OPED: How long until heads roll in Trump administration?

Scott Martelle
Los Angeles Times
In this July 13, 2018 photo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers remarks in Portland, Maine. President Donald Trump is escalating his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, suggesting the embattled official should have intervened in investigations of two GOP congressmen to help Republicans in the midterms. Trump tweeted Monday that “investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department.” (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

I tend not to make too many predictions about elections because it’s too easy to be wrong, too hard to be right, and in the end it doesn’t matter because the elections will turn out the way they’ll turn out (give or take a Russian thumb or two on the scale).

So let’s move to the second-most interesting thing tied to the election: who President Donald Trump will fire, and when.

My guess is that several heads will roll, and roll soon. The news coverage of the fight for control of Congress will push Trump out of the news cycle, and nothing irks the president more than not being the center of attention. To paraphrase Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s jibe about her father, Teddy Roosevelt, Trump wants to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding and the baby at every christening.

And a good way to turn the spotlight back on himself is to dust off “The Apprentice” playbook and start firing people.

The first to go? Probably Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has been wracked by ethics investigations.

And then my money would be on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a frequent Trump punching bag, and possibly his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, who has been overseeing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into possible connections between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian meddlers, among other things.

Removing thorn-in-the-side Rosenstein would set the stage for Solicitor General Noel Francisco to handle oversight of Mueller whether Sessions stays or goes, since Sessions, who advised the Trump campaign, recused himself. And then if Francisco fires Mueller, well, that would certainly make Trump the center of attention again (though if the Democrats take the House, firing Mueller could well launch impeachment proceedings).

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And let’s not forget Kirstjen Nielsen, the Homeland Security secretary Trump has berated over border enforcement. Even though illegal border crossings are way down, Trump has inflated the issue into a fake crisis to try to gin up votes in the midterms. But just because it’s fake doesn’t mean the president doesn’t think there is a crisis, and Nielsen tops the list of potential scapegoats. If Nielsen gets the ax, John Kelly — Trump’s chief of staff and a vocal Nielsen defender – may leave too.

Wilbur Ross at Commerce could be on thin ice as well, given his ethics troubles, though firing a fellow 1 percenter who lied about his wealth might be painful for the president.

James Mattis may leave his Defense post, too, though the sense out of Washington is that his departure would be his decision, not Trump’s.

Presidents often wait until after midterms to shuffle around the people in the top chairs, but this particular chief executive has been rearranging his cabinet like it’s his hobby. So grab the popcorn and start the office pools.