Departures
April 19, 2021

Michael Ellis, a former Republican operative tapped as general counsel at the National Security Agency in the final months of the Trump administration, resigned Friday after spending three months on administrative leave.

Former President Donald Trump's acting defense secretary had ordered NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone to accept Ellis' appointment as general counsel, and Nakasone agreed days before Trump left office, The Washington Post reported. The day Trump left the White House and Ellis was scheduled to start his new job, Nakasone placed him on administrative leave, citing a Pentagon inspector general investigation and inquiry into how Ellis handled classified information. The inspector general's investigation is still open, Nakasone told a House committee last Thursday.

"I have been on administrative leave for nearly three months without any explanation or updates, and there is no sign that NSA will attempt to resolve the issue," Ellis said in his resignation letter to Nakasone on Friday, the Post reports. "I therefore resign my position, effective immediately."

Ellis was general counsel to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) before he joined the Trump White House in early 2017 as a National Security Council lawyer. His appointment to the NSA "raised concerns among Democrats and national security experts that it was an attempt by the Trump administration to install a loyalist in a sensitive and senior position — one with visibility into the activities of other U.S. spy agencies," the Post reports. The NSA general counsel job doesn't require Senate confirmation. Peter Weber

October 4, 2019

Energy Secretary Rick Perry will step down by the end of the year, The Washington Post and Politico reported Thursday night, citing at least four people briefed on his plans. Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, who has been sitting in for Perry at Cabinet meetings in recent months, is expected to replace him, Politico reports, though it isn't clear Trump will formally nominate Brouillette or anyone else before the 2020 election. Perry's chief of staff and other top aides have left the Energy Department in recent weeks, a source told Politico.

Perry, a former Texas governor and two-time Republican presidential candidate, has kept an unusually low profile for a member of Trump's Cabinet, and he has avoided scandals that have tarred or forced out several other Cabinet secretaries. He recently got embroiled in the Ukraine scandal, though there is no indication he played any role in the effort to press Kyiv to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. Earlier Thursday, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) dinged Perry for recently launching an artificial intelligence office at the Energy Department that could potentially benefit his wife, Anita.

A Trump administration ally told the Post that Perry, 69, would like to earn a private-sector paycheck "before hanging up his spurs." Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes did not deny that Perry is preparing to resign, insisting without evidence that "the Beltway media has breathlessly reported on rumors of Secretary Perry's departure for months," but "today is not that day." Peter Weber

June 19, 2018

The deputy chief of staff for operations at the White House will step down next month after serving under four Republican administrations as a top aide, CNN reported Tuesday.

Officials announced the departure of Joe Hagin, who took the reins in planning the logistics of the summit between President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un that took place earlier this month, on Tuesday, explaining that he plans to work in the private sector. In a statement, Trump said he would "miss him in the office and even more on the road. I am thankful for his remarkable service to our great country."

Hagin worked as an aide under former Presidents George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, reports Reuters. He is one of the highest-ranking members of the White House staff. Hagin's departure is the latest in a Trump White House with a record-breaking turnover rate.

Hagin reportedly wanted to resign several months ago, but was persuaded to stay aboard by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Commenting on his departure, Kelly praised Hagin's "selfless devotion to this nation and the institution of the presidency." Summer Meza

May 4, 2018

Sam Clovis, the former Trump campaign national co-chairman who withdrew his nomination to be the U.S. Department of Agriculture's top scientist last fall after he became embroiled in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, is leaving the USDA, effective Friday. Clovis had been serving most recently as the USDA's White House liaison, and his going-away party was Thursday night, Politico reports.

Before President Trump nominated Clovis to be the USDA's undersecretary for research, education, and economics, despite an acknowledged lack of science background, he had led the Trump transition team's USDA group. On the campaign, Clovis had supervised George Papadopoulos, the policy adviser whose loose lips sparked the Russia investigation; Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the FBI about his communications with Russian officials. Clovis "is a good man and a patriot who for decades has served his country admirably," a USDA spokesman said. "We wish him well on his future endeavors back home in Iowa." Peter Weber

March 1, 2018

Roberta Jacobson is resigning as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, she announced in a letter to embassy staff Thursday. Jacobson, a career diplomat, will leave her post May 5, The Associated Press reports.

Jacobson has served as the U.S.'s chief liaison with Mexico for two years, but is leaving the position amid new strains in the countries' relationship under President Trump. "Her departure will be deeply felt by both American and Mexican officials — she was one of the most experienced Latin America experts in the State Department," The New York Times writes. Jacobson has been with the State Department for more than 30 years.

The Trump administration reportedly has already chosen its nominee to replace Jacobson, an unnamed U.S. official told the Times, but the name has not been released publicly. Kimberly Alters

January 19, 2018

On Thursday, Carl Higbie resigned as head of external affairs for the federal government's volunteer services organization after CNN's Andrew Kaczynski dug up comments he had made on the radio disparaging black people, women, Muslims, gay people, veterans with PTSD, and other groups. President Trump appointed Higbie, a Trump campaign surrogate and spokesman for his Great America PAC, in 2017 to be the public face of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which oversees programs like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps.

Many of the comments were from Higbie's time as host of the internet radio show "Sound of Freedom." In one December 2013 episode, for example, Higbie said "the black race" has "a lax of morality," and black women "think that breeding is a form of employment." You can read and listen to more of his comments at CNN. "Effective immediately, Carl Higbie has resigned as chief of external affairs at CNCS," agency spokeswoman Samantha Jo Warfield said in a statement. The White House did not respond to CNN's request for comment. Peter Weber

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