Why Many People Are Planning to Leave the Trump White House Soon (and Who’s Among Them)

President Trump envisions an even emptier White House
President Trump envisions an even emptier White House. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

Working in the White House is about as high-profile of a job as there is. But working in the White House alongside Donald Trump? It’s hard to imagine a job that is under a bigger magnifying glass. While relatively few people could name cabinet members in the Obama or Bush administrations, many members of the current administration are commonly known. Names like Huckabee-Sanders, Kushner, and Sessions have been thrust into the public spotlight, whereas 12 or 18 months ago, they were relative unknowns.
Because many of these staffers have been working under so much scrutiny, a lot of them aren’t lasting long. We’ve already seen many administration officials resign or be fired, including Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon. And we might just see a lot more of them hit the bricks in January as we approach the one-year anniversary of the new administration’s inauguration.
Several reports have surfaced from outlets like Politico saying that many people working in and around the White House are planning on leaving. They’re reaching out to recruiters, preparing their resumes, and looking for their next jobs. Why are they looking to leave such high-level positions, and why did so many of them wait until January to make a break for it?
First up: Why is January the planned date of departure for White House staffers?

The one-year White House exodus

White house
View of the White House | Ed-Ni-Photo/iStock/Getty Images
  • Reports point to January as the beginning of the exodus.

What’s up with January? As it turns out, from Politico and others’ reporting, most staffers who are preparing to leave simply wanted to make it a whole year. A Republican lobbyist, speaking with Politico reporters, summed it up: “Everyone says, ‘I just need to stay for one year.’ If you leave before a year, it looks like you are acknowledging that you made a mistake.”
There you have it — these staffers are trying to save face but not do too much damage to their career prospects. And working in the current administration may carry some real stigma in the future.
Next: Why run away from Trump?

Why quit working for Trump?

Trump doing... something
Trump doing … something | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
  • Working for Trump is notoriously difficult.

Another question: Why wouldn’t you want to work with or under President Trump? For starters, the man is notoriously difficult to deal with. Stories of secret recordings and unwanted sexual advances plague his past, as many people know. And since he’s taken office, the administration has been the focal point for most Americans. There’s a lot of pressure. A general lack of accomplishments and numerous scandals and investigations make the environment even more intense. If you were working under those conditions at Starbucks, you’d probably bail, too.
Next: The logic behind waiting until January to quit

It’s all about the resume (and some tax incentives)

Looking over a resume
Looking over a resume | HBO
  • Having “White House” on your resume really sticks out.

As noted, the real point of getting to January is to hit the one-year mark. You can say: “Yeah, I worked at the White House for a year. Not my cup of tea,” and impress just about any recruiter or employer. Many of us have likely done this in other jobs — stick with it a little while longer so it doesn’t appear as a red flag on your resume, that is. It is interesting that a good number of people working in such high-level positions worry about their resumes in the same way that the rest of us do, isn’t it?
There’s another important element to mention, too: There are significant tax benefits for high-level staffers who had to divest before taking a job in the White House. By waiting a year, the wealthy individuals planning to leave will be able to have skipped out on the taxes they owed by selling or divesting their interests (which is required by ethics laws to accept some jobs).
So, yes, the resume is a part of it. But there are also key financial incentives in the mix.
Next: Who’s planning to bail?

Who’s leaving? Gary Cohn

Gary Cohn peeks through a doorway
Gary Cohn | Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images
  • Cohn may be looking to get out of the White House.

As for which high-ranking, big-name figures are set to leave? One that’s mentioned often, and has been mentioned since late summer, is Gary Cohn. Cohn is the Director of the National Economic Council and the president’s top economic advisor, and as a former COO at Goldman Sachs, is viewed as one of the more level-headed figures in and around the White House. He has said, however, that he will leave the post once tax reform is finished. Assuming it goes through, that should happen in January.
Next: Rex Tillerson

Rex Tillerson

Rex Tillerson giving remarks
Rex Tillerson | Mark Wilson/Getty Images
  • Tillerson has already called Trump a “f**king moron” — so, it’s probably time to pack it up.

Another high-ranking official rumored to be on his way out is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson’s another former business executive, having formerly served as the CEO at Exxon, and has had a very bumpy relationship with the president over the past year. Rumors that he would resign have swirled for months, but he has, so far, stayed put. It’s not hard to imagine, though, that if a number of other staffers decide to defect, that he would be among them.
Next: The Kush

Jared Kushner

Kushner and Trump
Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Kushner and his wife are already being pushed out, according to some reports.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, was somehow given a job in the White House as a senior adviser and has somehow kept it all this time. But there are reports that Trump has grown unhappy with both him and his wife, Ivanka, who also holds an office in the West Wing. It may be that the president’s chief of staff has gotten between them, or the fact that Kushner’s found himself at the center of several investigations. Either way, he might be among those to leave in early 2018 as well.
Next: These people will be joining an already crowded party.

Joining the club

trump in the oval office surrounded by his cabinet
Trump speaks on the phone with his team. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Trump has already chased away many members of his team — and the herd is set to get thinner.

If Cohn, Kushner, and Tillerson leave, they won’t be alone. In fact, they’ll just be the latest in a growing list of staffers to have been fired or to have resigned. As mentioned, that includes Spicer, Priebus, and Bannon. But also Michael Flynn, and, well, everyone in the photo above with the exception of Vice President Mike Pence. The real trick for Trump will be to replace all of these people and to fill the numerous vacancies in and around the White House.
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