Political News

Trump's many staff breakups (and some reconciliations), ranked

Posted January 3, 2018 3:33 p.m. EST

— With the release of a bounty of damning anecdotes packed into a salacious new book about President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and the tortured transition that followed, the White House has turned its ire on chatty former top aide Steve Bannon.

In the aftermath of a release of excerpts of the book by the journalist Michael Wolff, Trump didn't so much cast Bannon into the proverbial wilderness as launch him into deep space, accusing the Breitbart boss of leaking administration secrets to the media, overstating his role in electing the President and having, just generally, "lost his mind."

The Bannon breakup has been a bad one, and with more nasty nuggets yet to emerge, appears poised to get worse. But as we've seen in the past, banishment from Trumpworld is rarely permanent. With a few exceptions, a comeback never seems too far off.

Here's a handful of heartbreak and redemption, to remember -- from the most hopelessly irreconcilable to friendships on the mend:


James Comey, FBI director

Trump ran hot and cold (and hot again, then cold again) with the former FBI chief, before ultimately firing him in May. Since then, Comey has through assorted avenues, in congressional testimony and, most recently, on Twitter, been a thorn in the President's side. His dismissal set the stage for the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Steve Bannon, White House chief strategist

Bannon left the administration on what seemed like good terms. And even with some notable hiccups in the months since, like when he backed Roy Moore over Trump pick Luther Strange in Alabama's GOP Senate primary, his Breitbart never stopped being a reliable White House organ.

That changed on Wednesday, when Bannon in excerpts from a new book called a July 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and several Russians "treasonous" and roundly mocked Trump, whom he clearly views as an incompetent, in Wolff's telling.

Trump responded hours later by hitting the (metaphorical) big, powerful red button button on his desk, torching his former campaign chief:

"Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party."

The statement goes in on this vein for another three paragraphs.

Who knows? (But could get worse)

Omarosa Manigault Newman, director of communications for the White House's Office of Public Liaison

The circumstances surrounding the departure -- removal? -- of Omarosa Manigault Newman are as vague as her actual job description.

"Omarosa Manigault Newman resigned yesterday to pursue other opportunities," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement last month. "Her departure will not be effective until January 20, 2018. We wish her the best in future endeavors and are grateful for her service." Trump also tweeted, briefly but kindly, about outgoing associate.

But in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," Manigault Newman hinted that she had scores to settle:

"But when I have my story to tell, as the only African-American woman in this White House, as a senior staff and assistant to the president, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people. And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear."

You're fired! (Or if you resigned, are DEFINITELY NOT welcome back)

Sally Yates, acting attorney general

An early casualty of the administration, Yates was removed as the acting attorney general after she refused to defend Trump's travel ban in the courts.

The White House added to the drama by calling Yates a traitor and sacking her.

"The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States," it said in a statement. "This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel."

Ironically, Yates has since testified that she did her best to save the administration from itself, going to White House Counsel Donald McGahn to warn him that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn "was compromised with respect to the Russians."

Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics

Shaub was a relatively unknown bureaucrat before Trump arrived on the scene. But he made a name for himself with his sharp criticism of the White House -- from Trump's decision not to sell off business interests to Kellyanne Conway's hawking the Ivanka Trump fashion brand during a television interview. He would resign over the summer.

Nowadays, Shaub registers his complaints, and there are many, via Twitter. He currently has more than 123,000 followers.

Tom Price, secretary of health and human services

Trump gave Price the job with one goal in mind: repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare. That never happened, but Price stayed active, traveling frequently on pricey private jets -- on the government's dime.

Multiple sources recalled Trump as being especially angered by the resulting scandal, which he called "stupid" and viewed as bad for his political brand. Price's promise to reimburse only a small portion of his considerable tab only worsened his standing.

"I was disappointed because I didn't like it, cosmetically or otherwise," Trump said soon after Price's resignation landed. "I was disappointed."

Status... TBD

Michael Flynn, national security adviser

He only lasted a little more than three weeks on the job, but Flynn might be the most consequential of all Trump's hirings and firings.

Most notably, Flynn misled administration officials regarding his post-election communications with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, giving an account Vice President Mike Pence subsequently parroted to the media. When the truth emerged, Flynn resigned -- on February 13, just 23 days after his swearing-in.

