Trump's White House has had unprecedented turnover: Here's who has left the administration

Key Points
  • The Trump White House has seen quite a bit of turnover.
  • Here's a list of some of the most high-profile exits from the 45th president's administration.

President Donald Trump has presided over a White House plagued by turnover amid controversy and tumult.

His administration has seen a number of high-profile officials leave their posts sooner than expected.

To be sure, each exit was preceded by its own set of foreboding signs and circumstances. But the departures are generally heralded by growing reports of warring factions within the Oval Office.

Here's a running list of top officials who have left Trump's team, by choice or by force:

Sally Yates

Fired Jan. 30, 2017
Formerly acting attorney general

Trump fired Yates after she directed Justice Department lawyers not to defend his first executive order restricting travel for people from seven majority-Muslim nations. The president slammed Yates, saying she "betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States."

Yates previously served as deputy attorney general in the Obama administration. She then became acting attorney general, pending the confirmation of Jeff Sessions.

Michael Flynn

Resigned Feb. 13, 2017
Formerly national security advisor

Flynn left his role after days of intense scrutiny about his discussions with Russian officials prior to Trump's inauguration. The Washington Post reported that he discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Yates later testified under oath that she warned the White House that Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail. In his resignation letter, the former national security advisor admitted that he inadvertently misled Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his phone calls with Kislyak.

Preet Bharara

Fired March 11, 2017
Formerly U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York

Trump fired Bharara after the prosecutor refused to agree to the Justice Department's demand that he and 45 other U.S. attorneys submit their resignations. While it's not unusual for a new administration to appoint its own federal prosecutors, the holdovers are not typically ousted all at once.

Bharara's removal was also unusual because it came months after a meeting with Trump at Trump Tower. After the meeting, the attorney told reporters that the then-president-elect had asked him to stay on in his role.

James Comey

Fired May 9, 2017
Formerly FBI director

Trump abruptly fired Comey amid multiple investigations into possible ties between his campaign and the Kremlin. The White House initially said Comey was removed on the recommendations of the top two officials in the Justice Department.

But Trump later told NBC News that he would have fired the longtime federal agent "regardless" of what the department said. The president also said he was considering "this Russia thing" when he ousted Comey.

Michael Dubke

Resigned May 30, 2017
Formerly White House communications director

Dubke wrote in a note to associates that he originally tendered his resignation on May 18. He said that at that time he offered to remain in the role through the remainder of the president's international trip. Dubke said he left his position for personal reasons.

Sean Spicer

Resigned July 21, 2017
Formerly White House press secretary

Spicer resigned after opposing the president's appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. The longtime Republican operative said Trump had asked him to stay in his role.

His successor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said Spicer left to give the communications team a clean slate. After Dubke's resignation, Spicer had taken over some of the responsibilities of a communications director.

Reince Priebus

Resigned July 27, 2017
Formerly chief of staff

Priebus "formally resigned" after the president repeatedly pressured him to exert order on a tumultuous White House. His exit came on the heels of Scaramucci's appointment as White House communications director.

Despite multiple reports of tension, Scaramucci and Priebus insisted that they were friends. Scaramucci described their relationship as brotherly and that it's expected the two men would "rough each other up once in awhile."

Many had speculated Priebus would leave the White House after Spicer's resignation. The two worked at the Republican National Committee before joining the Trump administration.

Anthony Scaramucci

Ousted July 31, 2017
Formerly White House communications director

Scaramucci was removed as White House communications director just 10 days after he was appointed and well before his previously scheduled Aug. 15 start date.

The bombastic New York financier exited his post shortly after he unloaded on Priebus and then-chief strategist Steve Bannon in an expletive-laden rant to a New Yorker reporter.

Steve Bannon

Departed Aug. 18, 2017
Formerly White House chief strategist

Bannon initially submitted his resignation on Aug. 7, a person close to him told The New York Times. The newspaper said the announcement of his departure had been delayed after violence broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

Bannon, a nationalist firebrand, helped shape Trump's populist rhetoric that fueled his rise to the Oval Office. But in the weeks leading up to his exit, reports surfaced of Bannon's influence waning as the president grew increasingly angry with him.

