During a Sunday exclusive with Fox News hot and journalist Chris Wallace, President Donald Trump said there will be anywhere from three to five Cabinet-level position changes coming soon following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ forced resignation in the aftermath of the midterm elections. The commander-in-chief is also still unsure of the immediate future of Chief of Staff John Kelly, saying in the interview that, “There are a couple of things where it’s just not his strength. It’s not his fault. It’s not his strength.”
It has been reported that Vice President Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff Nick Ayers could replace the former four-star Marine General as senior aide to President Trump, with some within the administration saying it is a “done deal.” Ayers was one of the architects of Vice President Pence’s tour of vulnerable Republican districts before the midterm elections, including appearances in Virginia.
In the broad spectrum interview, covering topics from the inside of the Trump Administration to immigration, the President said that he was overall content with his White House Cabinet after shakeups over the last 18 months, but remarked that he is currently considering personnel changes in “three or four or five positions.”
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is thought to be an inevitable departure after Trump’s criticism of her handling issues regarding immigration like the thousands-strong migrant caravan that has since fizzled out in Mexico. As well, Kelly has even threatened President Trump that he would resign if Nielsen is removed from her post. Regardless, Trump’s next pick is likely to be an immigration hawk that will uphold directives from the Oval Office that are in line with the President’s hardline immigration policies and efforts to better enforce border security.
Trump also spoke about the disagreement within the White House last week about clashes between the West Wing and the East Wing with First Lady Melania Trump. Mira Ricardel, a deputy national security adviser who was called to be removed by First Lady Trump after a critical statement, will be staying after the President said she is being moved to a different position in the White House, meanwhile downplaying claims that his wife holds power over the personnel decisions of the Oval Office.
“[The first lady’s team] wanted to go a little bit public because that’s the way they felt and I thought it was fine,” Trump said.
While speaking to Wallace he reiterated that his administration is not the “chaotic” picture the “mainstream media” likes to depict, saying the mood of the West Wing was “very light,” especially after the results of the midterm elections with Democrats taking back the House of Representatives.
Trump championed the two – barring current recounts – Senate seats Republicans picked up on November 7, saying the GOP had a “tremendous set of victories” on Election Day, while Wallace questioned the President about comments he made on the midterms being a “near perfect victory” for Republicans during a previous press conference. President Trump also shook off claims that he said before the election to act like he was “on the ballot,” dismissing his part in the loss of over 35 seats in the House from Republicans.
Following political uproar after former Iowa federal prosecutor and chief of staff to the ousted-AG Matt Whitaker was tapped to replace Sessions as the nation’s top law enforcement officer, Wallace asked the President what he plans to do with White House Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Trump said he “would not get involved” if his choice for acting attorney general decided to end the investigation. Whitaker was previously a fierce critic of the probe, with Democrats calling for him to recuse himself and hand the investigation back to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Trump said that “It’s going to be up to him” and that “I really believe he’s going to do what’s right,” adding the “witch hunt” has gone on far too long. He also shut the door on any chance that he will sit down for an interview with the special counsel before the investigation is wrapped up.
Insofar has his rhetoric is concerned, Wallace asked the President about what he intends to do to quell divisiveness in the media. After Wallace interjected when the President called reporters the “enemy of the people,” Trump suggested that Wallace was no “angel,” and charged back when he said that the media was in “solidarity” against his comments demonizing journalists. Trump exclaimed, “I am calling fake news, fake reporting, is what’s tearing this country apart because people know, people like things that are happening and they’re not hearing about it.”
The comments come days after Federal Judge Timothy Kelly ruled that CNN reporter Jim Acosta would get his press pass back on Fifth Amendment grounds. After tempers were flaring between Trump and Acosta at the White House during a post-midterm election press conference, a fracas between the reporter and a White House staffer ensued, with Trump reprimanding Acosta in the process and suspending his press pass hours later. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders said later the Trump Administration would be crafting “rules” for those in the press corps.