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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Report

Tracking turnover in the Trump administration

The rate of turnover among senior level advisers to President Trump has generated a great deal of attention. Below, we offer four resources to help measure and contextualize this turnover. The first set of resources tracks turnover among senior-ranking advisers in the executive office of the president (which does not include Cabinet secretaries), whereas the second set of resources tracks turnover in the Cabinet.

Turnover on the president’s “A Team”

President Trump’s “A Team” turnover is 74% as of July 15, 2019

The following chart and table reflect turnover among the most influential positions within the executive office of the president. This data is compiled and tracked by Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, who refers to this group of advisers as the president’s “A Team.” The list of positions that make up the “A Team” is based on National Journal “Decision Makers” editions, and Dunn Tenpas’s methodology is described in detail in a report she published in January 2018. The chart and table below will be updated as additional members of the “A Team” depart their positions. It is important to note the following:

  • Because the “A Team” is made up of members of the executive office of the president, it does not include Cabinet secretaries.
  • The count for Donald Trump’s “Year 3” is ongoing.
  • Each position on the “A Team” is only counted once. If multiple people hold and depart from the same position (e.g., communications director), only the initial departure is tracked/affects the turnover rate.

Summary and analysis of “A Team” turnover in the Trump administration

Set out below is a list of the senior level departures from the executive office of the president since the beginning of the Trump administration (each of the 65 “A Team” positions is only counted once toward the turnover rate, thus, this chart only includes the first person to hold/depart a given position). Highlighted text indicates a position that went through multiple instances of turnover; see below for more details.

Year Position Name Prior Job Nature of departure* Date of departure announcement Where to? Successor
1 Senior Director for Africa, NSC Robin Townley Marines Resigned Under Pressure (RUP) 2/10/2017 Sonoran Policy Group (lobbying and consulting) Cyril Sartor
1 Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary, NSC Keith Kellogg Cubic Defense Promoted 2/13/2017 Acting National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster
1 National Security Adviser Michael Flynn Trump Campaign RUP 2/13/2017 Unknown H.R. McMaster
1 Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh RNC RUP 3/30/2017 America First Policies then RNC (7/21/17) Kirstjen Nielsen
1 Deputy National Security Adviser KT McFarland TV analyst Promoted 5/19/2017 Ambassadorial nomination withdrew/unknown Dina Powell
1 Assistant to the President (AP) and Senior Counselor for Economic Initiatives Dina Powell Goldman Sachs Promoted 5/19/2017 Deputy National Security Adviser Unknown
1 AP and Communications Director Michael Dubke Black Rock Group RUP 5/29/2017 Georgetown University lecturer, Black Rock Group Anthony Scaramucci**
1 Press Secretary Sean Spicer RNC RUP 7/21/2017 Worldwide Speakers Group Sarah Huckabee Sanders
1 Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders Trump Campaign Promoted 7/21/2017 Press Secretary Raj Shah
1 AP and Chief of Staff to the VP Josh Pitcock Capitol Hill Resigned 7/28/2017 Oracle Nick Ayers
1 Chief of Staff Reince Priebus RNC RUP 7/31/2017 Law firm John Kelly
1 AP and Director of Public Liaison George Sifakis Gov’t Relations RUP 7/31/2017 Ideagen Justin Clark
1 Senior Intelligence Director, NSC Ezra Cohen-Watnick U.S. Government (DIA) RUP 8/2/2017 Oracle Mike Barry
1 AP and Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President Steve Bannon Media RUP 8/18/2017 Breitbart News/fired 1/9/18 Unknown
1 Deputy AP and Director of Presidential Advance George Gigicos Consulting RUP 8/22/2017 Consulting Robert L. Peede
1 National Security Adviser for VP Andrea Thompson House Homeland Security Committee (Michael McCaul R-TX) Promoted 9/11/2017 Special Adviser in the Office of Policy Planning, U.S. State Department Lieutenant General (Ret) Keith Kellogg, Jr.
1 AP and Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks Trump Organization Promoted 9/12/2017 Communications Director** Mercedes Schlapp
1 DAP and Deputy Communications Director and Research Director Raj Shah RNC Promoted 9/12/2017 Principal Deputy Press Secretary Unknown
1 Deputy AP and Director of Oval Office Operations Keith Schiller Trump Organization RUP 9/20/2017 Private Security Consulting Jordan Karem
1 Deputy AP and Deputy White House Counsel Greg Katsas Law Firm Resigned 11/28/2017 Federal judge, DC Circuit Uttam Dhillon
1 AP and Director of Communications, Office of Public Liaison Omarosa Manigault Reality Television RUP 12/13/2017 Celebrity Big Brother Unknown
1 Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council and Director of Budget Policy Paul Winfree Heritage Foundation Resigned 12/15/2017 Heritage Foundation Lance Leggitt
 
