On Monday, April 16, President Donald Trump made some surprising comments about his cabinet while in Hialeah, Florida for a roundtable on tax reform. In his comments at the roundtable, Trump admitted making mistakes in his staffing picks. This might not have come as a surprise to anyone who's been following his cabinet, though.
Speaking at the roundtable Monday afternoon, Trump introduced Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, both of whom were Trump appointees. "Great choices," Trump said of his two secretaries. "Not all of my choices were good, but they were great ones," he added with a laugh.
CNN reporter Manu Raju called the quote a "rare Trump concession." (He also interpreted the comment as "there were great ones.") Another CNN reporter, Jeff Zeleny, characterized the president's comments as a "rare admission."
Given the high volume of firings and resignations in Trump's presidency so far, it's not exactly a secret that Trump was unhappy with some of his staffing choices. In fact, there have been near-constant turnover in the first year-plus, and the average length of time his now-departed staffers lasted in the White House has been notably short. According to the Brookings Institute, the turnover rate in the current administration has been about 34 percent in its first year — a markedly higher percentage than in other modern presidencies.
That Trump himself suggested he'd made some poor choices in his initital appointments seems to check out, given that many of them aren't still in their positions today. Trump's presidency has been plagued by frequent turmoil. The president (or senior members of his cabinet) has fired a handful of people, among them people he himself appointed, and numerous others have resigned. Notably, many of these firings have come in the form of a tweet (or in the case of former FBI Director James Comey, a news report on TV). With the departure of former Veterans Affair Secretary David Shuklin and former Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert in the last couple of weeks, all eyes are on the remaining members of Trump's cabinet to see who lives to see another day. With developments in the last week involving FBI investigations, rumors have spawned about whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller, or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein might be on the chopping block.
Outside the FBI, other figures have popped up as being in danger of next to leave; notably, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, following ongoing bad press regarding their expenditures while in office. Also Monday, a report from the Government Accountability Office found that Pruitt spent $43,000 on a soundproof booth in violation of the law. Pruitt has come under fire multiple times in recent months, though Vox reports Trump is happy with his administrator.
This was but one of many notable moments during his remarks at the roundtable Monday. In addition to praising Mnuchin and Acosta and conceding to some mistakes in staffing, Trump also joked that he would fire National Security Adviser John Bolton for receiving audience applause. When Bolton was greeted with a standing ovation, Trump said to Bolton, "I'm a little jealous," adding, "You know that means the end of his job."
He also raised eyebrows when he asked, "Are there any Hispanics in the room? I don't think so." Hialeah boasts the highest percentage of Spanish-speakers by overall population in the country, per Miami.com. The comment was apparently meant as a joke.
Trump apparently also went off-script at one point during the speech to talk about immigration. "This was going to be my remarks, it would've taken about two minutes, but to hell with it, that would've been a little boring," he said, per NowThis.
As for Trump's staff, the president might have praised Mnuchin and Acosta today, but if history has taught us anything, it's that Trump's feelings about his staff can change at the drop of a hat.