By Lee Moran   “This is the personalization of a family business dealing with U.S. policy,” said Barry McCaffrey.   Retired four-star Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey did not mince his words on Wednesday when asked for his opinion about Jared Kushner. “Putting Jared Kushner, a 30-something person with no foreign policy experience or defense policy experience, as a leading representative of the United States is simply outrageous,” McCaffrey told MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes.” President Donald Trump has charged his son-in-law and senior adviser with bringing peace to the Middle East.  McCaffrey made his comments in response to a report by The Intercept which alleged that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had boasted about having Kushner “in his pocket.” “The officers of our government, under the constitution, have to be confirmed by the Senate whether they are ambassadors, generals or senior officials of the government,” said McCaffrey. “So reading out the State Department and having one-on-one contact with Jared Kushner, by phone and in person, is a huge threat to a rational policy making process.” “It just has no precedent, in my view, in American government in modern times,” McCaffrey added. “This is the personalization of a family business dealing with U.S. policy.”

By Alex Emmons, Ryan Grim, Clayton Swisher   Mohammed bin Nayef and Mohammad bin Salman with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump on May 20, 2017, at the Royal Court Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.   UNTIL HE WAS stripped of his top-secret security clearance in February, presidential adviser Jared Kushner was known around the White House as one of the most voracious readers of the President’s Daily Brief, a highly classified rundown of the latest intelligence intended only for the president and his closest advisers. Kushner, who had been tasked with bringing about a deal between Israel and Palestine, was particularly engaged by information about the Middle East, according to a former White House official and a former U.S. intelligence professional. In June, Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman ousted his cousin, then-Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and took his place as next in line to the throne, upending the established line of succession. In the months that followed, the President’s Daily Brief contained information on Saudi Arabia’s evolving political situation, including a handful of names of royal family members opposed to the crown prince’s power grab, according to the former White House official and two U.S. government officials with knowledge of the report. Like many others interviewed for this story, they declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak about sensitive matters to the press. In late October, Jared Kushner made an unannounced trip to Riyadh, catching some intelligence officials off guard. “The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy,” the Washington Post’s David Ignatius reported at the time. What exactly Kushner and the Saudi royal talked about in Riyadh may be known only to them, but after the meeting, Crown Prince Mohammed told confidants that Kushner had discussed the names of Saudis disloyal to the crown prince, according to three sources who have been in contact with members of the Saudi and Emirati royal families since the crackdown. Kushner, through his attorney’s spokesperson, denies having done so. “Some questions by the media are so obviously false and ridiculous that they merit no response. This is one. The Intercept should know better,” said Peter Mirijanian, a spokesperson for Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell. On November 4, a week after Kushner returned to the U.S., the crown prince, known in official Washington by his initials MBS, launched what he called an anti-corruption crackdown. The Saudi government arrested dozens of members of the Saudi royal family and imprisoned them in the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh, which was first reported in English by The Intercept. The Saudi figures named in the President’s Daily Brief were among those rounded up; at least one was reportedly tortured. The Saudi Embassy did not respond to questions from The Intercept. The White House referred questions to National Security Council spokesperson Michael Anton. Anton declined to comment, referring questions on Kushner’s discussions with MBS to Lowell. It is likely that Crown Prince Mohammed would have known who his critics were without Kushner mentioning them, a U.S. government official who declined to be identified pointed out. The crown prince may also have had his own reasons for saying that Kushner shared information with him, even if that wasn’t true. Just the appearance that Kushner did so would send a powerful message to the crown prince’s allies and enemies that his actions were backed by the U.S. government. One of the people MBS told about the discussion with Kushner was UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, according to a source who talks frequently to confidants of the Saudi and Emirati rulers. MBS bragged to the Emirati crown prince and others that Kushner was “in his pocket,” the source told The Intercept. Access to the President’s Daily Brief is tightly guarded, but Trump has the legal authority to allow Kushner to disclose information contained in it. If Kushner discussed names with MBS as an approved tactic of U.S. foreign policy, the move would be a striking intervention by the U.S. into an unfolding power struggle at the top levels of an allied nation. If Kushner discussed the names with the Saudi prince without presidential authorization, however, he may have violated federal laws around the sharing of classified intelligence. On November 6, two days after the detentions in the Ritz began, Trump took to Twitter to defend the crackdown: Donald J. Trump✔@realDonaldTrump I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing.... 4:03 PM - Nov 6, 2017   6 Nov Donald J. Trump✔@realDonaldTrump I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing.... Donald J. Trump✔@realDonaldTrump ....Some of those they are harshly treating have been “milking” their country for years!   In the months that followed, the arrestees were coerced into signing overbillions in personal assets to the Saudi government. In December, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that Maj. Gen. Ali al-Qahtani had been tortured to death in the Ritz. Qahtani’s body showed signs of mistreatment, including a neck that was “twisted unnaturally as though it had been broken,” bruises, and “burn marks that appeared to be from electric shocks,” the New York Times reported earlier this month. SENIOR U.S. GOVERNMENT officials have long worried about Kushner’s handling of sensitive foreign policy issues given his lack of diplomatic experience. They have also raised concerns about the possibility that foreign officials might try to influence him through business deals with his family’s real estate empire. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly examining Kushner’s business ties as part of his ongoing probe. The Washington Post reported this week that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster “expressed early concern that Kushner was freelancing U.S. foreign policy.” According to the Post, Tillerson once asked staffers in frustration: “Who is the secretary of state here?” Indeed, Kushner has grown so close to the Saudi and Emirati crown princes that he has communicated with them directly using WhatsApp, areasonably secure messaging app owned by Facebook and popular in the Middle East, according to a senior Western official and a source close to the Saudi royal family. Asked about Kushner’s use of WhatsApp to communicate with foreign officials, his attorney’s spokesperson Mirijanian said, “Without commenting on who he talks with and how he does his work, Mr. Kushner is in conformity with the Presidential Records Act and other rules.” Kushner’s attorneys have since told him not to use the app for official business, according to a source with direct knowledge of the exchange. Kushner’s unconventional communications with regional leaders excluded diplomats during the summer of 2017, when Saudi Arabia and the UAE initiated an economic blockade aimed at weakening their Gulf neighbor Qatar. Tillerson’s attempts to mediate the crisis were quickly undercut by Trump and Kushner, who supported the blockade. Three State Department officials told The Intercept that Tillerson was largely in the dark about Kushner’s communications with MBS during that period. In the wake of MBS’s crackdown in Saudi Arabia, the National Security Council’s policy coordination committee suggested that Tillerson intervene and try to reason with the crown prince, according to a former White House official and a former State Department official. Tillerson declined, telling colleagues doing so would be “pointless” given that Kushner was already in close and direct contact with him. The National Security Council’s Middle East adviser, retired U.S. Army Col. Michael Bell, has also complained in recent months that he was out of the loop on the Gulf crisis and the Arab-Israeli conflict, the former White House official said. Bell has told colleagues that Kushner frequently micromanaged those subjects through direct interaction with regional leaders, without offering Bell any worthwhile readout on their interactions. Bell, speaking through National Security Council spokesperson Anton, denied that Kushner has kept him out of the loop and said he respects Kushner’s lead role in the region. A Kushner Companies logo is visible near an entrance to the Kushner Companies’ flagship property 666 Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, March 6, 2018, in New York City.   