2 AP and Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn U.S. Senate staff Resigned 12/23/2017 resignation announced, departed 3/13/2018 The Cypress Group Unknown
2 AP and Staff Secretary Rob Porter U.S. Senate Staff RUP 2/7/2018 Unknown Derek Lyons
2 Senior Director of Legislative Affairs, NSC Daniel Greenwood Marines Promoted 2/9/2018 Lateral move to Deputy AP and Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs Paul J. Miller
2 AP and Director of Presidential Personnel John DeStefano U.S. House of Representatives Staff Promoted 2/9/2018 AP and  Counsel to the President overseeing Public Liaison, Personnel and Political Affairs Sean Doocey (DAP)
2 AP for Intergovernmental and Technology Initiatives Reed Cordish Real Estate Resigned 2/16/2018 Partner, Cordish Companies Brooke L. Rollins
2 AP and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn Goldman Sachs Resigned 3/6/2018 Unknown Larry Kudlow
2 CIA Director Mike Pompeo Member, House of Representatives (R-KS) Promoted 3/13/2018 Secretary of State Gina Haspel
2 DAP and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Justin Clark Trump Campaign Promoted 3/13/2018 Director, White House Office of Public Liaison Douglas Hoelscher
2 Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel CIA Promoted 3/13/2018 CIA Director Vaughan Bishop
2 AP and Director for Strategic Initiatives Chris Liddell WME/IMG Promoted 3/19/2018 Deputy Chief of Staff Unknown
2 AP for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Thomas Bossert Atlantic Council RUP 4/10/2018 Unknown Doug Fears
2 DAP and Director of Policy and Interagency Coordination Carlos Diaz-Rosillo Harvard University Promoted 6/19/2018 Senior Deputy Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities Unknown
2 DAP and and Senior Adviser to the Chief of Staff Sean Cairncross RNC Promoted Unknown (nominated for MCC 1/5/18) Millennium Challenge Corp. (if confirmed) Unknown
2 Deputy Director, National Economic Council and International Economic Affairs Everett Eissenstat Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) Resigned 7/15/2018 General Motors Clete Willems
2 AP and White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short Trump Campaign Resigned 7/20/2018 Guidepost Strategies and UVA Shahira Knight
2 DAP and Deputy Chief of Staff to the Vice President Jen Pavlik Office of Governor Pence Resigned August 2018 Keystone Unknown
2 Counsel to the President Donald McGahn Trump Campaign Resigned 10/17/2018 Jones Day Pat Cipollone
2 SAP and Director of Communications Stephanie Grisham Trump Campaign Promoted November 2018 Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Unknown
2 DAP and Director of White House Management, Office of Administration Marcia Lee Kelly RNC Resigned November 2018 Trump Reelection Campaign Monica Block
2 DAP and Political Director Bill Stepien Trump Campaign Resigned 12/7/2018 Trump Reelection Campaign Brian Jack
2 OMB Director Mick Mulvaney Member, House of Representatives (R-SC) Promoted 12/14/2018 Acting Chief of Staff Russell Vought
 
3 AP and Director of Domestic Policy Council Andrew Bremberg RNC Promoted January 2019 U.S. Representative to UN in Geneva (nomination pending) Joe Grogan
3 Administrator, OIRA Neomi Rao George Mason Law School Resigned 3/13/2019 Federal judge, D.C. Circuit Unknown
3 Chair, Council of Economic Advisers Kevin Hassett American Enterprise Institute Resigned 6/2/2019 Unknown Unknown
3 DAP and Cabinet Secretary William McGinley Jones Day Resigned 6/28/2019 (July departure) Unknown Unknown
3 Senior Director for Europe and Russia (NSC) Fiona Hill Brookings Institution Resigned 6/17/2019 (August departure) Unknown Tim Morrison
SUMMARY: 48/65 (74%) “A Team” positions have turned over.
* Author’s note: The departure status was difficult to determine in some cases because media reports were often at odds with an individual’s claim that they were resigning. In the end, the category “resigned under pressure” was created to capture the general sentiment at the time of their departure. Highlighted text indicates a position that went through multiple instances of turnover; see below for more details.
** Author’s note: Anthony Scaramucci was Communications Director for 11 days. He was succeeded by Hope Hicks, who resigned Feb. 28, 2018. On July 5, 2018, Bill Shine was appointed to the White House Communications Director role with a slightly different official title, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications; he subsequently resigned on March 8, 2019. The position remains vacant.
Sources: Multiple news websites, LinkedIn, WhiteHouse.gov, and other government websites.

Serial turnover within the Trump “A Team”

The turnover data above include only the president’s initial team of advisers and when one departs, the position falls out of the sample. One of the limitations of this approach is that it does not consider multiple departures within a single position, a common phenomenon within the Trump team. Set out below are the “A Team” positions that have had more than two occupants.

