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Rex Tillerson is now gone, but he’s hardly the first.
President Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson yesterday in signature style: by tweeting it. The exact circumstances of the firing are in dispute. Administration officials say Tillerson knew the firing was imminent, but Steve Goldstein, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, said Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” for his firing and had not spoken directly with Trump (Goldstein himself was then immediately fired for contradicting the White House’s version of events).
But Tillerson’s ignominious, confusing, and humiliating sacking is par for the course in the Trump White House.
Here’s five other high-level West Wing departures that were messy as all hell:
1. Omarosa Manigault.
The “Apprentice” contestant turned White House adviser was fired from her position as communications director for the Office of Public Liaison on December 12. She received a $179,000 salary, but her official responsibilities were a mystery even she couldn’t explain, although she was reportedly one of the staffers who riled up the president by supplying him with negative news reports about his performance. Some reports claimed she resigned, but reporter April Ryan said she had to be physically removed from the White House after John Kelly terminated her.
2. James Comey.
We’re still trying to figure out what happened with this one (and so is Robert Mueller). The humiliation factor was high: after four years as FBI Director, Comey found out Trump had fired him when he saw the news on television (he initially thought it was a practical joke being played on him by his staff). And although the reasons for his termination vary widely depending on the source, the president did tell Lester Holt he got rid of Comey because of the Russia investigation: “When I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’”
Comey is currently at work on a book entitled “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” in which we’re sure he’ll spill some major tea.
3. Reince Priebus.
Poor Reince. Even if you loathe him, his firing was perhaps the most cringey of all (and God knows there’s been a lot of embarrassing exits). He had only been Trump’s Chief of Staff for six months when Trump canned him by tweeting that he’d replaced Priebus with General John Kelly—while all three men were together on Air Force One. When the president’s plane landed, the rest of the group headed back to the White House while the press got lots of pathetic picture of Priebus doing a miserable walk of shame in the rain to his own car. Conservative Charlie Sykes called the move “scorchingly obscene humiliation” but said Priebus knew what he signed up for.
4. Rob Porter.
Was this staff secretary and alleged wife beater fired or did he resign? As usual with this administration, it’s hard to say: but reports confirm that the president and Chief of Staff John Kelly knew the FBI had uncovered allegations of domestic violence against Porter by July 2017 but did nothing. They kept him on for another six months, and he actually was in line for a promotion until photos of Porter’s ex-wife’s bruised face began circulating and led to a public outcry. During a press conference, deputy press secretary Raj Shah said that Porter had “resigned” but also that he had been “terminated.” WHO CAN SAY. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
5. Steve Bannon.
No gray area here: President Trump definitely fired White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. Trump was apparently unhappy with the media portrayal of Bannon as the power behind the throne, and the breakup got super ugly. Bannon told The Weekly Standard that “the Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over.” Trump reacted with a cyclone bomb-level tweetstorm about his white nationalist former campaign manager, raging that “Sloppy Steve Bannon...cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad!"
In his official statement, Trump burned the bridge irrevocably:
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind….Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look.”
These five—and now, Rex Tillerson—aren’t the only abrupt or weird departures from the Trump administration. President Trump is, after all, the guy who tried to trademark "You're Fired." There’s a whole slew of people who were fired or resigned. Remember Mike Flynn? Remember Spicey?
(Header Image: President Donald Trump answers questions from the media after the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson before leaving the White House on March 13, 2018 to visit California to view prototypes of a proposed border wall. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)