In the era of President Trump, March Madness has taken on new meaning. It’s no longer just about picking which college basketball team will win the NCAA tournament, it’s about wagering which White House staffer will get the ax next.
As staff members close to the president continue to depart from the White House because they were either fired, resigned, or left amid controversy, gambling websites and online jokesters are placing bets on who could be next to bid adieu to the administration. Meanwhile, news sites are letting the public make predictions using sports-like brackets.
The wagers and guesses come amid what feels like constant turbulence in the White House.
Earlier this week, Trump ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose departure was preceded by chief economic adviser Gary D. Cohn’s resignation just days earlier. Before that, on Feb. 28, White House communications director Hope Hicks made a sudden exit. (The list goes on.)
The latest rumors suggest National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is now on Trump’s radar, though reports of his impending replacement have been rebuffed by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
At PredictIt, a website that “tests your knowledge of political and financial events,” there are prediction markets related to who will be fired next, according to the company.
“The recent changes in White House senior staff have been a focal point for PredictIt’s political forecasters,” company spokesman Will Jennings said in a statement. “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had been leading the ‘next cabinet member to leave’ prediction market for months, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions as another likely candidate to go.”
Online betting site Paddy Power, based in Ireland, also has a market for “Next Trump Cabinet Member to Leave,” with Jeff Sessions and (more surprisingly) Betsy DeVos tied, with 3-to-1 odds.
Joe Lee, head of Trump betting for Paddy Power, said in an e-mail the company has more than 200 other Trump-related bets. The company opens a new book after each Cabinet member’s departure, he said.
Bets apparently aren’t only taking place on the Web: There’s reportedly some type of similar pools among those close to Trump.
On Wednesday, Washington Post White House reporter Josh Dawsey tweeted that people within the administration have allegedly “begun betting pools of sorts among each other on who’s getting ousted next.”
Dawsey said a lot of people “who are usually in the know are not in the know. Always fluid in White House but seems particularly so right now.”
Online and alleged in-house betting aside, several news sites have put together explainers or visual aids to help people keep track of all the changes.
New York magazine’s Daily Intelligencer crafted a handy “Guide to Which Trump Staffer Is Getting Fired Next,” a who’s who of staffers who have in some way angered Trump and how their actions could possibly trigger a boot from the Circle of Trust.
CNN posted a similar explainer titled, “The 9 people Donald Trump might fire next,” which includes McMaster, Attorney General Jeff Sessions (twice!), and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.
Over at Politico, an NCAA-style bracket lets readers predict, as they would with college basketball, who “is most likely to stay in Trump’s good graces until the bitter end.”
Even the man at the center of it all seems to be treating this political maelstrom like some type of guessing game.
According to the Associated Press, during an Oval Office conversation this week with Vice President Mike Pence and chief of staff John Kelly, Trump put the question everyone is asking on the table: “Who’s next?”
It seems increasingly likely that we will find out soon — you can bet on it.