Each week, the “Can He Do That?” podcast explores critical questions about what today’s news means for our nation and its highest office. Listen here.
H.R. McMaster. John Dowd. Andrew McCabe. Rex Tillerson. Gary Cohn. Hope Hicks.
That's the list of senior-level government officials who have resigned, gotten pushed out or been fired by President Trump — just in the past month.
Trump's lightning-speed rate of turnover in his inner-circle and other top-tier ranks of the federal government is unusual, and it raises some questions.
When will the president finally settle on his A-team? What does it mean that he hasn’t?
And why does Trump run his White House like “The Apprentice”?
Those are the issues we explore in this week's episode of “Can He Do That?” — a podcast about the powers and limitations of the American presidency.
In this episode, we talk to Washington Post senior editor Marc Fisher, who co-wrote “Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power.” There's nothing surprising about Trump's recent slew of public, and humiliating, firings, Fisher said. The president thrives off chaos and uncertainty.
“That is the kind of drama that Donald Trump loves to stage,” Fisher said. “And when he was doing 'The Apprentice' and when he was appearing on 'The Howard Stern Show,' … all of these previous chapters of his showbiz career, he was thinking of ways to heighten the drama. And so these firings are very much a part of that. It's the idea that he's showing who's boss.”
We interview Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institution, who has compiled extensive data on how Trump's turnover rate within his administration compares to previous presidents'.
“The level of Trump turnover on what I call the 'A-team' on the most senior level of staff … it's not just high, it's extraordinarily high,” Tenpas said.
And we talk about the limits of Trump's ability to target those in the government he doesn't like. Is there anyone he can't fire?
“If he were to fire Robert Mueller, I think there'd be a lot more movement towards people saying, well, this is obstruction of justice,” said Matt Zapotosky, who covers the Department of Justice for The Post's national security team. “It would just be so politically damaging.”