Tom Price

Resigned Sept. 29, 2017
Formerly Health and Human Services secretary

Price came under fire after Politico reported he used private jets at taxpayer expense, instead of less-expensive commercial flights. Price's exit came after he said he would reimburse taxpayers for a small fraction of the cost of his flights and vowed to not use charter planes in the future.

Price was also reportedly on thin ice with top Trump administration officials who felt he did not do enough to support the last-ditch effort in Congress to repeal and replace major parts of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Dina Powell

Set to depart early 2018
Deputy national security advisor

Powell served under national security advisor H.R. McMaster and was considered a close ally of the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Sanders said in a Dec. 8 statement that Powell had always "planned to serve one year before returning home to New York."

The former Goldman Sachs partner appeared set to depart the administration on good terms. Sanders and Kushner both made statements saying Powell would continue to support the administration's Middle East policy but provided little detail.

Powell succeeded K.T. McFarland as deputy national security advisor. Trump nominated McFarland for the role of ambassador to Singapore. Her confirmation process has been held up amid questions about her knowledge of Flynn's conversations with Kislyak.

Omarosa Manigault Newman

Resignation effective Jan. 20, 2018
Director of communications for Office of Public Liaison

Newman handed in her resignation on Dec. 12 in order to pursue other opportunities, Sanders said in a statement. She had been one of the president's highest-profile African-American, female supporters.

Andrew McCabe

Stepped down Jan. 29, 2018
FBI deputy director

McCabe served briefly as acting director of the FBI, between James Comey's ouster and the hiring of current director Christopher Wray.

His final year at the agency was fraught with political turmoil — mostly stirred by Trump and his supporters. They have heavily criticized McCabe's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, suggesting bias due to his wife's failed Virginia Senate bid in 2015. She ran as a Democrat and received nearly $700,000 from Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a close Clinton ally.

McCabe stepped down immediately on Monday, Jan. 29, but will remain on the FBI payroll on "terminal leave" until March, when he is eligible to retire with full benefits.

He was later fired less than 48 hours before his retirement.

Robert Porter

Resigned Feb. 6, 2018
White House staff secretary

Porter, who aided White House chief of staff John Kelly in reviewing documents before they reached Trump's desk, voluntarily resigned shortly after the Daily Mail published allegations of abuse from two former wives.

His first wife, Colbie Holderness, told the UK tabloid that Porter had inflicted physical and emotional abuse during their five-year marriage. She said that Porter had punched her in the face during a vacation, and provided a photo of the black eye she allegedly received from the assault.

Porter had been urged to "stay and fight" by White House officials — including Kelly, Axios reported.

In a statement following his resignation on Wednesday, Porter said the allegations "are simply false," and that "the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described."

Reed Cordish

Stepped down Feb. 16, 2018
Assistant to the president, intragovernmental and technology initiatives

Cordish assisted Trump's presidential transition team after the 2016 election through the so-called beachhead team, members of which filled roles prior to the appointment of official administration officials by the Senate.

His work on the White House focused on technical innovation and government modernization, though he was perhaps better known as an ally Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

"Reed has been invaluable to the Administration. His leadership on initiatives ranging from work-force development to Prison Reform to modernizing key VA services will have a positive impact for millions of Americans," Kushner told CNBC in a statement.

Cordish told the Washington Post that he had not intended to work for the administration for more than a year.

Hope Hicks

Resignation first reported Feb. 28, 2018
White House communications director

The first reports of Hicks' plan to resign came one day after she testified to the House Intelligence Committee about Russian potential involvement with the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

In that hearing, Hicks reportedly said that while she never lied about the Russia probe, she sometimes had to tell white lies as part of the Trump administration. She also reportedly refused to answer a number of questions about her involvement in drafting a misleading initial statement from Donald Trump Jr. regarding a 2016 meeting with Kremlin-connected lawyers in Trump Tower.

