But although Krebs’s firing is among the most transparently political ones of Trump’s tenure, it’s hardly the only one.
Below is a recap of whom Trump has fired for failing to toe his line — and rather transparently.
Krebs has been a thorn in the side of Trump’s voter fraud claims, if there ever was one. Through CISA’s Rumor Control Web page and his personal Twitter account, Krebs has repeatedly assured there is no evidence behind some of the wild claims.
Krebs had flatly denounced baseless claims made by Trump and others about manipulated vote totals earlier Tuesday, saying that “59 election security experts all agree, ‘in every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.’ ”
CISA also issued a statement last week declaring the election to be “the most secure in American history.” The statement even included one bolded section that seemed directly aimed at Trump: “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”
Krebs has also labeled the theory “nonsense.”
In explaining Krebs’s firing Tuesday night, Trump said: “The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud — including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, ‘glitches’ in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more. Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”
None of these theories about widespread fraud has been substantiated. Krebs was the rare official in Trump’s orbit who was willing to say so explicitly — most have simply declined to subscribe to the claims and spoken broadly about making sure the election was secure. And Krebs got canned explicitly because of that.
A trio of inspectors general
Also among the most transparently political dismissals — both because of what the fired parties did and how close their firings were to one another — was Trump’s purge of inspectors general earlier this year.
Three of them had taken actions that cast the administration and Trump in a negative light. Intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson was the one who forwarded the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment. Justice Department inspector general Steve Linick was investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (whom Trump cited for the decision to terminate Linick) and issued a report critical of the State Department’s work environment. He also came forward with misinformation involving Ukraine and Rudolph W. Giuliani during the impeachment. And the third official to be removed, acting health and human services inspector general Christi Grimm, had issued an April report finding “severe shortages” of coronavirus testing kits, delays in results and “widespread shortages” of equipment like masks.
Trump criticized all of them on Twitter. And all three of them were removed in a span of six weeks — between April 3 and May 15.
The removal of inspectors general is particularly problematic for one reason: While they are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the president, their roles are supposed to be insulated from politics so that they can call out internal wrongdoing.
Some Republican lawmakers raised concerns about the firings, but they ultimately declined to hold a hard line.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Gordon Sondland
Vindman, a White House National Security Council aide, and Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, delivered some of the most damning testimony in the inquiry that led to Trump’s impeachment. For that, each of them was removed — albeit on a slightly delayed basis.
Vindman testified to his concern about Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Sondland offered the most explicit testimony that there was a quid pro quo involving official U.S. government resources being withheld or offered in return for supposedly damaging information about Trump’s 2020 opponent, Joe Biden.
In February, Vindman was fired and escorted off the White House grounds — as was his twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, who played no role in the impeachment inquiry. Sondland was recalled from his posting overseas. The timing of the removals, which happened simultaneously, reinforced that they were retaliatory.
As did Trump’s repeated comments.
“I’m not happy with him,” Trump said of Vindman on the day he was fired. “You think I’m supposed to be happy with him? I’m not.”
James Comey and Andrew McCabe
These date back a little further, but they are among the highest-ranking officials Trump has purged for transparently political reasons.
Trump fired FBI Director Comey in May 2017 and quickly blurted out that he did so because Comey was pursuing the Russia investigation — a disclosure that contradicted virtually all of the previous explanations for Comey’s termination. The situation led to the appointment of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
McCabe was Comey’s top deputy, and he also served as acting FBI director for a brief period. While McCabe was technically fired by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump repeatedly attacked McCabe and applied pressure. That pressure eventually paid off at a particularly punitive time: McCabe’s termination in March 2018 came mere hours before he was set to receive full retirement benefits for his FBI service.
This one is a little different in that, technically, Sessions resigned at Trump’s request. But as with McCabe, that request was seemingly made over and over again over the course of many months.
Trump made little secret that his big issue with Sessions was a very personal one: Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Trump repeatedly and not very subtly suggested that he viewed his attorney general as someone who should be there to protect him, even though attorneys general are supposed to be insulated from the White House in such cases. Sessions held on for months but was forced to resign within days of the 2018 election — a convenient time that allowed the White House to avoid political blowback.
And earlier this year, Trump made little secret that his differences with Sessions were personal.
“This is what happens to someone who loyally gets appointed Attorney General of the United States & then doesn’t have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt,” Trump said after Sessions failed to win the GOP nomination after the first round of primary voting in March. “Recuses himself on FIRST DAY in office, and the Mueller Scam begins!”