KUSHNER’S SUPPORT FOR Saudi Arabia and the UAE over Qatar in the Gulf crisis has raised questions about a possible conflict of interest. Kushner backed the blockade a month after Qatar’s ministry of finance rebuffed an attempt by Kushner’s real estate firm, Kushner Companies, to extract financing for the firm’s troubled flagship property at 666 Fifth Avenue. In 2007, Kushner bought the landmark Manhattan building for $1.8 billion, putting down $500 million in cash raised largely by selling thousands of rental units the family had owned in New Jersey. It was widely regarded as overpriced at the time, and when the financial crisis hit, the value plummeted, wiping out much of the initial investment. The clock is now ticking toward a February 2019 deadline when a major mortgage payment will come due. Since 2011, Kushner and his relatives have been searching the globe for a new investor. As recently as the spring of 2017, Charles Kushner, Jared’s father, asked former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani to invest in the building. Then in April 2017, Charles Kushner made a direct pitch to the Qatari government through the country’s minister of finance. Qatar rejected the deal as not financially viable. In May, Trump traveled to Riyadh with Kushner, where the famous glowing orb photo was taken. In the wake of the meeting, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and a handful of allied countries announced the blockade of Qatar, which is aligned with Iran, a key Saudi adversary. The crisis continues today. “We could not understand why the Trump administration was so firmly taking the Saudis’ side in this dispute between the Saudis, the Emiratis, and Qatar, because the United States has very important interests in Qatar,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s “This Week,” after The Intercept reported on Kushner Companies’ efforts to obtain financing from Qatar. Murphy was referring to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, home of U.S. Central Command, where thousands of U.S. troops are stationed. “If the reason this administration put U.S. troops at risk in Qatar was to protect the Kushners’ financial interests, then that’s all the evidence you need to make some big changes in the White House,” Murphy said. MBS is in Washington this week. On Tuesday, he was warmly received by Trump, who told reporters that the U.S.-Saudi relationship is “probably the strongest it’s ever been.”   Source: The Intercept

By Annie Gowen Lalit Goyal, vice chairman and managing director of IREO, at his office in Gurgaon. (Enrico Fabian/For The Washington Post)   NEW DELHI — A real estate investment company that partnered with the Trump Organization on an office tower project in India has been accused of defrauding its foreign investors of at least $147 million, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. Two global investment companies based in New York and London that have invested nearly $300 million in the Indian real estate development company IREO filed a criminal complaint with New Delhi police last month alleging that the fund’s Indian managing director, Lalit Goyal, co-founder Anurag Bhargava and others engaged in “large-scale fraud” by “illegally siphoning off” at least $147 million of investor money, although the actual sum could approach $200 million, they allege. Police in New Delhi said they have received the complaint but declined to discuss the matter further. The two firms are the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, a charity of the British billionaire Christopher Hohn, knighted for his philanthropic work in 2014, and Axon Partners, an equity firm run by former Goldman Sachs executive Dinakar Singh. Both firms declined to comment. Goyal declined to comment on the allegations through an IREO spokeswoman. But in a March 13 letter to IREO investors, he wrote that “as far as the allegation of fraud, diversion and misappropriation of funds is concerned, this is false, baseless and devoid of any merit.” Donald Trump Jr. called IREO “truly a fantastic group” when the companies announced the project in April 2016. Dusty, water-starved Gurgaon has seen rampant and largely unregulated growth in recent years of gated high-rise communities and soaring office towers that house multinational corporations. The Trump Organization did not return emails or telephone calls requesting comment on the criminal complaint, which does not refer to the organization’s partnership with IREO. Trump Jr. visited India in February on a tour packed with glitzy events to promote his family company’s other Trump-branded towers in the cities of Pune, Mumbai and Kolkata, as well as new residential towers just a few miles away from the planned IREO office tower. The visit was criticized by ethics watchdog groups after buyers of luxury apartment homes were offered “a conversation and dinner” with Trump Jr. in exchange for a $38,000 booking fee. Trump Jr., the organization’s executive vice president, did not actively promote the IREO project on that trip, although he told CNBC’s Indian affiliate that the company had “five incredible deals that are all active,” which would include IREO. Goyal and Bhargava, a U.S. resident on the board of the University of Pennsylvania’s engineering school and the arts advisory council for the South Asia Institute at Harvard, in 2004 founded the IREO group of funds, designed to inject foreign capital into what was then a relatively untested real ­estate market. It now manages more than $1.6 billion from sovereign wealth and university endowment funds, a portfolio of 1,485 acres in the Delhi area and in the state of Punjab, and 18 million square feet of commercial and residential projects in development. Bhargava did not respond to calls or emails requesting comment on the criminal complaint. Goyal said in an interview with The Post in the spring of 2017 that the company first approached the Trump Organization about partnering on a commercial real estate tower in about 2013. An early deal fell through, but the two parties signed a licensing agreement in 2016 for the luxury office building that included use of the Trump name, “technical assistance” and a percentage of the lease income, Goyal said. “We thought Trump would be the ideal partner,” Goyal said. In a 2016 meeting on the project, Trump Jr. was “very focused on what the commercial building should be. The shape of the glass, what customers like. He was very businesslike,” Goyal said. According to a 2017 letter to investors, Singh and Hohn were growing increasingly frustrated that IREO’s managers seemed difficult to reach and had shown no indication that they were going to return investor money as scheduled, along with what they promised would be significant profits. They launched legal proceedings in the island nation of Mauritius — where the funds are based — and talks to restructure the funds to increase investor control and manager accountability. “After roughly 10 years, we estimate that investors have received distributions of only $250 million, while management has collected over $300 million in management fees, and to this day management does not have a plan for returning out capital before the end of various funds’ lives,” they wrote to investors in April 2017. In a Feb. 24 Barron’s article, Goyal said IREO had managed to weather the 2008 global financial crisis when others failed. “Our strategy, good and bad, preserved the investor money, and we are very hopeful they will get much more than what they invested back,” he told the magazine. Now, however, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and Axon are alleging, in the criminal complaint filed last month with the New Delhi police department’s economic offenses wing, that Goyal and others established a fraudulent web of companies and entities and phony charges to divert more than $147 million into their own pockets. In one case, they allege, a project in an undeveloped area in the state of Rajasthan — where no licenses or land certificates were ever obtained — was “nothing but a sham . . . to misappropriate about $62 million.” A former CEO of the company, Ramesh Sanka, alerted the investors to potential fraud. His statements and records form the basis of the investors’ criminal complaint, along with Sanka’s own whistleblower complaints filed with police and the civil court in neighboring Gur­gaon, also known as Gurugram. In an interview, Sanka said he joined IREO in 2014 and grew concerned when he learned that a group of IREO home buyers went to the police and complained that their apartments had been canceled but their money had not been refunded. He began his own investigation, gathering documents from the area planning office and other government agencies. He left the company in 2016, he said, “once I was convinced these frauds were true and deep-rooted.” In his March 13 letter to investors on behalf of IREO, Goyal said that the legal proceedings will discourage investors and buyers, and are a “needless and unwarranted distraction” that will cause “significant damage and harm to IREO” at a sensitive time when it is in the midst of refinancing. The company has had a cash crunch because of India’s moribund real estate market and the government’s move to pull its higher-value currency out of circulation to combat tax cheats, it has said. Some of IREO’s land is also caught up in a court dispute and a probe by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, court records show. Goyal also addressed Sanka’s charges in the letter to investors, saying: “We find the timing of his alleged ‘whistle blowing’ curious and the manner suspicious to say the least. Mr. Ramesh Sanka has made unsubstantiated allegations without producing any concrete or direct evidence, he has resorted to conjectures and surmises coupled with ingenious drafting to give an impression of some alleged wrongdoing.” The letter also notes that Sanka was barred by India’s regulator from the securities market for three years for alleged malfeasance at a previous job. That case was later set aside on appeal.   Source: Washington Post

