bannon era, all the way through Gary Cohn's departure just last week, the list of the dozens of now-former staffers is staggering:
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 13, 2018
Among top "decision-making" staffers, Trump's turnover rate is double former President Ronald Reagan's, the Brookings Institute found, and more than triple that of former President Barack Obama.
The White House has sought to downplay the constant churn of staffers. "This is an intense place," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders last week. "It's not abnormal that you would have people come and go." Summer Meza
The Metropolitan Opera in New York fired James Levine on Monday, after an investigation into the conductor's behavior found evidence of sexual misconduct and harassment.
A preeminent conductor, Levine, 74, made his debut at the Met in 1971, and went on to conduct 2,552 performances. He became artistic director in 1976, but stepped down two years ago due to Parkinson's disease, taking on a new role as the head of the young artists program. Levine was suspended in early December when several New York newspapers printed allegations of sexual misconduct against him, some going back to the 1960s.
The firm Proskauer Rose was hired to head the investigation, and the Met said that after interviewing more than 70 people, investigators "uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct toward vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers, over whom Mr. Levine had authority. In light of these findings, the Met concludes that it would be inappropriate and impossible for Mr. Levine to continue to work at the Met." He has not been charged with any crime. Levine's representative did not respond to The Associated Press' request for comment. Catherine Garcia
Who is next on President Trump's chopping block? White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer? Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Chief of Staff Reince Priebus or chief strategist Steven Bannon? Despite all the rumors — and there are a lot of rumors — it's just as likely no one is, New York reports. Trump just compulsively loves talking about firing people, even if he has no actual plans or desires to fire anyone.
"Donald Trump — think about how he talks," one senior White House official explained. "How do you think Mike Pence is doing as vice president? Is Mike Pence doing a good job? Let me ask you this: Did I make the right call on Pence?"
The official added: "[Trump] asks it in front of me, with people there! Literally, we will be sitting there having dinner, and he'll just say, 'How's he doing? Is he getting killed?' The first couple of times, you're like, 'What the f---?' But you get used to it. That's just how he talks."
Officials stressed that while Trump likes to act as if he is a tough boss, the president actually strongly dislikes firing people. "[Trump is] a conflict-avoider," an administration official explained. "He hates firing people. He knows he's gotta fire every one of them — but he can't bring himself to do it. He's a Gemini. Do you know what a Gemini is? Those are two people in one body. There's always two faces with Trump."
President Trump was feeling especially jovial Friday afternoon as the weekend approached, even going so far as to "[pantomime] killing off his veterans affairs secretary should he fail to successfully implement new reforms" during a ceremony in the East Room, The Washington Post writes.
Trump said he had "no doubt" Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin would "properly" implement the Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which Trump signed Friday. But just to be sure he asked, "Right, David?" Shulkin naturally responded in the affirmative.
Smiling, Trump responded, "Better be, David, or …" He then made a pistol with his right hand, aimed it at Shulkin, and mouthed his signature words: "You're fired!"
The audience of administration officials, lawmakers, and veterans and their families laughed at the president's joke.
"We'll never have to use those words," Trump said. "We'll never have to use those words on our David." [The Washington Post]
Trump's jokes about firing staffers are not an unusual occurrence, a self-aware nod to his reality TV days. Unfortunately, his real-life firings have gotten him into some hot water on more than one occasion. Jeva Lange
White House residence staff learned upon arriving for work Friday morning that Angella Reid, the chief usher, had been fired, The Washington Post reports. Citing someone with knowledge of the dismissal, the Post says employees were told Reid had been relieved of her duties. Reid was the first woman and second African-American to serve in the position.
The White House chief usher is the de facto general manager of the building, "handling everything from the large staff ... to fiscal, administrative, and personal duties," the Post writes. Reid assumed the role in 2011 under former President Barack Obama, replacing Stephen Rochon, who was the first African-American chief usher. Chief ushers typically serve for many years; the Post notes there have been only nine people in the position since the beginning of the 20th century.
