Scoop: Trump's post-election execution list

Source: Axios | October 25, 2020 | Jonathan Swan, Alayna Treene

If President Trump wins re-election, he’ll move to immediately fire FBI Director Christopher Wray and also expects to replace CIA Director Gina Haspel and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, two people who’ve discussed these officials’ fates with the president tell Axios.

The big picture: The list of planned replacements is much longer, but these are Trump’s priorities, starting with Wray.

– Wray and Haspel are despised and distrusted almost universally in Trump’s inner circle. He would have fired both already, one official said, if not for the political headaches of acting before Nov. 3.

Why it matters: A win, no matter the margin, will embolden Trump to ax anyone he sees as constraining him from enacting desired policies or going after perceived enemies.

– Trump last week signed an executive order that set off alarm bells as a means to politicize the civil service. An administration official said the order “is a really big deal” that would make it easier for presidents to get rid of career government officials.

– There could be shake-ups across other departments. The president has never been impressed with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, for example. But that doesn’t carry the urgency of replacing Wray or Haspel.

– The nature of top intelligence and law enforcement posts has traditionally carried an expectation for a higher degree of independence and separation from politics.

Be smart: While Trump has also privately vented about Attorney General Bill Barr, he hasn’t made any formal plans to replace him, an official said.

– Trump is furious that Barr isn’t releasing before the election what Trump hoped would be a bombshell report by U.S. Attorney John Durham on the Obama administration’s handling of the Trump-Russia investigation.

– Durham’s investigation has yet to produce any high-profile indictments of Obama-era officials as Trump had hoped.

– “The attorney general wants to finish the work that he’s been involved in since day one,” a senior administration official told Axios.

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