By LAURA ZIEGLER   Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks energized him around the issue of illegal immigration. "We discovered that five of the 19 hijackers had been in the country illegally," Kobach says.   Alabama and Arizona have some of the toughest immigration laws in the country. Behind both states' laws, and many others, is Kris Kobach, a constitutional lawyer and the Kansas secretary of state. Kobach has helped several other states shape immigration legislation, and he says there's more to come in 2012. Many national stories have called the 45-year-old conservative a "movie star," handsome and loaded with charisma. He looked the part greeting some 60 guests during a recent address to the Pachyderm Club in Topeka, Kan. A graduate of Harvard, Oxford and Yale, he was a White House fellow and chief immigration adviser to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft after the Sept. 11 attacks. His credentials undoubtedly make him the most famous Kansas secretary of state — and deified by supporters. "He's gonna save America with what he's done in Arizona," says Pachyderm member Jim Taylor. After opening ceremonies, Kobach told the crowd about the strict voter-fraud law he helped get passed in Kansas. Later, he talked about his interest in illegal immigration, which he traces back to the time with his mentor, Ashcroft. The Sept. 11 attacks energized him around the issue. "That's when things really went into high gear for me, and we discovered that five of the 19 hijackers had been in the country illegally, prior to the attacks. They all entered legally on visas but became illegally present during the time they were here," Kobach said. What put Kobach on the national radar was Arizona law SB 1070, which he helped draft. It allows police to demand citizenship papers if there is "reasonable suspicion" of illegal status during routine arrests. Map: Illegal Immigration   The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that most states have immigration bills or resolutions. Kobach has worked with several states to craft them, including Georgia, Texas, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Missouri. A Driving Force At a campaign event before the 2010 elections, candidate Kobach brought in Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who's enforcing immigration law. Rallies outside the event in a Kansas City suburb showed how both had become lightning rods because of it. "My name is Myrna Orosko, and I came to the United States when I was 4 years old. I came legally with a visa, however like for many immigrants, it expired. I have to refuse to let men like Kris Kobach and Arpaio continue to spread a message of hate and intolerance for our immigrants around the country," Orosko said. Kobach was elected in November 2010, and now he says he spends only five to 10 hours a week — on nights and weekends — on immigration issues. He has said he wrote a draft of the Alabama law — most of which a federal judge recently upheld — on his laptop in a turkey blind. It's a lucrative avocation: Official documents from Arizona indicate that he made $300 an hour with a $1,500 monthly retainer, plus expenses. "Kris Kobach is the driving force, really, behind the tactics we're seeing out of the anti-immigrant lobby right now," says Heidi Beirich with the Southern Poverty Law Center. Beirich says Kobach's ideology has created the political space for extremism to grow. Even with this week's ruling blocking some provisions, the Alabama law is still considered the strictest in the nation. Beirich says Kobach is leading a strategic anti-immigrant crusade, which she says has a racial element. "His decision to first start at the local level with laws in towns that were going through some strife over growing immigrant populations, and then take that to the state level, shifted the entire terms of the debate," Beirich says. Kobach says he simply wants immigrants to come to the country legally. "There is no question that respect for a nation's immigration laws is something every sovereign nation on the face of planet demands. There is nothing racially motivated about saying, 'We have our immigration laws, and we would like them enforced,' " Kobach says. Meanwhile, he says, watch for more immigration legislation in swing states in 2012.   Source: NPR

By ELIOT A. COHEN   Rex Tillerson’s successor will inherit the monumental task of cleaning up the mess he’s made of the State Department. Rex Tillerson walks out of a room after speaking to reporters on December 1, 2017.James Lawler Duggan / Reuters The graceless defenestration is one of Washington’s crueler art forms. In the case of Rex Tillerson, who has long stoutly maintained that he has no intention of resigning, it has been done with White House leaks about a reshuffle apparently masterminded by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. In the Marine Corps, these things are done more forthrightly, one suspects; but Kelly is a Trumpian civilian now, so he called Tillerson’s office to deny a story leaked by the White House to major news outlets. Meanwhile, a respected senior colleague gets a prolonged and humiliating shove out the window. Like so much in the capital these days, it’s low-end Shakespeare, farcical court politics albeit without the elevated language. Tillerson was, as is now recognized even by those who put him there, a disaster. As with most spectacular Washington flame-outs, his failures stem not from stupidity or general incompetence, but from a specific set of disabilities: an introverted and cocooned style of management that gave power to a few hated but overwhelmed and incompetent gatekeepers; insufficient skill at buttering up his volatile boss who, in an unguarded moment, the secretary seems to have characterized as a “moron”; morbid suspicion and sequestration of the State Department press, alienating a collection of hopeless foreign-policy wonks who normally fall in love with the secretary and sing his or her praises accordingly; management-jargon-laden reforms heavy on business-speak and low on familiarity with the work of diplomacy that demoralized the foreign service; and incapacity at finding and pushing through appointees who might do the work of diplomacy. He was a debacle, pure and simple, the worst secretary of state in living memory (and there has been serious competition) not because of ineptitude, but because of the semi-intentional demolition job he was doing on his own department even as he fell out of presidential favor. Even implacable enemies of the administration should cheer the arrival of Mike Pompeo as secretary of state. He is a former Army officer, a successful politician, and a veteran of running a large bureaucracy—the CIA. This means that, unlike Tillerson, he is used to motivating career people whom he cannot either fire or incentivize with money. He is sometimes described as a Trump loyalist, but that is nonsense: No one is loyal to Trump—he is too indecent a human being to attract such normal personal attachments. The administration is not divided into people who are loyal to Trump and those who are not. Rather, it is divided between those who know how to manipulate his vanity, his hatreds, his sensitivities, and those who do not. It is divided between those who think he is their ticket to fame and fortune and those who hope to survive this episode with their reputations more or less intact. It is divided, at the most fundamental level, between those willing to sell their souls completely and at a discount in the service of a man who is doing great damage to American norms and institutions, and those who are trying to get something for their country in return for the slices of honor and integrity that every day they reluctantly consign to the flames. So here is a plausible account of what Pompeo would do, if he replaces Tillerson. He will fire Tillerson’s cabal, shrink the Policy Planning staff, and return it to its more normal role of writing speeches and doing long-range thinking. He will ostentatiously drape an arm around the shoulders of the foreign service. He will bring journalists back onto his plane and schmooze them—in return getting more than his fair share of what Washington journalists sometimes call “beat-sweetener” stories. Unlike Tillerson, who seems in good corporate