As political eyes focus on the White House following President Trump's return from his first overseas trip, speculation is mounting over just what kind of a "shakeup" of his White House staff he plans to unveil this week.
So far, details are sketchy. The president is expected to make changes in his communications team and perhaps alter the roles of key staffers Steve Bannon and Steve Miller. Moreover, he may bring on board some past associates — notably, onetime campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
But there are also growing concerns that, after less than 150 days as president, Trump may have difficulty in recruiting the high-power talent he needs to staff his administration.
In the week before Trump’s trip abroad, Goldman Sachs executive Jim Donovan pulled his name from nomination for the No. 2 position at the Department of the Treasury. Donovan’s surprise exodus came on the heels of two successive nominees to be secretary of the Army withdrawing their nominations.
Before and during Trump's trip, three prospective candidates to be FBI director — former Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), and former top FBI official Richard McFeely — all announced they did not wish to be considered for the job.
A few historians who spoke to Newsmax found parallels in past administrations that had trouble recruiting top personnel.
"Jimmy Carter had trouble getting people to fill out his government starting in late 1979," said Craig Shirley, author of three much-praised books on Ronald Reagan, "Secretary of Energy James Schlesinger left under a cloud, as did Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. And recall after his now infamous 'Malaise Speech,' the turmoil his Cabinet went through."
Justin Coffey, professor at Quincy College (Ill.) and author of a recent biography of Vice President Spiro Agnew, found a comparable situation in another administration.
"When President William Henry Harrison died in 1841, [Vice President] John Tyler decided to keep Harrison's Cabinet," said Coffey, "However, the entire Cabinet, except for Secretary of State Daniel Webster, resigned after Tyler, ostensibly a Whig, vetoed a bill creating a National Bank. Tyler had trouble getting anyone to fill the vacant positions, and most of the people he appointed were political lightweights."
Former Republican National Chairman Michael Steele told us he "could not recall an administration having this level of difficulty filling key roles. Clearly, candidates are concerned and some are having second thoughts given the continuing developments around Russia and the President's own management of the government. These candidates are individuals with reputations and pedigree who are not inclined to join an administration where 'loyalty oaths' and clear lines of authority cloud their opportunity to serve the president.
David Pietrusza, author of four best-selling books on presidential election years, said flatly that "prospective nominees have to be unusually wary of the risks of a Trump administration appointment. Can they brave the firestorm Democrats will launch against virtually every appointee? Can they withstand the intra-administration in-fighting? Will the administration even survive? What will its — and their — legacy be?"
In pointing out that "all administrations — state and federal — suffer difficulties in staffing up as they head out the door," Pietrusza said that in the case of Trump, "major problems in staffing up on the way in are unique. Harry Truman had to sack two Cabinet secretaries and faced criticism for installing his 'Missouri Gang' in too many places of power, but he had no difficulty in finding bodies to put behind desks. Trump does. And until he rights his course, that will continue.
"Neither Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, Reince Preibus, Ivanka nor Jared have ever held elective or appointive office. This is not a recipe for success. And there does not appear to be a Trumpian version of [Truman aide] Clark Clifford or [Truman’s Secretary of State] Dean Acheson ready to ride in and bring a heavy dose of experience and gravitas to the administration."
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