Trump's national security team is constant source of turnover

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisPentagon watchdog probing whether acting chief boosted Boeing Overnight Defense: Judge says Trump can't implement transgender policy | Trump floats admitting Brazil to NATO | Mattis returning to Stanford Mattis returning to Stanford months after Pentagon resignation MORE's decision to quit the Trump administration is the latest indication of a Cabinet constantly being shaken up.

Mattis, who President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral 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 ComeyTrump says public can see Mueller report Anderson Cooper blasts Trump over McCain attacks: 'He's punching a person who is dead' Clyburn: Trump and family 'greatest threats to democracy' in lifetime 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 ClintonTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Trump's approval rating stable at 45 percent Kellyanne Conway: 'I think my gender helps me with the president' 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 SessionsRosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump O'Rourke on impeachment: 2020 vote may be best way to 'resolve' Trump 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 PriebusMulvaney poised to become permanent White House chief of staff: report DNC decision to shut out Fox News hurts Democratic candidates and Americans The five Trump communications directors who have come and gone 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 NielsenHillicon Valley: Nunes sues Twitter for 0 million | Trump links tech giants to 'Radical Left Democrats' | Facebook settles suits over ad discrimination | Dems want answers over spread of New Zealand shooting video Nielsen calls for greater public-private collaboration on cyber threats The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms 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 TillersonPompeo jokes he'll be secretary of State until Trump 'tweets me out of office' Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN ambassador job Trump administration’s top European diplomat to resign in February 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 PompeoPompeo presses for resolution to Gulf dispute The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Dems put manufacturing sector in 2020 spotlight State Department blocks reporters from Pompeo briefing with faith-based media: report 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) Haley40 years of Iranian threats against Israel and few pay any attention Nikki Haley endorses term limits for Congress Pelosi: Kim 'big winner' of North Korea talks 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 McConnellTrump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' McConnell calls McCain a 'rare patriot' and 'American hero' after Trump criticism 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.