WASHINGTONÂ â€” Another long week in the White House saw staff turmoil take center stage, with key firings fueling speculation that President Trump was about to clean house.Â
Trump’s secretary of State was fired after just 405 days in office. HisÂ personal assistant departed over an unspecified security issue. And the future of at least a half-dozen other top administration officials the subject of widespread speculation. Among them: Chief of Staff John Kelly, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Housing Secretary Ben Carson and Veterans Secretary David Shulkin.
By Friday, reports of imminent firings reached such a fever pitch that the White House began to take steps to bat them down. And by the end of the day, there were no further personnel announcements.Â
But Trump himself fueled some of the speculation.Â “I’m really at a point where we’re getting very close to having the cabinet and other things that I want,” he told reporters on Tuesday.Â
The weekly summary:
Firings: 2. States visited: 2.Â Bills signed: 5 (including three bills renaming post offices).
â–º South America: The White House announces that Trump will visit Peru and Colombia in April, withÂ immigration, border security, and trade on the agenda, Sanders said.
â–º Firing No. 1: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is fired in a tweet from the president, who says he’s replacing his top diplomat with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. The move comes as Trump prepares for a high-stakes meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un over that country’s nuclear weapons program.
â–º Firing No. 2: Trump also fires his personal assistant, John McEntee, for undisclosed security reasons.Â Within hours of his ouster, McEntee went to work for Trump’s reelection campaign.
â–º Border wall: Trump flies to San Diego to view prototypes of his proposed border wall, saying he prefers a see-through design that allows border agents to see what’s on the other side.
â–º Economic adviser: Trump taps CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow to direct the National Economic Counsel, saying he and Kudlow have reconciled their differences over tariffs.Â
â–º Trade deficit: In a speech at a St. Louis fundraiser, Trump admits to fudging some facts on the balance of trade with Canada â€” but the White House later insisted that Trump was actually right when accounting forÂ energy and timber. But the press secretary also conceded that a separate made-up Trump storyÂ â€” about Japanese automakers using bowling balls as a form of quality control, was a joke.
â–º St. Patrick’s Day: Trump meets with the Irish prime minister (formal title: Taoiseach)Â Leo Varadkar at the White House, continuing a largely ceremonial St. Patrick’s Day tradition. But Trump also made news, saying he wouldÂ acceptÂ Varadkar’s invitation to visit Ireland â€” including tour of the border with Northern Ireland.
â–º Subpoena power: Special Counsel Robert Mueller subpoenas the Trump Organization for information about its Russian business dealingsÂ â€” crossing what Trump once described as a “red line” that would exceed the independent prosecutor’s authority.Â
â–º Russia sanctions: The United States imposes a new round of sanctions on Russia, marking the first time the Trump administration has used a new law designed to punish Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election.Â
â–º Veterans Secretary: The White House says it’s continuing to look into problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs but no decision has been made about the fate of its top leadership.Â â€œWe donâ€™t have any personnel announcements, but I can tell you that every day, we are looking for how we can better the system, whether itâ€™s through policy changes or personnel changes, not just at the top level but across the board,â€ press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says.
â–º McMaster staying: Sanders attempts to bat down rumors that Trump would soon replace Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser.Â “Contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the (National Security Council),” she tweeted.
â–º Stormy relationship: A lawyer for porn star Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the name Stormy Daniels, says she was physically threatened in an effort to stop her from talking about her relationship with the president.Â
Contributing: Dan Nowicki and Rafael Carranza of the Arizona Republic and Ian James of the Palm Springs Desert Sun.