Hicks had been entangled in White House scandals before she testified to the committee, however. When staff secretary Rob Porter resigned amid allegations that he physically abused his former wives, reports soon emerged that Hicks had begun dating Porter and that she may have helped draft his initial statement denying the allegations.

Hicks joined the Trump campaign as a low-level aide before he announced his candidacy and rose through the ranks, eventually taking a leading role in crafting the White House's messaging.

Gary Cohn

Resignation announced March 6; departure date to be determined
White House chief economic advisor

Cohn's departure came after Trump said he would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. A free trade advocate, Cohn had argued against tariffs in a February meeting with the president and industry executives, according to a person in the room.

The former Goldman Sachs president helped shepherd tax overhaul, the administration's only major legislative achievement, which Trump signed into law in December.

Rex Tillerson

Ousted March 13
Secretary of State

While Tillerson's resignation came suddenly, his uncomfortable fit in Trump's White House had been a near-constant feature of his tenure.

Tillerson had clashed with Trump in private and in public. In July, Tillerson reportedly referred to Trump as a "moron" after a White House meeting. And in October, Trump tweeted that Tillerson is "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with North Korea on nuclear weapons.

Just before he was ousted as secretary of State, Tillerson had cast the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain as part of a "certain unleashing of activity" by Russia that the United States is struggling to understand – diverging from the White House's official response.

Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, had no prior public service experience when he accepted the role of America's top diplomat.

Tillerson will be replaced by Mike Pompeo, formerly the director of the CIA. Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel will take Pompeo's place as the head of the U.S. intelligence agency — the first woman ever to hold the position.

John McEntee

Fired March 12
Personal assistant to Trump

McEntee was fired and reportedly escorted from the White House amid a Secret Service investigation into serious financial crimes.

His security clearance has been "in limbo for some time," a federal law enforcement official told NBC News.

Shortly after being removed from his position as Trump's personal assistant, McEntee joined the president's 2020 re-election campaign as a senior advisor.

John Dowd

Resigned March 22
Lawyer for President Donald Trump

While not technically a member of the Trump administration, Dowd worked closely with the White House as Trump's lead lawyer in the special counsel's Russia probe.

"I love the president and wish him well," Dowd told NBC News.

Dowd had reportedly considered leaving Trump's legal team on multiple occasions, The New York Times reported. The Times, citing two people briefed on the matter, reported that Dowd believed Trump was increasingly ignoring his advice.

It was unclear at the time of his resignation who would take over as the leader of Trump's legal team. Days before Dowd's departure, Trump brought Washington lawyer Joseph diGenova aboard the team.

H.R. McMaster

Official handover on April 9
National security advisor

McMaster was the second national security advisor to leave the administration in just over one year. The army lieutenant general said in a statement that he is requesting retirement from the Army this summer, after which he will "leave public service."

Since taking the position, McMaster has faced criticism from some Trump supporters who have attacked him as a "globalist."

McMaster clashed with Trump when he said that the evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election is "incontrovertible," following indictments against 13 Russian individuals and three Russian entities.

David Shulkin

Announced March 28
Secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs

Shulkin had been under fire after an internal watchdog report revealed that the VA had improperly approved taxpayers footing the bill for a trip Shulkin's wife took with him to Europe last year.

That same report found that Shulkin told a subordinate to handle personal plans for him and his wife during that trip, and that he improperly accepted tickets to the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

DJ Gribbin

Announced resignation April 3
Infrastructure advisor to the White House

The White House described Gribbin as a key player on the team that assembled Trump's infrastructure plan, which was unveiled in February.

A White House official confirmed to CNBC that Gribbin is "moving on to new opportunities" now that the plan has been presented to Congress.

Top economic advisor Larry Kudlow said Gribbin's "expertise has added tremendous value to the Adminstration," and vowed that the National Economic Council will continue to push to implement the infrastructure plan.

Tom Bossert

Resignation announced April 10
Homeland security advisor

Bossert led the administration's efforts on security issues including mainland terrorist threats, cyber defenses and natural disasters, the White House said. As recently as Sunday, he was representing Trump's homeland security policies in television interviews.