A White House official confirmed to the Post that the administration had parted ways with Reid. "We are very grateful for her service and wish her the very best," the unnamed official said. Kimberly Alters
Only two possible Supreme Court nominees remain. Who will be eliminated tonight?
You'll have to tune into President Donald Trump's America to find out. President Trump is seemingly borrowing a page from his reality TV show days for the unveiling of his Supreme Court nominee, CNN reports. Trump invited both his finalists, Neil Gorsuch and Thomas Hardiman, to D.C. for the
rose ceremony announcement Tuesday evening.
Sweet lord. @Arianedevogue reports both Gorsuch and Hardiman being brought to DC to build suspense
— Robert Barnes (@scotusreporter) January 31, 2017
It isn't clear if the
contestants federal appeals court judges even know who the winner nominee will be. "One source said that Gorsuch was told it was likely him. Those close to the process warn that until it is announced, Trump could change his mind," CNN reports.
The other judge will then presumably have to leave the island and return home. Jeva Lange
Donald Trump isn't shy about promoting his brand on the campaign trail, having used the first presidential debate to tout his brand new luxury hotel in Washington, D.C. But by all appearances, Trump's campaign isn't doing much to help business — in fact, big-spenders in D.C. are apparently going out of their way to avoid the Trump International:
Last weekend bankers and dignitaries from around the world descended on Washington for the annual World Bank–IMF meetings. But just a few days before the conference, rooms were not only still available at Trump International, they were heavily discounted. On October 2, a deluxe room, with a rack rate of $805, could be had for as low $445 a night on Hotels.com. All other five-star D.C. downtown hotels were sold out. By Wednesday, October 5, weekend stays in the deluxe rooms were marked down to $404 per night on Trump International's own website. The more luxurious 500-square-foot executive rooms, with a city view and marble bath, were only $484. By comparison, at the Waldorf-Astoria in Georgetown, the only available rooms were $1,139 per night, according to Hotels.com.
For a five-star hotel in downtown Washington to have vacancies during major IMF meetings is a little like having empty rooms when the Super Bowl is in town. "The reason why there were vacancies is the political atmosphere. People don't want to go there for fear that they would be asked, 'Why are you staying here?'" says Ada Pena, a travel agent with ABA Travel in Washington, D.C. [New York]
"You don't see taxis stopping by like they do at the Marriott or the Willard, which are nearby,” added Pena. "It's dark. There is no feeling of hospitality." But the trouble at Trump International began long before its doors ever opened; read more about its struggles on Pennsylvania Avenue at New York. Jeva Lange
Warren Buffett, under audit, releases personal tax information to make things awkward for Donald Trump
When asked at Sunday night's presidential debate if he used his $916 million loss to avoid paying federal income taxes, Donald Trump replied simply "of course." But he didn't let Hillary Clinton off the hook either, claiming "and so do all of her donors, or most of her donors. I know many of her donors."
Billionaire Warren Buffett wasn't so sure about that. Trump "has not seen my income tax returns," Buffett, a Clinton supporter, wrote in a statement he published Monday. "But I am happy to give him the facts." Those facts could be a little awkward for Trump:
My 2015 return shows adjusted gross income of $11,563,931. My deductions totaled $5,477,694, of which allowable charitable contributions were $3,469,179. All but $36,037 of the remainder was for state income taxes.
The total charitable contributions I made during the year were $2,858,057,970, of which more than $2.85 billion were not taken as deductions and never will be. Tax law properly limits charitable deductions.
My federal income tax for the year was $1,845,557. Returns for previous years are of a similar nature in respect to contributions, deductions, and tax rates.
I have paid federal income tax every year since 1944, when I was 13. (Though, being a slow starter, I owed only $7 in tax that year.) I have copies of all 72 of my returns and none uses a carryforward.
Finally, I have been audited by the IRS multiple times and am currently being audited. I have no problem releasing my tax information while under audit. Neither would Mr. Trump — at least he would have no legal problem. [Warren Buffett via Bloomberg]