It’s not exactly a secret that Donald Trump has gone through staffers at a record-setting pace, with the revolving door at the White House spinning wildly out of control for much of the Republican’s presidency. What’s less appreciated, though, is that those who leave Trump’s orbit nearly always depart worse off than they were before.Up until very recently, Navy Admiral Ronny Jackson, for example, enjoyed a favorable public profile. That’s obviously no longer true. Up until very recently, Michael Cohen was largely unknown and proud of his association with Trump. Now he’s facing a criminal investigation; the FBI has raided his home and office; and the president is keeping him at arm’s length.
The New York Times reported overnight, “A ride on President Trump’s bullet train can be thrilling, but it is often a brutal journey that leaves some bloodied by the side of the tracks.”
Half of the top aides who came to the White House with Mr. Trump in 2017 are gone, many under painful circumstances, either because they fell out with the boss or came under the harsh scrutiny that comes with him. Some of the president’s longest-serving aides have left with bruises. His son and son-in-law have hired lawyers and been interrogated. Even his lawyers now have lawyers as they face inquiries of their own.
Proximity to Mr. Trump has been a crushing experience for many who arrived with stellar careers and independent reputations yet ended up losing so much. Rex W. Tillerson ran the world’s largest energy company. David Shulkin was a respected doctor and a “high priest” of the medical world. Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster was an admired warrior. So was John F. Kelly. Jeff Sessions held a safe seat in Congress. So did Tom Price. Now all of them are known for unhappy associations with Mr. Trump.
In the Washington Post yesterday, Paul Waldman added, “Think about it: Is there a single Trump aide or official who will leave the service of this president with their reputation enhanced, or at least not diminished? … Your reputation is broken the moment you decide to work for Trump.”
The consequences of this dynamic play out in a variety of ways. For one thing, it’s inevitable that capable people will steer clear of serving in the executive branch, desperate to avoid Trump’s tarnish and toxicity.
For another, many of those who joined the president’s team find that they can’t leave – because some employers don’t want to be associated with those in Trump’s orbit. BuzzFeed had a good report on this two weeks ago:
Trump administration officials looking to escape to the private sector are getting a rude awakening: No one wants to hire them.
Companies and firms who used to recruit from presidential administrations and brag when they were successful in poaching an aide are making the calculation that the risks of bringing on a Trump administration official outweigh the rewards, according to interviews with 10 current and former administration officials, top recruiters, and lobbyists who did not want to be named to talk candidly.
As we discussed a couple of months ago, traditionally, “White House” are two words that tend to stand out in a good way on a resume, especially among those looking for work in D.C. But there’s a broad understanding that working in this White House isn’t something one can credibly brag about.
The president recently insisted, “You know, I read where, ‘Oh, gee, maybe people don’t want to work for Trump.’ And believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House. They all want a piece of that Oval Office; they want a piece of the West Wing. And not only in terms of it looks great on their resume; it’s just a great place to work.”
Oddly enough, Trump seems to be the only one who thinks so.