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White House staffing volatility is 'off the charts'

As another one of Donald Trump's top aides steps down, it's worth appreciating just how unusual the White House's staffing volatility is.
The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty)
The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. 

There's been chatter for weeks about Donald Trump further shaking up his staff as his first year in office comes to a close, so perhaps this Wall Street Journal  piece shouldn't come as too big of a surprise.

Rick Dearborn, one of President Donald Trump's top aides, will step down early next year to pursue private-sector work, White House officials said, becoming the latest high-profile departure from the West Wing in recent weeks. [...]A deputy chief of staff who oversaw the White House's political operation, public outreach and legislative affairs, Mr. Dearborn will remain at the White House for the first month or two of next year, according to people familiar with the planning.

This comes a day after the Washington Post  reported that White House National Economic Council Deputy Director Jeremy Katz is also leaving. [Update: It looks like Domestic Policy Council Deputy Director Paul Winfree is also departing.]

Before we update the list of notable White House departures, it's worth considering a question that comes up every time I write about this: how unusual are the shake-ups in Donald Trump's White House? In quantifiable terms, how far is Team Trump from the historical norm?

The New Yorker published an interesting piece along these lines last week, quoting the Brookings Institution's Kathryn Dunn Tenpas describing the staff churn in this White House as "off the charts."

The piece added that among senior staff, Trump's first-year turnover rate will reach or exceed 30% by Jan. 20. In contrast, that figure was 9% after Barack Obama's first year, 11% in Bill Clinton's first year, and 17% in Ronald Reagan's first year.

In other words, this really isn't normal.

And with this in mind, this seems like a good time to update the list of prominent Trump World departures:

Cabinet: HHS Secretary Tom Price

West Wing: Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh, Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn, Director of Public Liaison George Sifakis, Office of Public Liaison Communications Director Omarosa Manigault 

White House Communications: Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Assistant Press Secretary Michael Short, Communications Director #1 Mike Dubke, Communications Director #2 Anthony Scaramucci, Rapid Response Director Andy Hemming

National Security team: National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland, Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell, Advisor to the National Security Council Monica Crowley, Director for intelligence programs at the National Security Council Ezra Cohen-Watnick, Deputy Chief of Staff at the National Security Council Tera Dahl, Director Of Strategic Planning at the National Security Council Rich Higgins, NSC Middle East Advisor Derek Harvey

The self-identified “nationalist” wing: Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon, National Security Aide Sebastian Gorka

Justice Department: Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, FBI Director James Comey, dozens of U.S. Attorneys

A cavalcade of others that includes Jeremy Katz, National Economic Council Deputy Director;Paul Winfree, Domestic Policy Council Deputy Director; Josh Pitcock, chief of staff to the vice president; Marc Lotter, press secretary to the vice president; Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics; and Carl Icahn, who served as a special adviser to the president on regulatory reform

As we discussed a while back, this does not include the various shake-ups we’ve seen on Trump’s outside legal team. It also doesn’t include a variety of people the president nominated for prominent administrative posts – including some cabinet positions – who ultimately withdrew in the face of assorted controversies.