Politics

Marc Short Creates Another Void in the White House

Trump has ‘highest turnover of top-tier staff of any recent president,’ professor says

Marc Short, White House legislative affairs director, outside the Senate Republican policy lunches in the Capitol in January. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short will leave his post this summer after helping President Donald Trump secure tax cuts, a Supreme Court justice, eliminate part of the Obama-era health law, open the Arctic for energy extraction, and nix a slew of federal regulations.

Short — with his signature shaved head — was the most visible Trump administration official on Capitol Hill, often chatting with reporters as he traversed the hallways going from meetings with leadership and rank-and-file members about the president’s legislative whims and demands. Affable yet firm, Short seemed eager to joust with reporters on cable news, the Hill and even under the blistering summer sun in the White House’s north driveway.

During a recent conversation on a hot day following a television interview on the White House grounds with Roll Call and other media outlets, Short would not deny speculation that he would soon leave his post. His coming departure marks only the latest in original Trump White House and administration departures, which the Brookings Institution and other experts say is much higher than past administrations.

He will leave the White House’s senior staff, however, in the midst of the Trump team’s efforts to secure Senate confirmation for the president’s second Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

But on Monday night, minutes after Trump announced his pick, Short did some lobbying for the nominee, including pressuring Democrats as he did throughout his tenure: “Absolutely, we expect to get Dem votes.”

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Asked what will be the White House’s message to Senate Democrats, Short replied: “I think you look at what his credentials are, you look at how he’s served our country. And I think what’s more disappointing is seeing Democrats who said they would be opposed before we even announced the nominee.”

“I do think the process, unfortunately has changed in ways that’s more close-minded,” he said. “But I think this candidate is going to win over plenty of support.”

While White House observers believe Short’s legacy is solid, he was unable to deliver a full repeal of the 2010 health law or the sweeping infrastructure plan on which Trump campaigned. Nor did he get full funding for the president’s proposed southern border wall or the kind of comprehensive immigration overhaul bill the preisdent prefers.

He also appears poised to leave before Congress might get serious about a bill to address some migrant families being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. And he will not be around to serve as a middle man in this summer and fall's spending talks, which likely will include many fights as lawmakers face the president's threat to never again sign another omnibus package like he reluctantly did earlier this year.

‘Everyone sort of leaves’

Trump’s “A Team” — meaning senior staff — turnover rate after just 19 months in office approaches 60 percent, according to Brookings.

And Martha Kumar of Towson University found that Trump “has the highest turnover of top-tier staff of any recent president at the 17-month mark.” Her research puts the sitting chief executive’s departure rate at 61 percent, with former presidents having lower rates at the same mark of their tenures: Bill Clinton 42 percent; Ronald Reagan 29 percent; George H.W. Bush 19 percent; Barack Obama 14 percent; and George W. Bush 5 percent.

Short’s departure could be just the first in a number of originals rumored to be eyeing the exits, including Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her top deputy, Raj Shah. Trump brushed off his White House’s and administration’s high turnover rate during a wild June 15 appearance on the executive mansion’s North Lawn when asked about speculation Sanders soon will leave.

“You know look at a certain point everyone sort of leaves, you have to leave,” he said. “I’m sort of just standing like a ship, just keep going, bing, bing, but Sarah loves this job.”

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Short will become a senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, which focuses on studying the presidency. In that capacity, he will participate in center events, contribute content to its website and do work for various UVA publications, the center said in a statement.

Softer tone

Despite Trump’s nonchalance about the many departures among senior aides and cabinet officials, Short leaving will be a blow. That’s because he was more than just a legislative liaison.

He also was one of the White House’s most vocal and visible voices and faces, becoming a public spokesman for the president. When Trump would take a hard line rhetorically, Short often was dispatched for a tour of television interviews to put a softer tone on a Trump policy stance.

An example came last month when he appeared on PBS to defend the administration’s policy of trying to prosecute every adult apprehended entering the country illegally, even if they came with children.

“We don’t want to separate them at the border,” he said June 29. “The president believes that, right now, the law ties our hands. … And we need Congress to act to provide more clarity. The [executive order] he signed … provided a temporary reprieve, but right now the law doesn’t enable us to do what we need to do to secure the border.”

He also often defended Trump’s agenda and echoed the president in touting this first 19 months in office. And he was not shy about being an attack dog for the always-attacking Trump.

“What is clear now is the Democrats do not want a solution to this,” Short told reporters March 22, contending Democrats want to use the nearly 700,000 undocumented individuals protected by the DACA program has a collective “political weapon.”

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