After the firings of Rex Tillerson, Steve Goldstein, and John McEntee, get ready for more wheels to come off of this White House.
House Republicans might be doing their best to provide political cover for Trump by waving off the burgeoning Russia scandal. But the controversy continues to take its toll. And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was only the first to be felled by it.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation continues to loom larger. And the the day-to-day workings of the White House now seem to regularly careen out of control.
Tuesday morning was a perfect example of an administration that seems gripped by panic.
Indeed, what’s more extraordinary: Firing your secretary of state via Twitter, then firing his deputy because he went off script about the firing, or also firing the president’s senior longtime aide because of reported criminal activity in his past?
The answer: Doing all three of those things before noon on Tuesday. And that is exactly what the Trump White House did, in a truly manic display of hallmark dysfunction.
Worse, the chronic disorder comes amid reports that this could be only the beginning of widespread personnel changes. And that’s notable for a White House that has been defined by the huge number of people who have already left.
.@costareports: I'm hearing the POTUS is looking at this moment as a return to Trump being Trump…he wants to surround himself with people who understand his campaign mentality. A turning point was that weekend rally in Pennsylvania. He doesn't want constraints. #AMR
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) March 13, 2018
The notion that Trump felt constrained over the last year is astonishing. And it raises grave questions about the quality of his future advisers if their main task is to let Trump be as impetuous as he wants.
Tuesday’s public unraveling began around 9 a.m. when he tweeted the news about Tillerson’s firing. The move came after Tillerson loudly criticized Russia, which seems to be verboten for Trump team players. Time and again, Tillerson has tried to venture out and express concerns about Russian interference, while Trump loudly rails that Mueller’s probe is a hoax.
One message Trump clearly sent his cabinet on Tuesday: Don’t cross me on Russia.
Firing cabinet members via Twitter is a classless move. That point was reiterated when Tillerson’s top aide, Under Secretary Steve Goldstein, issued a pointed statement. He confirmed Tillerson’s firing, but also stressed Trump never informed Tillerson of the reason for it. Nor did Trump even speak to Tillerson personally before dismissing him.
The statement stressed that Tillerson had “every intention of staying” before his firing.
Following the release, Goldstein himself was promptly fired for contradicting the administration’s account of Tillerson’s dismissal.
In truth, the storyline about Tillerson’s dismissal has been all over the map. According to one press account, Tillerson was given a heads-up last Friday about it and spent the weekend trying to save his job.
Meanwhile, security abruptly escorted John McEntee, a longtime Trump aide, off the White House grounds. He’s “currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes,” CNN reported.
That rather stunning development came after the White House spent much of February trying to explain why an accused wife-beater had been employed in a senior position despite the fact he was unable to obtain proper security clearance.
The good news for McEntee is that he was immediately given a cushy job with Trump’s re-election campaign.
Tillerson and Goldstein weren’t so lucky. And the panicked dysfunction that defines this administration seems only to be growing by the day.