fashion to have decided that a 30 percent cut ordained by headquarters is the equivalent of a Czar’s ukase—unwelcome, perhaps, but not to be questioned—he will fight back. He will either bully OMB Director Mick Mulvaney or, more likely, smile sweetly at him, assure him of his complete support—and then end-run around him on Capitol Hill, letting angry senators do for him the dirty work of subverting the president’s budget. He will call in some of the retired senior diplomats—legendary ambassadors like Ryan Crocker who have been uncharacteristically public in their criticisms of Tillerson—and listen to them with at least the appearance of attentiveness. Above all, he will flatter the president shamelessly, praising his toughness and superlative insights while steering policy in a more or less sane (if, to be sure, tough-minded) direction. He will rattle some with hardline rhetoric, but at least he will articulate a coherent view of American foreign policy to the world, and that will be an advance. This is to be welcomed because it will restore some balance to foreign-policy-making, in which the State Department has been appallingly weak. The task before Pompeo will be enormous. It is easier to say which diplomatic positions have been filled than which have not—we have no ambassadors for Saudi Arabia, Germany, or France, let alone representatives to the European Union or the International Atomic Energy Agency. We have no assistant secretaries of state for East Asia and the Pacific (as we possibly stumble into a second Korean War) and none for the Middle East. The State Department is indeed due for a reorganization—but it would have been wise to have at least a core staff in place to do it, and to have done it by listening and learning the business of diplomacy first, and leaving the management consultants to work their magic on failing bricks-and-mortar retail companies, which they may understand, rather than foreign policy, which they probably do not. This is not the immediate task in any case. What Pompeo will need to do rather, is to get the department up and running again, and doing the day-to-day foreign-relations work of maintaining America’s role in the world. It will be interesting to see whether Pompeo would do better than his inarticulate predecessor in laying out American values as well as American interests. That will be the big divide with the White House, if he has the stomach for it: making it clear that commitment to free government, rule of law, and individual liberty are critical parts of the American message to the world, and an essential element not only of America’s appeal, but American power. Trump does not understand this, of course. There will be other challenges as well. If he is honest, and has honest subordinates, the new secretary will realize how much damage has already been done to America’s global standing as evidenced by the deals cut by Middle Eastern allies with Russia, by Asian allies with China and by the profound disgust and mistrust with which our European allies view our president. Above all, he will—again, if he is honest—have to confront the fact that America’s reputation and indeed its stability are in question around the world. That is the meta foreign-policy crisis of our times, and he may not be able to do a great deal about it. There will be one lesson from this episode that he and every other senior official should also take away. If the president and his immediate staff can treat Tillerson this way, they can, and will, treat anyone this way. Eviction by sustained humiliation was a gambit Trump tried with Jeff Sessions, whose desire to cling to his job seems to have overwhelmed whatever stock of self-respect he once possessed.  But if Tillerson has had the experience of getting unceremoniously muscled over the window ledge before a crowd of gaping onlookers, the same may await any of the rest of them, including those even now prying his clutching fingers off the sill. And like Tillerson himself, as they plunge to earth they will see in the onlookers’ eyes a kind of disgusted curiosity, but not much in the way of sympathy.   Source: The Atlantic

By Jan Diehm and Sam Petulla   President Donald Trump's administration has been marked by a series of exits from high-ranking officials. Appointments expected to last for years have only made it a matter of days, ending in chaotic departures. An analysis of the rate of departures by the Brookings Institution found that Trump's staff turnover is higher than the five previous presidents. Below is a list of the notable exits and how long they lasted. A complete list shows some patterns: Obama appointees departed early, and departures increased shortly before and after former chief of staff Reince Priebus' departure. Anthony Scaramucci famously departed 11 days after starting his position, the same day John Kelly was named chief of staff. FIRED11 days Sally Yates US Deputy Attorney General | Obama appointee Fired when she was acting attorney general because she refused to implement the first iteration of Trump's ban on travelers from a number of Muslim-majority countries. Trump had tapped Yates to serve as interim attorney general while Jeff Sessions went through Senate confirmation. Yates also served as deputy attorney general under President Obama.  FIRED25 days Michael Flynn National Security Adviser | Trump White House staffer Forced to resign amid claims he misled the administration over his communications with Russia during the transition. In early December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. He is cooperating with Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.  RESIGNED70 days Katie Walsh Deputy Chief of Staff | Trump White House staffer Walsh was Reince Priebus' deputy, joining him in the administration after serving as his chief of staff when he was chairman of the Republican National Committee. She left to serve as a senior adviser to America First Policies, a nonprofit group helmed by former Trump campaign officials. RESIGNED80 days K.T. McFarland Deputy National Security Adviser | Trump White House staffer McFarland was top deputy to Michael Flynn before his firing. She was to leave her post in the White House to become US ambassador to Singapore, but that fell through after Democrats objected to her nomination.  RESIGNED95 days Vivek Murthy Surgeon General | Obama appointee Murthy resigned at the request of the White House after assisting in the transition to the Trump administration. He continues as a member of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps  UNKNOWN106 days Angella Reid White House Chief Usher | Non-political White House employee Left the Trump administration after 106 days. She had served as White House Chief Usher under President Obama since 2011. No specific reason was given for her departure. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, "It's not uncommon that you might have a transition when a new administration comes in and it's simply nothing more than that."  FIRED110 days James Comey FBI Director | Obama appointee The Trump administration attributed Comey's dismissal to his handling of the investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's email server, but Democrats ridiculed that notion, raising parallels to Watergate-era firings and suggesting Comey was getting too close to the White House with the Russia probe.  RESIGNED119 days Michael Dubke White House Communications Director | Trump White House staffer Dubke said he had "a good conversation with the President" after submitting his resignation. He declined to discuss the turmoil inside the West Wing, saying only that he was resigning "for a number of reasons -- for personal reasons." Dubke's exact start date is unclear.  UNKNOWN168 days Tera Dahl Deputy Chief of Staff for the National Security Council | Trump White House staffer Dahl, a former Breitbart writer and ally of Steve Bannon's, left after less than six months on the National Security Council for a role "that she wants" at the US Agency for International Development.  RESIGNED181 days Walter Shaub Office of Government Ethics Director | Obama appointee Accepted a position with the Campaign Legal Center after months of clashes with the administration over Trump's refusal to divest his businesses. Shaub had served as director of the Office of Government Ethics under President Obama since 2013.  RESIGNED50 days Mark Corallo Spokesman and Communications Strategist for Trump's legal team | Trump legal team Corallo's resignation came after weeks of simmering tension between the White House and the President's legal team. He declined to comment on the circumstances of his departure. His exact start date is unclear.  RESIGNED183 days Sean Spicer White House Press Secretary | Trump White House staffer Spicer resigned after Scaramucci was named the new White House communications director, capping off a roller coaster six-month tenure as the chief spokesman for an administration besieged by a steady drumbeat of controversy.  FIRED183 days Rich Higgins Strategic Planning Aide | Trump White House staffer Higgins allegedly wrote a memo that purports to unravel a deep state conspiracy theory about a coordinated effort to delegitimize and destroy the President. The reason Higgins was fired was not made public.  UNKNOWN187 days Michael Short Assistant Press Secretary | Trump White House staffer Resigned or fired by Anthony Scaramucci, ostensibly to stop leaks to the media. Responding to reports that he was being linked to White House leaks, Short said "the entire premise is false."  