Donald Trump loses patience with ‘no men’ as speculation of mass sackings reaches fever pitch
Donald Trump’s patience with his administration's 'no men' appeared finally up on Friday as speculation of imminent sackings entered overdrive. The US president was reportedly on the brink of dismissing a string of moderating figures who have hemmed in his hardline instincts over the last year. HR McMaster, the three-star general who is Mr Trump’s national security adviser, was at the top the hit list after months of fraught relations between the pair. John Kelly, another military man seen as a restraining influence as chief of staff, and Jeff Sessions, the beleaguered attorney general, were also reportedly in the firing line. But Mr Trump’s frustration also included cabinet members hit by sleaze allegations and White House aides who have got on his nerves, according to numerous US media reports. Washington is braced for a shake-up, with #firingfriday circulating on social media and aides admitting privately that no one knew what Mr Trump had planned. Spokesmen moved to shut down the speculation, with Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, saying Mr McMaster had a “good working relationship” with the president. But the memo appeared not to have reached the Oval Office. An amused Mr Trump, watching fevered TV coverage alongside Mr Kelly and vice president Mike Pence, reportedly joked: “Who’s next?” He has also hinted at more moves to come in public, admitting recently: “There will always be change, and I think you want to see change.” Mr Trump’s renewed confidence appears to partly explain recent personnel changes, with reports suggesting the president feels more settled after 14 months in the job. His first cabinet was packed with “grown-ups” rather than yes men, helping guide the first-time politician through the challenges of office. But recent upheaval hint at a change in approach. HR McMaster, the White House national security adviser Credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon Rex Tillerson, who as secretary of state opposed Mr Trump’s desire to rip up the Irannuclear deal and rattle sabres over North Korea, has been replaced by Mike Pompeo, the CIA head who has “chemistry” with the president. Gary Cohn, the ex-Wall Street titan who quit as Mr Trump’s top economics adviser over steel tariffs, has been replaced by Larry Kudlow, a TV commentator reportedly willing to swallow his initial opposition to the trade barriers. Others waiting in the wings are aligned to the president’s views, not least John Bolton, the mustachioed ex-UN ambassador under George W Bush said to be first in line to replace Mr McMaster. Mr Bolton, 69, was in the Oval Office last week and is renowned as a foreign policy hawk, writing a piece last month headlined “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.” He has caught the president’s eye for another reason too – Mr Bolton regularly appears on Fox News, Mr Trump’s favourite cable news channel. Other Fox News names are reportedly in the mix for White House roles. The fervent speculation comes after weeks of mounting sleaze allegations that threaten to overshadow White House efforts to push forward Mr Trump's political agenda. David Shulkin, Mr Trump's veterans affairs secretary, was forced to deny he attempted to bring his wife to the Invictus Games in Canada to meet Prince Harry. Mr Shulkin was said to have tried unsuccessfully to secure a berth for his wife on Melania Trump's plane for the September trip. In a statement he said the report, by the Washington Post, was "untrue". John Kelly, the White House chief of staff Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg He added: "I was honoured to attend the Invictus Games with the First Lady and understood fully when I was told that there wasn’t any more room for guests to attend." It followed an Inspector General's report that concluded Mr Shulkin should reimburse the cost of his wife's taxpayer-funded flight to London, which also saw him improperly accept Wimbledon tickets. Other cabinet members have been stung by similar scandals. Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, spent nearly $1 million on eight trips on military aircraft last year, including on to Las Vegas. Ben Carson, the Housing Secretary, has been under fire over an order for a new $31,000 dining set for his office, which was later cancelled. Jeff Sessions, the attorney general Credit: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta Ryan Zinke, the Interior Secretary, has been criticised over a $139,000 bill to the taxpayer for new office doors. Kellyanne Conway, the president's counselor, is also under pressure after it emerged she flew on some of the costly military flights and private jets that saw Tom Price resign as health secretary last year. Mr Shulkin, Mr Carson, Mr Zinke, and others in the cabinet have recently been receiving training on ethics rules from senior White House officials after details of their spending emerged. As White House aides nervously waited to see if Mr Trump would strike Friday, there was room for some gallows humour. One source told CNN: “Everyone loves a season finale.” Sarah Sanders, Mr Trump's press secretary, said chief of staff John Kelly had spoken with White House staff on Friday morning. She said Mr Kelly "reassured them there were no immediate personnel changes at this time and that people shouldn't be concerned." Mrs Sanders said she spoke to the president about General McMaster on Thursday night and he had "no intention of changing" and "looked forward to continuing working with him". She said the president and General McMaster had been in meetings on Friday, but she did not know if the issue of his position came up. Mrs Sanders described the national security adviser as a "dedicated public servant who is not focused on the news stories but big issues like North Korea, Russia and Iran".