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Political Notebook

Trump administration prepares for massive shake-up after midterms

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen listened as Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke during a meeting of the Federal Commission on School Safety in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Aug. 16, 2018.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen listened as Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke during a meeting of the Federal Commission on School Safety in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Aug. 16, 2018.Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

The Trump administration is bracing for a massive staff shake-up in the weeks following the midterm elections, as the fates of a number of Cabinet secretaries and top White House aides are increasingly uncertain heading into a potentially perilous time for President Trump.

Some embattled officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are expected to be fired or actively pushed out by Trump after months of bitter recriminations. Others, like Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, may leave amid a mutual recognition that their relationship with the president has become too strained. And more still plan to take top roles on Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign or seek lucrative jobs in the private sector after nearly two years in government.

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The expected midterm exodus would bring fresh uncertainty and churn to a White House already plagued by high turnover and internal chaos. Many in Trump’s orbit worry that the administration will face challenges filling the vacancies — especially if Democrats win the House majority and use their oversight powers to investigate the administration and issue subpoenas to top officials.

Trump’s allies, however, note that some turnover at the two-year mark is normal in any administration. They also say that any departures would give the president a chance to reshape the White House more fully in his own image.

Among those most vulnerable to being dismissed are Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation after Sessions recused himself. Trump has routinely berated Sessions, whom he faults for the Russia investigation, but he and Rosenstein have forged an improved rapport in recent months.

Other Cabinet officials — including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Nielsen — also face uncertain futures.

Other top figures, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and press secretary Sarah Sanders, also have been mentioned as possible departures in the coming months, though if they leave, they seem likely to do so of their own accord.

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Trump’s White House has weathered an extraordinary amount of turnover. In its first year, the Trump administration far outpaced its modern predecessors for turnover with a rate of 34 percent, and its current overall rate is 58 percent, according to Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has been studying White House personnel patterns for more than two decades.

Some turnover around the two-year mark is natural, Dunn Tenpas said, but ‘‘the number of people resigning under pressure far exceeds that of any other administration.’’

Washington Post

Novelist Stephen King has ‘personal reasons’ for wanting ‘racist dumbbell’ Steve King out of office

The horror writer Stephen King probably didn’t intend his story ‘‘Graveyard Shift,’’ first published in 1970, to be a metaphor for political depravity. It’s about a man who toils in a textile mill, where rats have turned the forbidding basement into their own corrupt kingdom.

But this is 2018, the year that everything — even Barbra Streisand ballads — became about politics in the age of Donald Trump. And King, like everyone else, is coming out swinging on social media. So it’s not hard to envision how he would apply his sickening story to the queasy state of the nation.

On Sunday, King let slip who, in his portrayal, the reviled queen rat might be — someone who, in the writer’s words, he has ‘‘personal reasons’’ for disliking.

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The short story is set in Maine, but King briefly turned his attention to Iowa, where one of the president’s congressional acolytes is facing his first credible challenger in years. The best-selling author and deep-pocketed Democratic donor asked Iowa residents to vote against Republican Representative Steve King because, the King of fright tweeted, ‘‘I’m tired of being confused with this racist dumbbell.’’

The King of Congress might well relish the author’s disparagement. On Saturday, the Republican responded to an onslaught of criticism fueling a fund-raising blitz by his Democratic opponent — first-time candidate J.D. Scholten — by taking aim at ‘‘Left Coast billionaires.’’ The portmanteau of sorts blended two of King’s most common slights: the left wing and the East Coast.

Washington Post

Obama makes surprise appearance in Virginia to boost Wexton and Kaine

Former President Obama made a surprise appearance in northern Virginia Monday to rally supporters for Senator Tim Kaine and state Senator Jennifer Wexton on the eve of Election Day, part of a series of stops during the past week to help Democrats win control of at least the House.

Carrying a box of doughnuts, Obama startled a crowd of about 60 mostly young campaign staffers and volunteers inside a Wexton field office. He cast the election as a referendum on the country’s future.

‘‘You vote, you might save a life; that’s pretty rare when that happens,’’ Obama told the crowd, referring to the potential for a Republican-controlled Congress to follow through on promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Democrats argue that would hurt people with preexisting health conditions.

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And he attacked President Trump for what the former president has called ‘‘fear mongering’’ and repeated lies.

‘‘Most important, the character of this country is on the ballot,’’ Obama said. ‘‘The politics we expect is on the ballot. How we conduct ourselves in public life is on the ballot.’’

The popular former president’s appearance was mainly meant to boost Wexton in her race against Republican Representative Barbara Comstock in the 10th congressional district that stretches from McLean toward the West Virginia border. The seat has been in Republican hands for nearly 40 years, and the serious challenge from Wexton has made it one of the most closely watched contests in the country.

Wexton held an 11-point lead over Comstock in a Washington Post-Schlar School poll conducted late last month.

In the Sentate race, Kaine is ahead of Republican challenger Corey A. Stewart by nearly 20 points in most polls while outraising him by a nearly 10-1 margin, with $22.3 million.

Washington Post