FIRED183 days Derek Harvey National Security Council Adviser | Trump White House staffer Harvey, a longtime intelligence officer, was appointed by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn during his short tenure. The National Security Council did not provide a specific reason for Harvey's removal.  RESIGNED190 days Reince Priebus White House Chief of Staff | Trump White House staffer Resigned after months of speculation he would be ousted by the administration. "The President wanted to go a different direction," he told CNN.  RESIGNED11 days Anthony Scaramucci White House Communications Director | Trump White House staffer "The Mooch" resigned after a profanity-laced interview with The New Yorker. Scaramucci was the third White House communications director to leave the post. He held the job for just 10 days.  FIRED195 days Ezra Cohen-Watnick Senior Director for Intelligence on the National Security Council | Trump White House staffer Cohen-Watnick came under scrutiny for his alleged roundabout role in providing incidental foreign surveillance information concerning members of Trump's team to GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Nunes later told CNN that it was definitely not Cohen-Watnick who provided him the information.  FIRED211 days Steve Bannon White House Chief Strategist | Trump White House staffer The President, whose relationship was already souring with Bannon, fired his chief strategist after Bannon was quoted contradicting Trump in American Prospect magazine. Bannon returned to his role as executive chairman of Breitbart News, but lost that position shortly after his incendiary comments about the Trump White House were revealed in Michael Wolff's book 'Fire and Fury.'  RESIGNED211 days Carl Icahn Special Adviser on Regulatory Reform | Adviser Icahn stepped down in August 2017. He was criticized by Democrats who said his advisory role created a conflict of interest because he had not taken a formal government job and was still running his businesses.  UNKNOWN214 days Sebastian Gorka White House deputy assistant | Trump White House staffer Gorka was one of Trump's most prominent cheerleaders, frequently hitting the airwaves to defend the President's national security policies and public statements. But his role outside of television appearances was unclear.  RESIGNED244 days Keith Schiller Director of Oval Office Operations | Trump White House staffer Schiller was a longtime Trump aide and confidant. He's the one who went to the FBI to notify James Comey that he was fired. He told associates in early September that he planned to leave at the end of the month and that the reason was financial. But the move came shortly after Kelly became chief of staff with the mission of instilling new order inside Trump's often chaotic White House.  RESIGNED232 days Tom Price Health and Human Services Secretary | Trump appointee Price resigned in the midst of a scandal over his use of private planes. He was being investigated by the department's inspector general for private flights that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Price insisted that his trips had been approved.  RESIGNED209 days George Sifakis Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Liaison | Trump White House staffer Sifakis left the administration shortly after former chief of staff Reince Priebus, a close ally and personal friend, made his own exit.  UNKNOWN347 days Rick Dearborn Deputy White House Chief of Staff | Trump White House staffer Dearborn, who previously served as Jeff Sessions' chief of staff in the Senate for several years, left the White House in early 2018 to pursue work in the private sector. Dearborn had a wide portfolio in the White House, overseeing its political operation, public outreach and legislative affairs.  RESIGNED309 days Jeremy Katz Deputy Director at the National Economic Council | Trump White House staffer Katz was one of the people behind the White House's push to rewrite the tax code. His resignation came after the bill was signed by Trump.  RESIGNED354 days Dina Powell Deputy National Security Adviser | Trump White House staffer Powell joined the Trump administration in a senior role focused on entrepreneurship, economic growth and the empowerment of women, and in March 2017 she was named deputy national security adviser. Powell is said to have left the administration on good terms with the President.  RESIGNED366 days Omarosa Manigault Newman Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison |Trump White House staffer Manigault Newman was one of Trump's most high-profile African-American supporters and a former contestant on "The Apprentice." She was the top communications official at the White House Office of Public Liaison, but when chief of staff John Kelly took over, her role began to feel ill-defined, sources said. She resigned to "pursue other opportunities."  FIRED375 days Andrew McCabe FBI Deputy Director | Obama appointee A career FBI agent, McCabe resigned in late January after being a central target of Trump's ire toward the FBI. Various sources described McCabe's departure as a mutual decision, while others said it was the result of pressure to leave. On March 16, Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe over accusations he directed FBI officials to speak to the media about an investigation tied to the Clinton Foundation and misled investigators about his actions. The firing came less than two days before he was set to retire.  RESIGNED215 days Taylor Weyeneth Deputy Chief of Staff of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy | Trump White House staffer Weyeneth, a 24-year-old former Trump campaign employee, left after a Washington Post investigation found that he had misrepresented his credentials. But weeks later he assumed a new midlevel role at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.  RESIGNED209 days Brenda Fitzgerald Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention | Trump appointee Fitzgerald resigned a day after Politico reported she purchased tobacco stock after she took the position at the nation's top public health agency.  RESIGNED384 days Rob Porter White House Staff Secretary | Trump White House staffer Porter resigned after two ex-wives went public with allegations of past abuse, which he denied. His security clearance had been stalled, although as staff secretary, Porter was one of the gatekeepers to Trump and the Oval Office.  RESIGNED285 days David Sorensen White House speechwriter | Trump White House staffer Sorensen resigned after being accused of domestic abuse, which he denied. He exited the same week that top White House staffer Rob Porter also resigned amid domestic abuse allegations.  RESIGNED268 days Rachel Brand Associate Attorney General | Trump appointee A veteran of the George W. Bush administration, Brand's appointment to the number three position at the Justice Department was seen as a solid professional choice. She left for a job in the private sector.  RESIGNED411 days Gary Cohn Chief Economic Adviser | Trump White House staffer Cohn left the White House in the wake of his fierce disagreement with the President's decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.  RESIGNED414 days John Feeley US Ambassador to Panama | Obama appointee According to an excerpt of his resignation letter that was read to CNN, Feeley's decision was clearly prompted by differences with the Trump administration but was made before the reporting about President Donald Trump's "shithole" comments.  FIRED418 days John McEntee Personal aide to the President | Trump White House staffer McEntee was fired and escorted from the White House. Two sources said McEntee was pushed out because of issues with his security clearance, making him the latest aide to be forced out because of difficulties obtaining a permanent security clearance. Minutes later, McEntee was hired to work on Trump's re-election campaign.  FIRED406 days Rex Tillerson Secretary of State | Trump appointee The former Exxon CEO was supposed to be a star in Trump's Cabinet, but he and the President never seemed to be on the same page. Tillerson is reported to have referred to Trump as a "moron" during a meeting. Trump tapped CIA Director Mike Pompeo as the next secretary of state. Tillerson said he'll hand over all authority on March 13, but will technically stay in office until March 31.  UNKNOWN Josh Raffel Deputy Communications Director | Trump White House staffer Raffel, who was recruited to the White House by Jared Kushner, primarily served as a spokesman for Ivanka Trump and Kushner's White House initiatives, including the Office of American Innovation and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  RESIGNED Hope Hicks White House Communications Director | Trump White House staffer Hicks, one of Trump's longest-serving and closest aides, resigned in the wake of the scandal involving former senior aide Rob Porter, whose public defense Hicks helped craft while also dating him.  RESIGNED193 days George Gigicos White House Director of Scheduling and Advance | Trump White House staffer Gigicos said he would return to his consulting business and work for the Trump 2020 campaign. Gigicos was later fired for work on the campaign because of the size of crowds at an Arizona rally in August, 2017. 

