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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Long list of candidates for Trump to fill in Scaramucci and homeland security posts

Who will make the cut? 

Now that Anthony Scaramucci is out, who will replace him? Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
Now that Anthony Scaramucci is out, who will replace him? Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

As the game of musical chairs in the Trump administration gets into full swing, a wide pool of possible candidates has emerged to fill key vacancies.

The US president is looking for a replacement for John Kelly at homeland security now that he is the White House chief of staff and he needs a new communications director after Anthony Scaramucci was fired after 10 days in the position.

After Mr Kelly’s appointment at the White House, the Department of Homeland Security said Elaine Duke, the current deputy secretary, would become acting secretary until Mr Trump appoints a permanent replacement to be confirmed by the Senate.

Ms Duke is a close confidante of her former boss Mr Kelly and is praised by both sides of the aisle.

Kelly replacement

While Ms Duke could emerge as a permanent replacement, according to one source at the department, other reports have named three main contenders for the job.

Politico listed Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Michael McCaul, as a leading contender. Mr McCaul would have a smooth sailing in the confirmation process but is criticised by some in Donald Trump’s base and border security hawks for not being aggressive enough on fighting illegal immigration and implementing the travel ban.

They would prefer someone like Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach or Thomas Homan, acting director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also touteded by Politico for the job.

Tom Bossert, currently serving Mr Trump as a homeland security advisor is another name circulating in Washington for the post. Speculation also includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Mr Trump has hinted at removing from the Department of Justice. However, strong opposition from Republicans in Congress to pushing Mr Sessions out makes such a reassignment unlikely.

Scaramucci’s replacement

Filling Mr Kelly’s position appears to be a simpler task than finding a successor for Mr Scaramucci inside the White House, given the level of turmoil and uncertainty inside Mr Trump’s team in the last two months.

While no interviews have been reported for possible candidates for the job, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is seen as a possible replacement. Ms Sanders is one of the few names who transitioned from the campaign and gained more trust from the US president, as others such as Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer and Stephen Bannon were either ousted or ridiculed.

Laura Ingraham, a radio talk show host loved by the right, is another name that has emerged to replace Mr Scaramucci. Ms Ingraham was approached in the past for the press secretary job and she heavily criticised Mr Scaramucci and recommended his removal. Other names circulating include Mr Trump’s former campaign aide Katrina Pierson, a Tea Party activist whose appointment would be cheered by the base, but will unlikely sit well with Mr Kelly.

Can Kelly curb Trump?

The new chief of staff is already exercising more control and authority in managing the White House. Five hours after he was sworn in as the White House’s new chief of staff, John Kelly took his first decision - firing Donald Trump’s last hire.

The downfall of Scaramucci less than two weeks after taking his position is a move that Republicans hope would bring some stability and normality to the presidency.

Ms Sanders said: “Anthony Scaramucci will be leaving his role as White House communications director.

“Mr Scaramucci felt it was best to give chief of staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team. We wish him all the best.”

The drama-free statement stood in contrast with the ten-day period of chaos and hyperbole that Mr Scaramucci brought to the job since he entered the building on July 21. Ironically, Mr Scaramucci was hired based on the recommendation of Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared to bring some order and a smoother flow to the president’s message according to The New York Times.

In that short period, Mr Scaramucci helped oust three aides, among them former chief of staff Mr Priebus; launched a foul-mouthed attack against two senior officials; called a journalist elitist; and threatened “to fire everybody.”

Mr Scaramucci’s own firing came at the request of Mr Kelly the Times said, and while Mr Trump was initially pleased with his former aide’s flamboyant approach, he changed his mind over the weekend.

Josh Kraushaar, politics editor at The National Journal, said: “Mr Trump doesn’t like it when staffers overshadow him.

“At first Mr Trump found Anthony Scaramucci’s antics and criticism of Reince Priebus amusing but after time it was clear that Scaramucci was stealing the headlines from the president and embarrassing him and his administration.”

Giving Mr Kelly, a former marine general, the power to choose his own team is “already more authority than Mr Trump gave to Reince Priebus” said Mr Kraushaar.

“There is clear hierarchy within this White House today, more than there was yesterday, we will see how long this will last.”

Mr Kelly, known for his no-nonsense approach, could help bring some normality and stability to the Trump ship after a rocky start and stumbles in Congress, Mr Kraushaar said. “Mr Trump’s affinity to generals and an empowered chief of staff” would be welcomed by Congress, he said.

Others, however, have said the problem is in the product, not in the package at the White House.

“There is scant reason to think that Kelly will have any more success in imposing discipline on a president who has been just as chaotic in government as he was in running his business,” Max Boot, a military historian and foreign policy expert, said in Commentary magazine.

“Will Kelly be able to stop Trump from tweeting or stop Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, from having “walk-in” privileges to the Oval Office?” asked Mr Boot. His answer: “the problem is that, quite simply, no staffer can tell the president of the United States what to do.”

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