Donald Trump has now had more turnover in his Cabinet in the first two and a half years of his presidency than any of his five immediate predecessors did in their entire first terms.
According to data collected by the Brookings Institution, the resignation of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta marks the ninth Cabinet member to leave the Trump Administration, one more than the previous high under President George H.W. Bush.
The others who have left: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen as well as her predecessor, John Kelly, who left Homeland Security to become White House chief of staff and then left that job as well.
The list does not include Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who reportedly has plans to leave.
By comparison, six Cabinet secretaries departed during Reagan’s first term, eight during H.W. Bush’s presidency, four during Clinton’s first term, two during W. Bush’s first term and three during Obama’s first term.
Three of Trump’s Cabinet members left amid scandals involving misuse of government funds for personal purposes: Price, Shulkin and Zinke. Others left after clashing with Trump, such as Tillerson, who reportedly called the president a “moron.”
The departures also means that Trump has an unusually high number of acting Cabinet members, posts that require Senate confirmation. (Under the Vacancies Act, acting secretaries can serve for up to 210 days.)
Trump has said that he prefers acting Cabinet members.
“I like acting. It gives me more flexibility. Do you understand that? I like acting. So we have a few that are acting. We have a great, great Cabinet,” the president said in January, remarks he repeated in an interview with CBS in February.
Of the 15 Cabinet posts, Homeland Security and Defense currently have acting heads. The first acting Defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, withdrew his nomination in June amid reports of domestic incidents; his replacement, Mark Esper, is now undergoing an expedited Senate confirmation process.
The vacancies can have a cascade effect. Esper was formerly secretary of the Army; now, Ryan McCarthy has assumed those duties on an acting basis.
Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general in November 2018 led to a Supreme Court challenge demanding that Whitaker be confirmed by the Senate. The Supreme Court ultimately rejected the challenge.
As the Trump Administration contends with a migrant crisis at the southern border, the Department of Homeland Security has been led by Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan since Nielsen’s departure in April. Several key immigration agencies — including U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services — are currently being led by acting commissioners.