By PHILIP ELLIOTT    It wasn’t the disagreement over moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the wisdom of direct talks with North Korea or even the very clear split with the President over Russia’s aggression. In the end, calling Donald Trump a “moron” last year — and the broader personality clash it represented — was what cost Secretary of State Rex Tillerson his job on Tuesday. The move could mark the start of a broader purge. Republican officials say Trump has grown tired of listening to advisers who have tried to moderate his style. Now, these officials say, Trump will do things to his liking. “It’s no secret the President is not a patient man. Now, he’s really out of patience and will be doing things his way,” said one Republican on Capitol Hill who worries what that means for the GOP’s odds of holding its majorities in this fall’s midterm elections. “The President tried it their way and didn’t like what he was seeing. Now, he’s going to try it his way.” Trump fired Tillerson by tweet, expelling the former energy company CEO at an moment the U.S. is in dozens of hotspots around the globe that require constant tending and the President seems determined to shed his minders and go it his way. The pair spoke hours later, only after Trump had announced CIA Director Mike Pompeo would move from spy chief to chief diplomat. Even by Trumpian standards, Tillerson’s fall was dramatic. White House chief of staff John Kelly hinted that the dismissal was in the offing during a Friday phone call with the Secretary of State, who was abroad on a diplomatic mission. Kelly strongly suggested Tillerson should cut his trip short and get back to the U.S., according to a White House official. Tillerson’s team at first suggested the move caught him by surprise and that he learned about it only when an aide showed him the Twitter post. His aides said the secretary did not know why he had been fired before Trump tweeted the news. The White House quickly fired a State Department spokesman for contradicting their story. Tillerson’s departure is just the latest from Trump’s orbit. On Monday, Trump’s personal aide, John McEntee, was escorted from the White House; CNN reportedMcEntee was under investigation for financial affairs unrelated to Trump. (On Tuesday, Trump’s re-election campaign announced McEntee was joining the effort in a senior role.) Last week, top economic adviser Gary Cohn, a millionaire Democrat, announced he was leaving the White House. And a week before that, Hope Hicks announced she was leaving her post as White House communications director and all-around Trump whisperer. Trump clashed with Tillerson repeatedly on foreign policy, often undercutting the man he lured away from ExxonMobil to be America’s envoy to the world. Tillerson, for his part, did the same, often contradicting Trump’s White House. Foreign diplomats were sometimes unsure if Tillerson was speaking on behalf of the United States or not. The latest example came in recent day when asked if Russia was responsible for the poisoning of a former spy. Tillerson laid blame on Russia. Trump said it could have been Russia or someone else, and White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to assign blame. Days before that, Trump bristled when Tillerson contradicted the President on talks with North Korea. And before that, the pair disagreed on tariffs on steel and aluminum, negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, a global climate change pact and staffing levels in Foggy Bottom. Trump proposed a budget that cut State Department programs by 25%. To say Trump and Tillerson had a rocky relationship would be too diplomatic. Trump saw Tillerson as too cautious. Tillerson saw Trump as woefully under-prepared for his diplomatic efforts and, in a famous moment of private candor, a “moron.” For that last affront, Trump ordered Tillerson to make a public statement denying it; Tillerson made a statement but didn’t dispute the NBC News scoop on the insult. Now, Tillerson is packing his wood-paneled office on the seventh floor of the State Department and heading to private life, 14 months after he joined the administration. At the close of business Tuesday, he planned to hand over his power to his deputy while the department waits for Pompeo to win confirmation in the Senate. Tillerson said he would maintain his commission until the end of March. In Pompeo, Trump will have a stronger pal. The former congressman from Kansas has cultivated a relationship with Trump during daily intelligence conversations in a way Tillerson never bothered to forge. Trump likes Pompeo, and the pair shares a harsh view of what is taking place outside America’s borders. In particular, the pair shares worry about the threat posed by Islamic extremism. Neither has shied away from going after Muslims with inflammatory rhetoric and targeted policies. What this means to Trump’s broader national security footing remains to be seen. Tillerson was seen as a moderating factor, often working in tandem with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who was making a surprise trip to Afghanistan when the Tillerson news broke. Trump often found himself facing unified opposition from Tillerson and Mattis and, more often than not, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who is also said be eyeing the exits. All of this leaves Trump relying on his gut and without the guardrails that kept him in line during his first year. That style served him well in his political campaign, and Trump is itching to return to it: Saturday night’s raucous campaign-style rally near Pittsburgh was a sign of things to come. But that could yet prove perilous in the White House Situation Room.   Source: Time

By JOHN PAUL ROLLERT JOHN PAUL ROLLERT is an adjunct assistant professor at the Booth School of Business, and a lecturer at the Harris School of Public Policy, at the University of Chicago. He has written for The New York Times, Harper's, and The New Republic.   Jonathan Ernst / Reuters Although the former secretary of state’s contentious relationship with the president didn’t help matters, Tillerson’s management style left a department in disarray. Rex Tillerson is hardly the first person to be targeted in a tweet from Donald Trump, but on Tuesday morning, he became the first Cabinet official to be fired by one. It was an ignominious end to Tillerson’s 13-month stint as secretary of state, a tenure that would have been undistinguished if it weren’t so entirely destructive. Compared with expectations for other members of Trump’s Cabinet, the disastrous results of Tillerson’s time in office are somewhat surprising. Unlike the EPA’s Scott Pruitt, Tillerson did not have obvious antipathy for the department he headed; unlike HUD’s Ben Carson, he had professional experience that was relevant to the job; and unlike Education’s Betsy DeVos, his confirmation hearing wasn't a disaster. The fact that Tillerson publicly clashed with Trump over everything from North Korea policy to relative IQ did nothing to make his job any easier, but his sorry legacy as secretary of state was sealed by a complete misunderstanding of the job before him. Rather than the nation’s top diplomat and an embodiment abroad of American values, Tillerson appeared to regard his mandate as little more than an exercise in cost-cutting and corporate reorganization. His time at the State Department seemed to test beliefs that are popular among many private sector professionals: skills that business executives bring to Washington can outweigh government experience, and almost every problem can be reduced to a matter of efficiency. That Tillerson should succumb to these beliefs is not altogether surprising given the benefits and blind spots of his experience in business. ust a few weeks before he became the nation’s highest diplomat, Tillerson was CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the largest companies on Earth. It was a position he had held for more than a decade, one that required him to supervise a highly complex organization with nearly 70,000 employees and an annual budget that routinely topped $40 billion, all while successfully conducting business the world over. In other words, by the time he accepted the offer to join the Trump Administration, the Fortune 10 CEO had already enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the private sector, a track record that had endowed him with the experience, expertise, and administrative excellence that one could assume would make him a highly capable, even accomplished, secretary of state. Tillerson certainly seemed to think so, notwithstanding the fact that he hadn’t spent any time in diplomacy or, for that matter, government affairs. He had barely introduced himself to the career civil servants at Foggy Bottom before he concluded that the agency they staffed was a portrait of bureaucratic mismanagement. “We had very long-standing disciplined processes and decision-making, I mean highly structured, that allows you to accomplish a lot,” he told reporters in July of his time at ExxonMobil. “Those are not the characteristics of the United States government.” Initially, career diplomats were not unreceptive to the idea that a successful CEO might draw on his experience in the