Tuesday 22 October 2019

Donald Trump set to shake up White House staff following midterms

The president hopes new faces will help his bid for a second term against the newly-galvanised Democrats.

The West Wing of the White House (Andrew Harnik/AP)
The West Wing of the White House (Andrew Harnik/AP)

By Colleen Long, Zeke Miller and Catherine Lucey, Associated Press

President Donald Trump is considering an administration-wide shake-up as he looks to prepare his White House for divided government, but it is unclear who is going and who is staying.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was thought to be out as soon as this week, according to two people with knowledge of the issue, but she is now likely to remain in the post for a longer period because there is no obvious successor in place.

Mr Trump has lost patience with Ms Nielsen and White House chief of staff John Kelly, in part over frustration that his administration is not doing more to address what he has called a crisis at the US-Mexico border, according to sources.

President Donald Trump (Evan Vucci/AP)

But the scope of the contemplated changes is far broader, as Mr Trump gears up for a wave of Democratic oversight requests and to devote more effort to his own re-election campaign.

The Democratic Party now controls the House of Representatives following the midterm elections.

According to people familiar with the situation, Mr Trump is also discussing replacing Mr Kelly with Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers.

First lady Melania Trump (Benoit Tessier/AP)

Mr Kelly, a retired Marine general, has been credited with bringing order and process to a chaotic West Wing, but he has fallen out of favour with the president as well as presidential daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Mr Ayers, a seasoned campaign operative, would restore a political-mindset to the role, but he faces stiff opposition from some corners of the West Wing, with some aides lobbying Mr Trump directly against the move.

Other changes are afoot, as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are being discussed for replacement.

Vice-President Mike Pence (Bernat Armangue/AP)

And in an extraordinary move on Tuesday, first lady Melania Trump’s office called publicly for the firing of Mr Trump’s deputy national security adviser, Mira Ricardel.

For all of the talk of change, Mr Trump often expresses frustration with aides and then does not take action.

Talk of Mr Kelly’s exit has circulated for months and he remains in place.

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