But wait, there's more. Flynn would eventually become a focus of the special counsel probe into the Trump team and Russia. He pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the Kislyak talks and is currently cooperating with investigators.

Trump has remained mostly supportive of Flynn, complaining on Twitter that his former aide has been unjustly targeted.

Paul Manafort, 2016 Trump campaign chairman

Like Flynn, Manafort's departure (though much earlier) was fairly mild in comparison to what might follow as a result of his current legal trouble. Unlike Flynn, the former campaign chairman pleaded not guilty to charges including money laundering.

Manafort was pushed out to make way for -- yup! -- Steve Bannon in August 2016 as Trump's campaign appeared to be in freefall and whispers began to spread about Manafort's past business dealings.

"I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process," Trump said back then. "Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success."

Out of sight

Chris Christie, transition chairman

A few days after Trump won the election, he ousted the New Jersey governor from his post leading the transition. Christie went away quietly, but has since taken to lobbing the occasional grenade at White House decisionmakers.

One of the first mainstream elected Republicans to back Trump during the campaign, Christie was rewarded with public mocking and, eventually, a brisk dismissal from the team. He's since suggested that his opposition to Flynn's hiring provoked his firing.

Reince Priebus, White House chief of staff

For most people, the last image of Priebus in his old job is a piteous one: coming off a flight with Trump, he was escorted to a seat in a secret service van on the tarmac and spirited off into unemployment.

Still, the separation was by most accounts, including Priebus's own, an amicable one.

"The President wanted to go a different direction," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room" after his ouster. "A president has a right to hit a reset button. I think it's a good time to hit the reset button. I think he was right to hit the reset button."

Sean Spicer, White House press secretary

Six months after first taking the podium, Spicer gave it up -- resigning after Anthony Scaramucci was named communications director. Most of the friction between Spicer and Trump occurred during the former RNC man's time in the job. Since then, Spicer has been defensive of his tenure and mostly protective of the President.

"I am grateful for Sean's work on behalf of my administration and the American people. I wish him continued success as he moves on to pursue new opportunities -- just look at his great television ratings," Trump said in a statement relayed by Sanders. (Spicer has not yet landed a big dollar TV gig.)

His Twitter account is now a rolling feed of positive news stories about the administration.

Sebastian Gorka, White House counterterrorism adviser

No one -- not even, memorably, Trump -- ever seemed to be entirely sure what Gorka actually did at the White House. But he was a ferocious defender of the President during TV appearances and, for that, was a good enough bet to keep his job.

Alas, Gorka left. Why? Also a bit of a mystery. In any event, he doesn't have much bad to say about Trump and Trump doesn't have much to say, at all, about him.

Friends again?

Anthony Scaramucci, White House communications director

"The Mooch" lasted only 10 days on the payroll, but he made the most of them all. The high point came straight away, during a lengthy Q&A with reporters in which he sung Trump's praises to all who'd listen.

"I've seen this guy throw a dead spiral through a tire," he said of the President. "I've seen him at Madison Square Garden with a topcoat on, standing in the key and hitting foul shots and swishing them -- he sinks three-foot putts."

It was a bit weird but, at the time, more notable for its tone. Unlike some others in the comms shop, Scaramucci appeared to enjoy his work. But longevity eluded him. After calling up The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza to rant about and insult (he called Priebus a "paranoid schizophrenic" and suggested Bannon employed a unique means of... you know by now) his White House colleagues, Scaramucci was dismissed.

Gone, yes, but forgotten? Perhaps not. The Daily Beast reported Monday that Scaramucci believes a reunion could be in the cards. He's since denied the claim.

Corey Lewandowski, 2016 Trump campaign manager

Trump's first campaign manager was canned in June 2016, after helping his boss become the presumptive nominee, but ahead of what some believed might turn into a contested Republican convention in Cleveland.

Lewandowski said at the time he didn't know precisely why he'd been fired, but was nonetheless grateful to Trump.

"What I know is that what we've been able to achieve in this election cycle was historic," he said. "I had a nice conversation with Mr. Trump and I said to him, 'It's been an honor and a privilege to be a part of this,' and I mean that from the bottom of my heart."

One book later, Lewandowski remains in Trump's good graces. But his most recent appearance in the headlines followed accusations of sexual assault by singer Joy Villa, who says Lewandowski slapped her during a party at Washington's Trump International Hotel.