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If President Trump's first year in office seemed chaotic from a staffing perspective, there's a reason for that. According to a new Brookings Institution report, turnover among top-level staff in the Trump White House set records, and it is not even close when it comes to those records. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith has the details, and you're hearing them first on NPR.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Thirty-four percent - that's the share of top White House aides who either resigned, were fired or moved into different positions in the first year of the Trump presidency. Now, for some perspective, that's nearly three times President Obama's first year turnover and double President Reagan's.
KATHRYN DUNN TENPAS: It's staggeringly high.
KEITH: Kathryn Dunn Tenpas is a researcher at the Brookings Institution, a think tank, and White House staff turnover is her specialty.
TENPAS: President Trump has lost half of his most senior-level staff members, and that's in contrast to President Obama, whose single departure at that level was Greg Craig, his White House counsel. And under George W. Bush, there were no departures in that highest tier.
KEITH: The turnover in the Trump White House has at times been head-spinning. First, there was former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned under pressure after just 24 days on the job. His was the shortest tenure ever for a national security adviser.
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SEAN SPICER: We got to a point not based on a legal issue but based on a trust issue where the level of trust between the president and General Flynn had eroded to the point where he felt he had to make a change.
KEITH: That voice you just heard is now former press secretary Sean Spicer. He resigned July 21 at the start of a remarkable month-long streak of staffing chaos that also saw the arrival and departure of communications director Anthony Scaramucci and the resignations of chief strategist Steve Bannon and Trump's original chief of staff, Reince Priebus. He gave an exit interview to CNN.
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REINCE PRIEBUS: I think it's a good time to hit the reset button. I think he was right to hit the reset button, and I think that it was something that I think the White House needs. I think it's healthy.
KEITH: His tenure was uncommonly short for a first chief of staff. So why has the Trump White House had so very much turnover? Tenpas attributes it to a small, unconventional campaign, meaning fewer staff to bring into the White House and an emphasis on loyalty over experience. Many Republicans who had served in past administrations either weren't welcome or weren't interested.
TENPAS: I think that sort of can create a situation where there's a lot of missteps, and in order to seem as though a president is taking charge and trying to improve the situation, many times they fire people.
KEITH: Firing, resigning under pressure - whatever you want to call it, Tenpas argues it does have consequences.
TENPAS: Turnover creates disruption. It creates inefficiencies. It affects the morale. If you see people around you getting fired at a very high level, there's a lot of angst about that.
KEITH: In an interview on Fox News this week, current Chief of Staff John Kelly was asked to explain all the turnover.
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JOHN KELLY: Campaigning is very, very different than governing. It's really, really hard work to govern at this level. And some people that were perhaps involved in the campaign didn't make that transition.
KEITH: Kelly insists he's brought more stability to the staff, but the departures have continued under his leadership. As for Kelly, he says he's in it for the long haul. But typically, the second year of an administration has much more turnover than the first. As President Trump says, we'll see what happens.
Tamara Keith, NPR News.
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