private sector to help renovate the bureaucracy at State. “To a person, we felt the department was in need of reform,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a 35-year veteran diplomat and former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told Bloomberg in the fall. They withdrew their welcome, however, when, in Thomas-Greenfield’s words, they came to “understand” that the goal of the new secretary of state “was not to improve the organization but to deconstruct it.” Or “redesign” it, the term Tillerson favored and one he used interchangeably as a noun and verb. “We’re going to redesign,” he told State Department staff during a town-hall meeting in December. “We’re not going to reorg. Reorg is taking boxes and pushing some of them together this way and pushing some of them together that way and then say we’re done. But what I’ve learned over 41 and a half years is when you do that, if you look behind the box, nothing’s changed about the way the work gets done. People are still dealing with the same inefficiencies; they’re still dealing with the same frustrations, complexities. You didn’t address the work. You just addressed the boxes.” Tillerson’s delight for the eye-glazing jargon of management consulting was a hallmark of his “redesign.” In a report submitted to Congress in August, he rhapsodically outlined “an evidence-based and data-driven process to enhance policy formulation and execution, as well as optimize and realign our global footprint.” Less attention was lavished on the fact that, in his relish for optimization and realignment, Tillerson was also making a virtue of budgetary necessity. Indeed, even before he had had a chance to evaluate the institution with which he was now entrusted, Tillerson had largely acceded to the White House’s stated goal of slashing the State Department’s budget by nearly a third, this notwithstanding the objections of Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and Bob Corker, as well as the more than 120 retired admirals and generals who wrote a letter to Congress last February objecting to the cuts. Tillerson’s acquiescence to the administration’s demands hardly endeared him to the career foreign-service staff, many of whom understood what Tillerson’s ambition for the State Department effectively amounted to: “No one is ever going to be as excited about the redesign as the secretary himself,” a State Department official told Vanity Fair after the town-hall meeting. “Everyone understands what that really means—it means people losing their jobs.” A lot of people, in fact. Roughly 2,300, or 8 percent of the State Department’s total staff, is the target number for personnel cuts by the end of 2018. Tillerson got some help from the more than 300 civil servants who have already departed since the beginning of the Trump administration, many of them senior-level diplomats. One, Elizabeth Shackelford, blasted the secretary in her resignation letter when she exited in November. “I have deep respect for the career Foreign and Civil Service staff who, despite the stinging disrespect this administration has shown our profession, continue the struggle to keep our foreign policy on the positive trajectory necessary to avert global disaster in increasingly dangerous times,” she wrote. “With each passing day, however, this task grows more futile, driving the Department’s experienced and talented staff away in ever greater numbers.” The brain drain, together with a startling delinquency in filling top spots—dozens of ambassadorships remain vacant, including those for Germany, Egypt, and South Korea, and, with Tillerson’s ouster, six of the nine top jobs at State are now empty—have been devastating for the department’s esprit de corps. “The place empties out at 4 p.m.,” a former assistant secretary of state told The New Yorker’sDexter Filkins in the fall. “The morale is completely broken.” In many respects, Tillerson’s efforts may be regarded as a textbook example of a familiar phenomenon of new administrations—testing, in real time, theories of how government ought to work. Sometimes chief executives are explicit in this aim—say, Barack Obama’s attempt to transcend partisan politics or Sam Brownback’s endeavor to turn Kansas into a small-government utopia—but more often than not, the success or failure in discharging the responsibilities before them provides a referendum on implicit assumptions about government. Having interviewed Tillerson and written a profile ​​​​​of the man during his tenure as secretary of state, Filkins concluded: “As far as I could gather, Tillerson doesn’t have much of an ideology, apart from efficiency.” Fair enough, but efficiency is always a matter of the means to a certain end; it is never an end in itself. Unfortunately, the latter view is common among many business professionals, for whom greater efficiency is synonymous with greater profit, the ultimate end of their labors. The same logic doesn’t apply to government agencies, however. They can always benefit from greater efficiency, but their ultimate success is never measured by profit margins. This may seem like a simple fact, but for corporate executives, like Tillerson, who have adhered to the mantra of efficiency for decades, it can lead to a confusion of ends and means when they enter government service. Such confusion threatens their ability to discharge their duties responsibly, but it can be lethal if it is supported by two assumptions that are fairly common among conservatives: The American government is hopelessly inefficient, and resolving this problem is the key to government working for a change. These assumptions can hamstring executives entering government by convincing them that they have nothing essential to learn from their new peers who, in turn, have everything to gain from their experience. “I have sympathy with everyone with experience in the private sector who comes into a government agency and thinks ‘this is not how things worked at my old office,’” Daniel Baer, the former United States ambassador for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in the Obama administration, noted in an email. “I have less sympathy for folks who think, after a month or two, that they can simply import their prior world and impose it on their new one.” Of course, for one who is certain that a system is fundamentally flawed, blithe dismissal is not only tempting, it seems downright efficient. If government is little more than an unwieldy machine that smokes and sputters, why waste time on the engineers who tend it? But even beyond the risk of degrading the State Department’s mission in a misguided attempt to improve its operations, Tillerson made the greatest mistake for any CEO:  he misallocated his time. According to Bloomberg, in the first eight months of his tenure, Tillerson traveled less than half as much as either of his predecessors in the Obama administration, preferring to hole himself up with a small coterie of subordinates in the executive suite of the Harry S. Truman Building and tinker with the elements of his “redesign.” For many observers, the choice communicated that Tillerson failed to appreciate or perhaps even fully understand the human elements of diplomacy, either as a global ambassador for American values or the leader of an essential organ of government. “When it comes to building a State Department for the next generation, I am hard pressed to name a single thing Tillerson has said or done to attract the best talent,” Derek Chollet, a former assistant secretary of defense for international-security affairs in the Obama administration, wrote in a column for Foreign Policy. “If anything, he’s driving people away.” Given his successful tenure at ExxonMobil, this failure makes for perhaps the most surprising oversight of Tillerson’s tenure, that he seemed to forget the fact that, while the requirements of leadership and management can be usefully sorted, they remain symbiotic. Just as gross mismanagement can try the commitment of even the most dedicated team member, no amount of efficiency gains in an organization can compensate for sending a message that an employee’s work is meaningless. “People need to be brought into a vision of what is possible,” Baer wrote of Tillerson’s stewardship of the State Department in another piece for Foreign Policy. “Their good work deserves to be acknowledged, and they need to feel that the secretary of state has their backs.” At the December town hall, sensing that his job was in peril, Tillerson tried to win some allies and make amends. “When I came to the State Department, I didn’t know any of you,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about your culture, I didn’t know anything about what motivates you, I didn’t know anything about your work, I didn’t know anything about how you get your work done.” It was a bracing admission, courageous even, but insofar as Tillerson would go on to highlight the crucial importance of having integrated the USAID and State Department global address lists—“if you’re spending 30 seconds to a minute every time you try to engage with that system, sitting there watching it, and I multiply that times 25,000 people times how many encounters a year”—in more ways than one, it seems clear he never learned his lessons.

