WASHINGTON ― Less than two hours before The New York Times reported Tuesday that White House economic adviser Gary Cohn was resigning, President Donald Trump boasted that “everybody wants to work in the White House.”
Downplaying reports of chaos and disarray in his administration, Trump told reporters that his staff had “tremendous energy” and “tremendous spirit.”
“Many, many people want every single job,” he said at a joint press conference with Sweden’s prime minister. “You know, I read where, ‘Oh, gee, maybe people don’t want to work for Trump.’ And believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House. They all want a piece of that Oval Office. They want a piece of the West Wing. And not only in terms of it looks great on their résumé, it’s just a great place to work.”
“So many people want to come in,” Trump added. “I have a choice of anybody. I could take any position in the White House, and I’ll have a choice of the 10 top people having to do with that position.”
After the White House confirmed Cohn’s resignation Tuesday evening, the president bragged ― without providing evidence ― that there were “many people wanting the job.”
Cohn’s departure, which had been rumored for months, capped off several days of White House aides announcing resignations and added to the already dizzying list of departures and firings during Trump’s presidency.
Just last week, two communications officials said they planned to leave: Josh Raffel, a spokesman for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and longtime Trump aide Hope Hicks, the president’s third permanent communications director in less than 14 months in office. (In addition, Sean Spicer simultaneously served as acting communications director and press secretary for several months last year.)
This turnover rate among top staffers is higher than it has been for any of the last five presidents, according to analysis of Trump’s first year from Brookings Institution fellow Kathryn Dunn Tenpas. It was at 34 percent as of Jan. 19 ―more than triple that of Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. That rate has since gone up to 43 percent, the think tank announced Wednesday.
Tenpas attributed this to Trump prioritizing “loyalty over qualifications,” as well as “a White House that has functioned in a chaotic manner.”
There are positions that have been left unfilled for months, leaving some staffers to perform multiple roles at once.
And the vacancies in top positions go beyond the White House ― at the State Department, for example, there aren’t people in roles that have important ramifications for international relations.
On Tuesday, North Korea expressed a willingness to sit down for talks with the U.S., according to South Korean officials. But the U.S. has not had a permanent ambassador to South Korea for more than a year, and the State Department’s top diplomat on North Korea policy announced his retirement last week.
Trump’s vacancy rate for ambassadors is 22 percent, according to USA Today. It was 11 percent at the same point in Obama’s presidency.
Dozens of vacancies at the State Department have led to tensions between Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has accused the White House of stalling the hiring process.
Tillerson’s own job security has perpetually seemed precarious, yet he has somehow outlasted many other Trump officials ― for now.
This article has been updated with the latest figures on turnover rates from the Brookings Institution.