Here's why Donald Trump is facing a White House exodus

Everyone from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn reportedly wants out

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published October 10, 2017 8:06AM (EDT)

 (Getty/Brendan Smialowski)
(Getty/Brendan Smialowski)

President Donald Trump's own White House staff is rapidly losing confidence in him.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson views his status as a faithful servant of the president as untenable, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn wants out after passing tax reform and Chief of Staff John Kelly is increasingly frustrated by his boss's loose cannon behavior, according to Axios. This is part of a larger trend that has seen nearly a score of high-ranking White House staffers leave his since Trump took office, whether due to scandal (Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn), being fired (Steve Bannon as chief strategist) or resigning (Press Secretary Sean Spicer).

A recent profile of the president by Forbes Magazine sheds light on the type of mindset that may be causing the president's staffers to flee.

"I think it's fake news, but if he did that, I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win," Trump told Forbes when asked about a report that Tillerson had referred to the president as a "moron."

When later asked by Forbes if he was worried that publicly undercutting his own Secretary of State on North Korea would make it difficult for him to do his job, Trump replied, "I'm not undermining. I think I'm actually strengthening authority."

It isn't merely Trump's fraught relationships with his own staff that are causing him political problems. His ongoing feud with Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has also harmed his standing among Senate Republicans who generally like Corker more than they do the president, according to The Washington Post.

The Post goes into further detail:

In a matter of days, Trump has torched bridges all around him, nearly imploded an informal deal with Democrats to protect young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, and plunged himself into the culture wars on issues ranging from birth control to the national anthem.

One way that staffers have tried to control the president is to simply take his mind off of potentially disastrous decisions he has made or encourage outsiders he respects to call in and offer sounder counsel, according to Politico. When he was chief of staff, Reince Priebus told staffers that telling Trump to return to a position "next week" was usually a better idea than flat-out telling him no. The delaying approach has also been used on matters like NAFTA or Chinese steel tariffs.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Donald Trump Jeff Sessions Reince Priebus Rex Tillerson