33% of President Trump’s “A Team” departures have undergone serial turnover as of July 15, 2019

Position Original Replacement 1 Replacement 2 Replacement 3 Replacement 4
Chief of Staff Reince Priebus John Kelly Mick Mulvaney (acting)
Deputy Chief of Staff* Katie Walsh Kirstjen Nielsen Zachary Fuentes Emma Doyle
Chief of Staff to the VP  Josh Pitcock Nick Ayers Marc Short
Communications Director* Michael Dubke Anthony Scaramucci Hope Hicks Bill Shine Stephanie Grisham
Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks Mercedes Schlapp Unknown
Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders Raj Shah Hogan Gidley
Director of Public Liaison George Sifakis Justin Clark Timothy Pataki
Director of Oval Office Operations Keith Schiller Jordan Karem Madeleine Westerhout
Deputy AP and Deputy White House Council** Greg Katsas Uttam Dhillon Michael Purpura
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn HR McMaster John Bolton
Deputy National Security Adviser KT McFarland Dina Powell Nadia Schadlow Mira Ricardel Charles Kupperman
Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary, NSC  Keith Kellogg Frederick Fleitz Joan Virginia O’Hara
Senior Director of Intelligence, NSC  Ezra Cohen Watnick Michael Barry (departed July 2018 after McMaster) Unknown
Deputy Director, National Economic Council and International Economic Affairs Everett Eissenstat Cletus Willems Kelly Ann Shaw
White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short Shahira Knight Eric Ueland
Press Secretary Sean Spicer Sarah Huckabee Sanders Stephanie Grisham
SUMMARY: 16/48 (33%) “A Team” departures have turned over twice or more.
* Author’s note: For the purposes of this study, we count Michael Dubke as the first communications director, since Sean Spicer was serving in a temporary capacity until the Trump administration filled the job with a permanent candidate.
** Author’s note: Notice that there are multiple deputies under the chief of staff and White House counsel. The data reflect an attempt to track just a single deputy position and note the successor. However, there is minimal publicly available information on presidential staffing. It is also the case that a new chief of staff may not have a “first among equals” deputy chief of staff, such that the role may have changed since the original occupant. The same is true for White House Counsel. While Greg Katsas may have been the “first among equals” among the Deputy White House Counsel positions in 2017, the role may have changed under the new White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone.

 

Turnover in the president’s cabinet

The chart and table below are dedicated to tracking turnover in the Cabinet. They will also be updated as additional turnover occurs. Unlike the trackers above dedicated to the president’s “A Team,” these resources look at every departure from the president’s cabinet, even if multiple people have occupied that position.

Notice of updated methodology

The current table of Cabinet-level turnover has been updated from a previous version, accessible here for reference, that was based on a different methodology; this change was made on May 21, 2019. This newer table provides data going back to President Reagan (1981) and adheres to a strict definition of Cabinet by only including the heads of the executive departments. While presidents often promote a position like EPA administrator to Cabinet-level status, these appointments are ad hoc, can be short-lived, and make it difficult to compare over time. Given the variability, we only include Senate-confirmed Cabinet members who are in the presidential line of succession, since this allows for greater consistency and standardization. More information on this update is available in a piece on Brookings’s FixGov blog. Additionally, since Reagan’s presidency, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Homeland Security have been added to the list (increasing from 13 to 15 positions). Year of departure is determined by the date a Cabinet member announced they were resigning, regardless of their final end date.

Summary and analysis of Cabinet departures in the Trump administration

Set out below is a list of departures from the president’s Cabinet since the beginning of the Trump administration.

Year Position Name Prior Job Nature of Departure Date of Departure Announcement Where to? Successor
1 Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly U.S. Marine Corps Promoted 7/28/2017 White House Chief of Staff Kirstjen Nielsen
1 Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price Member of the House RUP 9/29/2017 Jackson Healthcare Alex Azar
 
2 Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Exxon RUP 3/13/2018 Unknown Mike Pompeo
2 Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin U.S. Government (VA) RUP 3/28/2018 Unknown Robert Wilkie
2 Attorney General Jeff Sessions U.S. Senator RUP 11/7/2018 Unknown William Barr
2 Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis Retired Protest Resignation (PR) 12/20/2018 Unknown Mark Esper (Acting)
2 Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Member of the House RUP 12/15/2018 Artillery One David Bernhardt
 
3 Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen Deputy Chief of Staff RUP 4/7/2019 Unknown Kevin McAleenan (Acting)
3 Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta FIU College of Law RUP 7/12/2019 Unknown Unknown
Sources: Agency websites, presidential library websites, and various news sources. Note: Year of departure corresponds to date of departure announcement. Thanks to Elaine Kamarck and Nick Zeppos, who contributed to the initial data collection for this section.

Author

Viewed as a leading, independent voice in the domestic policymaking sphere, the Governance Studies program at Brookings is dedicated to analyzing policy issues, political institutions and processes, and contemporary governance challenges. Our scholarship identifies areas in need of reform and proposes specific solutions to improve governance worldwide, but with a particular emphasis on the United States.

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