Trump is now comfortable with ousting McMaster, with whom he never personally gelled, but is willing to take time executing the move because he wants to ensure both that the three-star Army general is not humiliated and that there is a strong successor lined up, these people said.
The turbulence is part of a broader potential shake-up under consideration by Trump that is likely to include senior officials at the White House, where staffers are gripped by fear and uncertainty as they await the next move from an impulsive president who enjoys stoking conflict.
Just days ago, Trump used Twitter to fire Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state whom he disliked, and moved to install his close ally, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, in the job. On Wednesday, he named conservative TV analyst Larry Kudlow to replace his top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, who quit over trade disagreements.
And on Thursday, Trump signaled that more personnel moves were likely. “There will always be change,” the president told reporters. “And I think you want to see change. I want to also see different ideas.”
The mood inside the White House in recent days has verged on mania, as Trump increasingly keeps his own counsel and senior aides struggle to determine the gradations between rumor and truth. At times, they say, they are anxious and nervous, wondering what each new headline may mean for them personally.
But in other moments, they appear almost as characters in an absurdist farce — openly joking about whose career might end with the next presidential tweet. Some White House officials have begun betting about which staffer will be ousted next, though few, if any, have much reliable information about what is actually going on.
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