By SHAWN TULLY    Of the many Trump lieutenants who’ve departed, no one had a better reason for leaving than Gary Cohn. Cohn lost a battle with the “nationalist” wing at the White House led by Peter Navarro, President Trump’s top adviser on trade. As the president’s chief economic adviser, Cohn has proven an ardent free-trader who strongly opposed Trump’s plan to impose heavy tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. When Trump took his biggest concrete steps yet to deliver on his protectionist campaign promises, Cohn apparently quit in protest. Put simply, higher tariffs will prove a burden that undermine the benefits of Trump’s regulatory reforms and tax cuts, two initiatives that have boosted economic growth. By contrast, tariffs work in the opposite direction by imposing what amounts to higher taxes on companies, and ultimately, individuals. Here are the four ways that tariffs harm the economy.   A tax paid by American consumers The 25% and 15% duties that Trump plans to impose on steel and aluminum imports, respectively, won’t be paid by the foreign producers that manufacture those materials. Instead, they’ll raise prices for U.S. companies that purchase imported steel used in aerospace and medical equipment, petroleum refining gear, heavy machinery, construction materials, and consumer products from soup cans to baby carriages. Companies mostly pass those costs on to households, who effectively devote more of their take-home pay to supporting the 286,000 workers employed in steel and aluminum. The new “tax” on consumers reduces the income they can spend on other products, curbing economic growth. For many companies, tariffs cut profits Some companies compete in sectors so competitive that they can only recoup part of the extra costs of imported steel and aluminum inputs. “I’m hearing from two small processors of steel in my district in Texas,” Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling told Fortune, “one that makes shelving, and one that makes steel buildings. And they’re very concerned that their input prices will go up.” In those basic, highly competitive businesses, it’s likely that only part of those increases will go to prices. The balance will hit profits. And as earnings shrink, companies have less to invest in expansion, hurting job growth. Protectionism weakens the protected Though they’ve shrunk in recent decades, the U.S. aluminum and steel industries have survived precisely because foreign competition has forced them to improve. Imposing tariffs that raise the price of imported steel by 25% and aluminum by 10% allows them to once again get lazy, and avoid the tough choices needed to be globally competitive. Over time, the focus of a protected industry turns from constantly improving productivity to lobbying for more and more tariffs. U.S. manufacturers will get weaker and weaker compared to foreign rivals, so any advantages they gain in the U.S. from tariffs will be offset by a decline in their competitiveness abroad. In other words, their foreign profits will probably dwindle more than their U.S. earnings increase.   Tariffs invite retaliation In themselves, the new tariffs aren’t a huge deal. Steel and aluminum imports combined total $53 billion. So shifting part of that number to U.S. producers, who will charge higher prices on a few tens of billion in sales, won’t sink the economy. It’s the signal that counts most. This is the first time Trump has delivered big time on his campaign pledge to extend broad protections to U.S. manufacturers. If he fulfills the pledges he made as President-elect, the results could be catastrophic. A study by Suffolk University in Boston found that the tariffs he promised as a candidate to levy on China, Japan and Mexico could increase prices to U.S. households by over $2,000 a year for five years. Tariffs also invite retaliation from overseas. The European Union is already weighing whether to hit a wide range of U.S. exports, from motorcycles to orange juice, with new duties. “There’s no such thing as a good trade war, as the recent history of the Bush administration shows,” says Hensarling. *** The U.S. is benefiting from a surge in optimism, inspired in part by Trump’s pro-business agenda on tax cuts and regulation. Tariffs, however, introduce an alarming note of uncertainty. CEOs don’t know what new inputs will suddenly get more expensive, or if they’ll be hit with heavy duties on cars or refrigerators they sell abroad. Hence, they pull back on expansion. The threat of a trade war would also freak out the overseas investors we count on to buy our government bonds, and keep our interest rates at super-low levels. If they fear that a retreat from free trade will harm future growth, and our ability to pay them back without resorting to inflation, they’ll demand higher “real” rates on their loans. That in turn would push up the cost of borrowing for businesses, further pounding profits and killing plans for expansion. As Hensarling says, “Trade isn’t a zero-sum game.” Low cost imports help businesses and consumers a lot more than they hurt workers in those industries. And once again, raising artificial barriers removes manufacturers’ incentive to keep improving, ensuring their long-term decline. Cohn was right. Let’s just hope that others in the White House keep up the courageous fight for free trade.   Source: Fortune

By Perry Bacon Jr.   White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and President Trump at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, in July 2017. MICHAEL SOHN / AP Lots of people have left President Trump’s White House. Those departures never seemed likely to have a real impact on policy. Most of them didn’t appear to tell us something larger about what was going on within the administration, beyond it being chaotic. But the resignation on Tuesday of National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, the top White House economic policy adviser, appears to have direct policy implications — and it could portend other changes in the administration. Why is Cohn different? Four reasons. Trump seems to be serious about tariffs — This resignation, unlike the departure of Communications Director Hope Hicks last week, appears to be directly related to a policy decision: Trump is on the verge of implementing tariffs on aluminum and steel imports. This move comes over the strong objections of Cohn, who has been trying to block Trump from making it since the start of the administration. Trump sounded like an economic populist during much of the 2016 campaign, but until now he had largely abandoned that approach while in office. Instead, he had been pursuing a Wall Street-friendly agenda of tax cuts and deregulation shaped in part by Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive. That Cohn resigned suggests that Trump is serious about implementing these tariffs, despite resistance from fellow Republicans and the business community. This is not like Trump talking about supporting gun control, only to backtrack soon after. Trump has long favored new tariffs, appears to be acting on that policy preference and didn’t stop pushing in that direction when his top economic adviser objected so strongly that he quit. Of course, this is Trump, so he could always reverse course, but so far he appears more serious about following through on tariffs than on his other more unconventional views. Trump is breaking with GOP orthodoxy in a big way — Cohn isn’t the only person who objects to these tariffs. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who usually avoids direct criticism of the president, went public with his opposition to the tariffs. So has Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has largely aligned himself on policy with the president since Trump entered office. If Trump is following through with these tariffs, as Cohn’s resignation suggests, this is one of the most significant instances of the president separating himself from the broader party. Despite all the hubbub, Trump has pursued a pretty typically Republican policy agenda; tariffs would be the first real break. Trump has dumped one of the “adults in the room” — We don’t know exactly how decisions are made in the Trump administration. But people on the outside of the administration have likened Cohn’s role on economic policy to that of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s on national security — an administration official with more traditional, establishment views looking to push the president away from his more unorthodox instincts. That role helps explain why the presence of Cohn in the White House has been a key source of reassurance to Wall Street and other market-minded constituencies. If Trump is willing to part with Cohn, is the president more likely to take other controversial steps on economic policy that he has hinted at in the past, such as pulling the U.S. out of NAFTA? Also, what if Trump no longer wants advisers who are in conflict with his views? Would he let Mattis resign if the two strongly disagreed on something? People with good jobs are leaving the White House, suggesting deep staff dissatisfaction — I assume that working with Trump is difficult. That said, there are some major perks. You might, as Hicks did, get to meet the pope. Cohn played a key role in writing a major tax bill. Former President Barack Obama’s economic policy directors all remained for at least 23 months. Cohn is leaving this prestigious job after only about a year. That two fairly senior advisers are departing the Trump administration in a week’s time — whatever the circumstances — is telling. Both Cohn and Hicks appear to have decided that the upside of remaining in the White House is outweighed by the downside. Does that tell us anything? Maybe not. Every departure has its own peculiarities. Maybe Trump really wanted one or both of them gone, even if these moves were cast as resignations, not dismissals. But at the very least, Cohn and Hicks’ decisions suggest that Trump hasn’t become easier to manage or less erratic. Maybe Hicks and Cohn believe that the best days of working in the Trump White House have passed. As I said before, this is Donald Trump, so he could decide next week to drop the tariffs idea and hire another person from Goldman Sachs to replace Cohn — or even ask Cohn himself to come back. But I doubt it. Instead, I will be curious — with Cohn ostensibly leaving over tariffs — whether Trump will take additional steps to implement his vision in his second year as president, even if he has to dump some well-respected aides along the way.

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