Political News

Top Aide to Trump Will Leave West Wing

Posted June 20, 2018 1:04 a.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — Joseph W. Hagin, a deputy chief of staff to President Donald Trump and one of the most seasoned government veterans on a team populated mainly by newcomers with little if any prior experience in the White House, plans to step down next month.

Hagin has run White House operations for Trump for 17 months, overseeing the daily administration of a building often whipsawed by chaos generated by the president. Just this month, Hagin led a delegation of officials in Singapore who arranged the logistics of Trump’s landmark meeting with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader.

“Joe Hagin has been a huge asset to my administration,” Trump said in a statement. “He planned and executed the longest and one of the most historic foreign trips ever made by a president, and he did it all perfectly. We will miss him in the office and even more on the road. I am thankful for his remarkable service to our great country.”

Hagin, who previously served for 14 years under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush, has more experience on the White House staff than nearly any other person in modern times. But that establishment record made him suspect to some in Trump’s circle, who encouraged the current president’s message of disrupting Washington.

A senior White House official, who asked not to be identified discussing internal dynamics, said Hagin had been repeatedly targeted by others in Trump’s orbit, both inside and outside the building, who questioned his loyalty given his ties to the Bush family. Trump beat Jeb Bush, the son of George Bush and brother of George W. Bush, with scathing attacks on him and his family to win the Republican nomination in 2016, and neither of the former presidents voted for him in the November election.

Trump has grown isolated within the West Wing, according to advisers, and is eager for human contact, even if that means jousting with the reporters whom he calls “fake news.” He often asks staff members about whether others are leaking, and he recently told one person that “the Bushies in the White House are out to get me,” according to someone with direct knowledge of the discussion.

Hagin said by email Tuesday that “the Bush thing is overblown” and that his departure was unrelated and long planned. He said he had committed to stay for just a year and planned to leave at the start of 2018. “But Kelly pushed me to stay and I have great respect for him,” Hagin said, referring to John Kelly, the chief of staff. “Then the summit came up in the spring and I felt obligated to see that through.”

Hagin may be on the leading edge of a fresh wave of departures from a White House that has had record turnover. Among others who have been said to be considering leaving this year are Kelly; Don McGahn , the White House counsel; Marc Short, the legislative affairs director; Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press secretary; Raj Shah, the top deputy press secretary; and Dan Scavino Jr., the social media director.

If Scavino departed, it would mark the end of an era for Trump, who has lost nearly all of the aides with whom he is most comfortable during the past year. Scavino was one of the campaign’s original small group of staff members, and he is the keeper of Trump’s Twitter feed when the president is not using it himself.

The White House is already struggling to fill vacancies. The communications director position has been vacant since March with no apparent move to fill it. Trump in effect seems to enjoy acting as his own communications director.

Hagin oversaw the White House Personnel Security Office, which handles security clearances and came under scrutiny after Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary, resigned in February after allegations that he had abused two former wives. Officials said at the time that Hagin, along with Kelly and McGahn, had learned in November that there were problems with Porter’s background investigation.

White House officials said Hagin would retire from the federal government July 6 and return to the private sector.

After leaving the second Bush White House, where he also served as deputy chief of staff, Hagin and three partners founded Command Consulting Group, a cluster of firms that provide security and intelligence assistance to governments, corporations and wealthy people.

A person familiar with Hagin’s plans said he did not plan to return to his old firm but was exploring opportunities with several corporations.

“Joe Hagin’s selfless devotion to this nation and the institution of the presidency is unsurpassed,” Kelly said in a statement.