Trump's national security team is constant source of turnover

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump to sign funding deal, declare national emergency | Shanahan says allies will be consulted on Afghanistan | Dem demands Khashoggi documents Does ‘limited war’ mean limited risks for aggressors? US-led coalition says it struck Syrian mosque used by ISIS MORE's decision to quit the Trump administration is the latest indication of a Cabinet constantly being shaken up.

Mattis, who President TrumpDonald John TrumpBill Kristol resurfaces video of Pence calling Obama executive action on immigration a 'profound mistake' ACLU says planned national emergency declaration is 'clear abuse of presidential power' O'Rourke says he'd 'absolutely' take down border wall near El Paso if he could MORE announced Sunday will leave office at the end of this year — ahead of the secretary's preferred exit — is just the latest person with a high-level national security or foreign policy position to be headed out of the president's orbit.

Some have resigned, others have been ousted, and a few have moved to other posts within the administration.

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It will leave Trump with a different team in 2019.

Here's a look at the top national security-related posts that have seen turnover under Trump.

National security adviser

Three people have served as Trump’s principal adviser on national security and foreign policy issues in the White House.

The president tapped Michael Flynn, a retired three-star Army general turned vociferous campaign surrogate, to serve as his national security adviser shortly after the 2016 election.

Flynn’s tenure was extremely brief. He was forced to resign less than a month into the post over revelations that he misled Vice President Pence about contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition. Since then Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about those contacts, and he cooperated with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation into Russian interference.

Trump then appointed H.R. McMaster, an Army lieutenant general. McMaster was widely viewed as one of the more moderate voices in the administration and was said to have clashed with Trump on various issues, including the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Trump consistently disparaged on the campaign trail.

But McMaster didn’t last long, either. In April of this year, Trump moved to replace him with John Bolton, a George W. Bush-era official known for his hawkish views on China and Iran.

FBI director

Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyMcCabe book: Trump pushed back on officials using Putin claim that North Korea couldn't fire long-range missiles Graham seeks new Rosenstein testimony after explosive McCabe interview Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general MORE in May 2017 is viewed as one of the most controversial moments of his presidency.

The move came just months after Comey publicly confirmed the existence of the FBI’s investigation into whether associates of the Trump campaign coordinated with Moscow to interfere in the 2016 election.

And while the firing was predicated on a recommendation from the Justice Department that Comey be removed for his handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonO’Rourke heading to Wisconsin amid 2020 speculation The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears Exclusive: Biden almost certain to enter 2020 race MORE’s private email server, Trump later told NBC News that the “Russia thing” factored into his decision. Mueller is said to be reviewing Comey’s firing in his probe into whether the president obstructed justice.

Comey, who has since become a frequent critic of Trump, later testified before the Senate that the president had asked him to abandon the FBI’s investigation into Flynn.

The Senate later confirmed Christopher Wray, another veteran of the George W. Bush administration, as FBI director.

Attorney general

Former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMcCabe book: Sessions once said FBI was better off when it 'only hired Irishmen' Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general Rod Rosenstein’s final insult to Congress: Farewell time for reporters but not testimony MORE joined the administration as a trusted confidant with whom Trump had built a strong rapport during the campaign.

However, the relationship between Sessions, a former GOP senator from Alabama, and Trump turned sour after the attorney general recused himself from the Russia investigation as a result of his own communications during the campaign with Sergey Kislyak, who at the time was Russian ambassador to the U.S.

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Sessions aggressively worked to deliver on Trump’s promise to crack down on illegal immigration and criminal gangs. Still, Trump castigated him publicly — often on Twitter — for several months, telling Hill.TV in September, “I don’t have an attorney general.”

Sessions resigned at Trump’s request the day after the November midterm elections. Trump tapped Matthew Whitaker, Sessions’s former chief of staff at the Justice Department, as acting attorney general. He then nominated William Barr, formerly George H.W. Bush’s attorney general, to serve as the nation’s top cop. Both men have expressed critical views of Mueller’s Russia probe.

Homeland Security secretary

John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, a retired Marine, was first brought on board the Trump administration as head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). His performance quickly captured the respect and attention of Trump, earning him a position in the White House by summer 2017.

