The Trump Administration has become notorious for unfilled positions and fleeing staff members. Only 56 % of positions in the Department of Homeland Security that require nomination/confirmation having been filled, and within the Justice Department only 48 % of such positions have been filled. Within the administration, main positions such as Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Interior, Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Chief of Staff, are currently unfilled or held by interim officials.
Kirstjen Nielsen, former Secretary of Homeland Security, was Principal Deputy White House Chief of Staff to Trump, and later served as the Chief of staff to John F. Kelly during his time as Secretary of Homeland Security. Nielsen became infamous for implementing the policy of separating children and families at the United States’ border with Mexico. The mistreatment of immigrants and extremely harsh policies during her time as Secretary became globally known. Nielsen resigned in April of 2019, during the midst of a Department of Homeland Security clean out driven by Stephen Miller, who is seeking to reinstate the family separation policy. In a tweet, Trump shared that the then Customs and Border Protection commissioner, Kevin McAleenan, will be filling the position as acting Homeland Security secretary.
Jim “Maddog” Mattis was selected to serve as Secretary of Defense by President Trump in 2016. His employment required a congressional waiver, as the National Security Act restricted active-duty commissioned officers from serving as defense secretary for seven years after retirement. Previous to Mattis, the only waiver that had been granted since the act was enstated was for George C. Marshall in 1950. Though many were concerned about Mattis’ instability when it came to seeking revenge on the Middle East, Mattis was still considered a considerably stable voice, comparatively speaking. Mattis left in late December of 2018 citing contrasting views with Trump on subjects such as China, Russia, and Syria, as the reason for his departure. The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, tweeted that Mattis was “an island of stability amidst the chaos of the Trump administration.” Mattis resigned in a polite but sharply worded letter that ultimately went public. Patrick M. Shanahan is currently serving as the Acting United States Secretary of Defense
Former United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and his wife were involved in a David Lesar (the chairman of Halliburton) backed real estate deal in Montana. The Associated Press reported in 2017 that Zinke had taken three unnecessary helicopter rides totaling $53,000 by the end of that year. One of those rides was chartered just to take a horseback ride with the Vice President Pence. Zinke lifted an ban on importing elephant trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe, proposed weakening the Endangered Species Act, revoked a ban on hunters using lead bullets (which poison water and wildlife), and suggested that the boundaries of 27 national monuments be shrunken (which in total removed 2 million acres of federal protections). Zinke resigned amongst the heat of these controversies in mid December of 2018. The acting Secretary is a former oil lobbyist, David Bernhardt.
Former Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, previously served as the Governor of South Carolina and as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Haley mirrored Trump’s distaste for the UN, and consistently expressed such sentiments. Haley’s legacy at the UN remained that of a strong, Republican, and a somewhat respected one. Haley leaves behind a legacy of mastering sanctions on North Korea and rejecting Palestine completely (even walking out of sessions when Palestinian
representatives spoke). Bill Richardson, a former US ambassador to the UN and an ex-governor of New Mexico stated that, “…A lot of third world countries felt that she paid little attention to them and often slighted them.” While no definite reason for Haley’s resignation was ever supplied, there was speculation around her need to keep her reputation intact. Many were saying that Haley was one of the few members of Trump’s administration to avoid scandal or Trump’s scorn, and that she intended to keep it that way. Haley resigned in October of 2018, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Jonathan Cohen, has been serving as acting Ambassador. In February Trump announced that he planned to nominate Kelly Knight Craft, diplomat and wife of coal baron Joe Craft (who donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration).
DEA Chief Chuck Rosenberg resigned in September of 2017 due to displeasure with Trump’s condonement of police misconduct. Rosenberg sent a memo that stated, “We have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong.” Rosenberg told the New York Times, “…Trump had little respect for the law.” Uttam Dhillon, has been serving as acting administrator, and has faced scrutiny for his involvement in the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
John Kelly was a former four-star general and the former Secretary of Homeland Security in the Trump administration, and later the second Chief Of Staff within the Trump administration. Kelly resigned while no longer on speaking terms with Trump. Kelly cited great differences and difficulties with Trump. He was said to have brought consistency to the administration, and many considered his departure a massive loss — though he also reportedly had a bad temper and was being investigated for financial dealings. In December of 2018, Trump announced that Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney as the acting Chief of Staff. Kelly has spent the time out of the administration voicing concerns and discontentment with the Trump family, administration, and leadership.
A pattern within the Trump administration is departures, both forced and willing. So many of the most major current unfilled positions remain so due to a limited interest, a lack of administrative credibility, and fear of getting entangled with the Trump administration. The reasons for the administration’s inability to hire, mirrors the reason department heads flee. Even positions such as Chief Of Staff that formerly held great prestige, were incredibly difficult to fill. Former FBI Director James Comey stated that working for Trump “eats your soul in small bites.” Acting officials lack the power of permanent officials, in both reputation and legal rights to exercise the powers of the job. Not only do rampant vacancies deface the strength of an administration, but they weaken the very capabilities of the jobs officials are set forth to do.
Feature Image Via AP