Even before the departure of high-profile communications director Hope Hicks on Wednesday, the staff turnover in Donald Trump’s administration had already set an unenviable record.
In the first year of the Trump administration, 34 per cent of the President’s staff were either fired, reassigned or resigned.
That is exactly twice the rate of turnover (17 per cent) in Ronald Reagan’s first year in office, 1981, which was the next-highest rate over the past 40 years, according to Kathryn Dunn-Tenpas, a senior fellow at the Washington DC-based Brookings Institution.
Ms Dunn-Tenpas, who has examined White House turnover rates for more than three decades, also found that the revolving door of the Trump White House dwarfed that of the three previous presidents.
Mr Trump’s first-year turnover was almost quadruple that of Barack Obama, who lost 9 per cent of his staff in his first year in office, while George W Bush and Bill Clinton had staff turnovers of just 6 and 11 per cent respectively.
And that doesn’t count a handful of high-level resignations in 2018, such as that of Ms Hicks and staff secretary Rob Porter.
Exact numbers of staff who have moved on vary between US media outlets, depending on whom they consider to be a senior Trump staff member.
But Ms Dunn-Tenpas, who did like-for-like comparisons between administrations, said what was notable about Mr Trump’s revolving door was the “extraordinarily high” demise of top-flight staff.
Of the 12 “Tier One” positions in Mr Trump’s team, only four are still filled by the same people when he became President in January 2017.
Reince Priebus, chief of staff; Katie Walsh, deputy chief of staff; Sean Spicer, press secretary; Omarosa Manigault, assistant to the president and director of the Office of Public Liaison; Michael Flynn, national security adviser; Steve Bannon, chief strategist, and Ms Hicks, communications director, are just a few of the higher-profile departures.
“The unusually high turnover rate may stem in part from the borderline chaos that characterised the overall tenor of the administration’s first year, even while that high rate may have, in a vicious cycle, contributed to the chaos,” Ms Dunn-Tenpas wrote.
And things may only be about to get even worse for Mr Trump, if previous administrations are any indication.
Ms Dunn-Tenpas said all five of Mr Trump’s predecessors (she studied) experienced a surge in turnover in their second year in office.
“Overworked and stressed out, many staff members may see the 12-month mark as the point at which one can claim White House experience and move on to lucrative, private-sector opportunities.”
Trump’s procession of communications staff
On Wednesday, Ms Hicks became the fourth communications director to go since Mr Trump became President.
Mr Spicer worked in the role for just two months before Mike Dubke took over. When Mr Dubke resigned in June, Mr Spicer served as acting director, until the colourful Anthony Scaramucci became communications director for just a few weeks in July.
Ms Hicks’ departure on Wednesday also followed the resignation of deputy communications director Josh Raffael on Tuesday.
She was this year drawn into the controversy over Mr Trump’s staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned after two former wives alleged Mr Porter had attacked them physically and verbally during their marriages.
Ms Hicks had reportedly been dating Mr Porter and was reportedly partly responsible for putting together the White House’s responses to the allegations.