Wilder-than-usual Washington, D.C., days started July 21 when White House press secretary Sean Spicer resigned; Anthony Scaramucci arrived (and departed within days); President Trump trash-tweeted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the Senate failed again to repeal and replace Obamacare.
But the July 28 move of John F. Kelly from the head of the Department of Homeland Security to the position of President Trump’s Chief of Staff to replace outgoing Reince Priebus was hailed as the calm in the chaos.
President Trump’s decision to name Kelly was motivated by what has been a nonstop attack on his administration and his person since Day No. 1 by the “deep state,” the press, opposition Democrats, and establishment Republicans, three of whom voted to reject the so-called skinny Obamacare repeal – Senators John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Priebus played a central role in President Trump’s election, but his inability to silence critics forced the shift to Kelly, a loyalist.
Commitment of the deep state – the unelected bureaucracy suspected of manipulating government policy –to undermining the Trump presidency is unprecedented.
According to multiple government officials, during the Trump administration’s first 126 days, Obama holdovers – many of whom are FBI operatives – leaked 125 classified secrets. Allegedly, FBI General Counsel James Baker, the agency’s top lawyer, is under a Department of Justice criminal investigation.
The huge question that remains is who will replace the successful four-star Marine Corps General Kelly at DHS. Kelly has restored, at least to an encouraging degree, federal immigration law enforcement.
DHS reports that in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, a heavily trafficked area, illegal border crossing apprehensions have fallen 75 percent since January to less than 4,000 in April.
And last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a DHS arm, arrested 99 aliens with criminal histories that include child abuse, drug trafficking and manslaughter. Kelly’s enforcement accomplishments are a marked improvement over Obama’s inept DHS chief.
The shift in the White House deck chairs, however, means that President Trump must nominate, and the Senate must confirm, a new DHS Secretary. Confirmation will be a challenge and not as easily achieved as Kelly’s 88-11 “yea” vote.
But with the Senate on recess, the earliest vote might not come until the fall. In the meantime, DHS deputy and chief operating officer Elaine Duke will be acting secretary.
Duke has been a D.C. fixture for 30 years. Many think a 30-year D.C. resume should be a disqualifier, and to contrast, point to General Kelly’s labeling congressional domestic politics a cesspool.
An interesting historical footnote: another general, the Army’s Al Haig, served from May 1973 to August 1974 as embattled President Richard Nixon’s chief of staff and continued briefly under President Ford.
The deep state doubtlessly hopes that Kelly will have the same influence on President Trump that Haig had on President Nixon. Behind the scenes, Haig convinced Nixon that he couldn’t survive an impeachment vote, and persuaded him to resign.
But resignation isn’t in President Trump’s M.O. Despite media accounts to the contrary, outside of the bubbled Beltway, President Trump is hugely popular.
The record thousands who lined up for hours in Youngstown, Ohio, to hear President Trump and to shout their approval are the envy of every elected or campaigning politician.