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The White House palace intrigue

March 2, 2018 | Expert Insights

H. R. McMaster, the current National Security Advisor in the US will be leaving his position as early as next month. According to news reports, he is being asked to leave his position after clashing with US President Donald Trump on multiple occasions. 


The presidency of Donald Trump has been marred by multiple controversies. There has been a high turnover rate in his administration and in the span of a little over one year, multiple senior authorities have either been fired or have resigned from their positions.

This includes former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who currently has pled guilty to lying under oath. Some of the people who left or dismissed were Steve Bannon, former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Anthony Scaramucci, former Press Secretary Sean Spicer and more. Other key members who have left are Omarosa and KT McFarland, deputy national security adviser.

According to a study done by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institute the Trump White House has set the record for one of the highest attrition rates. The research notes that one in three staffers part of the White House left their positions within the first year. This is higher than the attrition rates in the five previous administrations.

She writes, “Six of the 12 Tier One positions saw turnover (Reince Priebus, chief of staff; Katie Walsh, deputy chief of staff; Sean Spicer, press secretary; George Sifakis, assistant to the president and director of the Office of Public Liaison; Michael Flynn, national security adviser, and KT McFarland, deputy national security adviser). By comparison, Obama lost one adviser from Tier One (Greg Craig, White House counsel), and George W. Bush did not see any turnover in these high-level positions.”


In the month of February, a number of high profile resignations and firings took place in the White House. Chief among them was the dismissal of Rob Porter, a White House aide who had been accused of domestic violence. Despite the reports surfacing, the White House initially published a statement of support to Rob Porter. However, the tide quickly turned and the current Chief of Staff John Kelly is reported to have fired him.

Shortly after this dismissal, Hope Hicks, President Trump’s longest serving aide also resigned from her position. She is said to be under scrutiny from the special counsel investigation regarding Russian interference in the US presidential elections. She was also criticized for the way the Rob Porter scandal was handled as she was in a relationship with Porter and had helped draft the initial statement of support on behalf of John Kelly. She also had admitted during a testimony that she had said “white lies” on behalf of the president. Her departure is said to have deeply troubled President Trump who had regarded her as his own child.

Reports have now emerged that H. R. McMaster, the current National Security Advisor could be asked to leave in the near future. McMaster’s appointment initially was universally supported and he was regarded a “grown up” in the White House. However, he is said to have clashed with the President on multiple occasions. He has also been accused of lying and misleading the public on behalf of the president. Earlier, former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was allegedly in a feud with McMaster but it ended with Bannon’s own departure.

The NBC reports that the White House is already looking for replacements for McMaster. The report notes, “A leading candidate to become President Donald Trump’s third national security adviser is the auto industry executive Stephen Biegun, according to the officials.”

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said: “We frequently face rumor and innuendo about senior administration officials. There are no personnel announcements at this time."

Trump publicly rebuked McMaster in January by taking to Twitter for neglecting to defend the president’s 2016 victory while discussing U.S. claims that Russia meddled in the election. “I was just with President Trump and H.R. McMaster in the Oval Office,” White House spokesman Michael Anton said in email sent to reporters. “President Trump said that the NBC News story is ‘fake news,’ and told McMaster that he is doing a great job.”


Our assessment is that the US president’s inner circle continues to grow smaller. Trump reportedly has an icy equation with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and in December 2017 the US media revealed that the White House wanted to dismiss him as well. A number of high profile departures paints a picture of a White House in chaos. Will such an environment prove to be fruitful when there are a number of domestic and international challenges faced by America?