Trump’s decision to replace Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusIs a presidential appointment worth the risk? Ex-White House aide says 'cartoon villain' Kellyanne Conway bad-mouthed colleagues Trump Org hires former WH ethics lawyer to deal with congressional probes MORE with Kelly as White House chief of staff is just one example of what has become routine practice by the president — filling vacancies with officials who are already serving in high-level roles.

As such, the move left a void atop an agency central to implementing some of the president’s most controversial policies, including the travel ban and other border security measures.

Trump ultimately chose Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? FEMA head resigns 'El Chapo' found guilty on all charges MORE, Kelly’s former deputy who also worked in the George W. Bush administration, to lead DHS. But as recently as this fall, speculation has swirled that Trump would look to remove her after the November midterms.

Secretary of State

Trump was known to have clashed with Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTrump administration’s top European diplomat to resign in February Pompeo planning to meet with Pat Roberts amid 2020 Senate speculation Trump concealed details of meetings with Putin from senior officials: report MORE, a former ExxonMobil CEO and his first secretary of State, on a variety of fronts ranging from Iran to the Paris climate accord. Tillerson reportedly called Trump a “moron” during a meeting at the Pentagon last year.

So it didn’t come as a complete surprise when Trump fired Tillerson by tweet in March, citing their disagreement on withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump immediately tapped then-CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump to sign funding deal, declare national emergency | Shanahan says allies will be consulted on Afghanistan | Dem demands Khashoggi documents Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general Top Dem demands State Department documents on Khashoggi killing MORE to be his chief diplomat, elevating a former Kansas congressman known for his hawkish foreign policy views to a more public-facing role in the administration. Pompeo has since been a driving force in Trump’s effort to bring North Korea to the table on halting its nuclear weapons program.

CIA director

Pompeo’s transition paved the way for the first woman to take the helm of the CIA. Gina Haspel, a career veteran of the agency, was nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate in May, in a 54-45 vote, to lead the CIA.

Her confirmation did not come without a fight. Haspel endured broad scrutiny of her involvement in the CIA’s controversial interrogation of terrorism suspects after the 9/11 attacks.

Haspel, like other CIA directors, has kept a decidedly low profile since assuming the role, though she was dragged back into the spotlight recently as a result of press reports on the CIA’s findings about the murder of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

U.N. ambassador

Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyUnited Methodist churches may cut ties with denomination over push to allow LGBT ministers Nikki Haley: ‘I’m too young to stop fighting’ Is a presidential appointment worth the risk? MORE abruptly announced in October that she would resign as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the end of the year.

From the start, South Carolina’s former governor had been one of the most prominent faces of the administration’s foreign policy and a fierce advocate for Trump’s moves on the international stage. Haley earned Trump’s respect early on and managed to maintain an independent streak, at times showing she was willing to disagree with the president. 

Broadly, the announcement of her exit was met with disappointment among Republican lawmakers and conservatives.

Haley batted away speculation that she was leaving to challenge Trump in 2020, saying she wanted to “take a break” from public office. 

Trump has since tapped Heather Nauert, the State Department spokeswoman and former Fox News anchor, to replace her, but plans to downgrade the position to below Cabinet level.

Defense secretary

Mattis sent shockwaves through Washington last week when he announced he would resign in February, citing policy disagreements with the president. The decision came days after Trump revealed he would withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, a move that earned him broad criticism.

Many had viewed Mattis as a steadying force in an administration increasingly embroiled in chaos and a fierce defender of post-World War II alliances. Democrats and Republicans reacted to the news with dismay, and fractures have since emerged between Trump and even his staunchest defenders on Capitol Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBill Kristol resurfaces video of Pence calling Obama executive action on immigration a 'profound mistake' Winners and losers in the border security deal House passes border deal, setting up Trump to declare emergency MORE (R-Ky.) said Thursday he was “distressed” to learn Mattis was resigning due to differences with the president on “key aspects of America’s global leadership.”

Trump, reportedly irked at the criticism and Mattis's own resignation letter, which laid bare the two men's differences, on Sunday announced Mattis would be out by the end of the year,

On Twitter, he said that Mattis didn’t recognize the United States is “substantially subsidizing” the militaries of “many” wealthy countries at the expense of American taxpayers. Trump also tapped Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan as acting Pentagon chief, ousting Mattis two months early.