By Tuesday, however, the White House confirmed Bossert's plan to resign.

"The President is grateful for Tom's commitment to the safety and security of our great country," press secretary Sanders said in a statement. "President Trump thanks him for his patriotic service and wishes him well."

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told CNBC that the move "seems like a natural turnover with a new [National Security Council] director." John Bolton, a foreign-policy hardliner, started as Trump's national security advisor Monday, replacing H.R. McMaster.

Ty Cobb

White House lawyer
Retirement announced May 2

Cobb represented the White House in matters related to the special counsel's investigation into the Trump campaign.

The New York Times first reported that Cobb was expected to be replaced by Washington lawyer Emmet Flood, whose prior experience includes representing President Bill Clinton in impeachment proceedings.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Cobb's retirement shortly after the newspaper published its story.

Scott Pruitt

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the proposed budget estimates and justification for FY2019 for the Environmental Protection Agency on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 16, 2018
Al Drago | Reuters

Environmental Protection Agency administrator; resignation announced July 5

At the time Trump announced Pruitt's resignation, the embattled EPA secretary was at the center of at least a dozen ethics probes into his spending practices and workplace conduct at the helm of the agency.

"Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this," Trump tweeted.

Trump tweet Scott Pruitt

Don McGahn

Don McGahn, general counsel for the Trump transition team, gets into an elevator in the lobby at Trump Tower, November 15, 2016.
Getty Images

White House counsel
Departure announced Aug. 29

McGahn had served as the White House counsel since Trump's inauguration and had reportedly been a key player in Trump's ongoing tug-of-war with Mueller.

The New York Times reported in August that McGahn had voluntarily submitted to interviews with the special counsel on multiple occasions totaling about 30 hours.

McGahn's potential departure had been widely reported for months.

Trump, announcing McGahn's departure, said the lawyer would be leaving after the confirmation vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. McGahn has led the administration's push to stock federal courts with young conservative judges.

Trump tweet

Nikki Haley

U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, September 15, 2017.
Carlos Barria | Reuters

UN Ambassador
Resignation announced Oct. 9

Trump announced Haley's resignation in the Oval Office in early October, saying she would be leaving at the end of 2018. The shock announcement came a few weeks after Trump attended the UN General Assembly in New York City.

In remarks to reporters, Trump said that Haley told him months earlier that she wanted to take time off at the end of a one- or two-year period.

Trump added that he hoped Haley would come back in a different role, telling her: "You can have your pick."

Haley, a former South Carolina governor who is considered a rising political star in the GOP, had served in the Trump administration since its early days.

John Kelly

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Chief of staff
Departure announced by Trump on Dec. 8

Kelly's departure had been prophesied by White House insiders and politicos for months, amid reports of increasing friction between the retired Marine Corps general and the president.

Kelly also clashed with first lady Melania Trump's staff when he turned down requests to promote some of her aides, NBC News reported last month. Watergate journalist Bob Woodward reports in his White House tell-all "Fear" that Kelly had threatened to quit the job before over Trump's equivocal response to a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in summer 2017.

Kelly is set to leave the Trump administration by the end of the year. It was unclear at the time who would replace Kelly.

Nick Ayers

Vice President Mike Pence's Chief of Staff Nick Ayers (L) and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster arrive in the Rose Garden before President Donald Trump and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong deliver joint statements at the White House October 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. 
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence
Departure announced Dec. 9

Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, was reported to be the leading contender to replace Kelly. But a day after Trump confirmed Kelly's departure, Ayers said he would be leaving the Trump administration at the end of the year, as well.

Ayers, 36, had reportedly told the president that he would be willing to be his chief of staff only an interim basis. But Trump wanted a long-term aide to fill the role.

CNBC reported Sunday that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was being considered to become the next chief of staff. But Mnuchin has said he feels better suited to the Treasury.

Meanwhile, Axios reported that House Freedom Caucus Mark Meadows, R-N.C, was being considered as Kelly's replacement.

— CNBC's Dan Mangan, Everett Rosenfeld and Marty Steinberg contributed to this report.