Read: Donald Trump’s double standard on free speech and the NFL
But perhaps the most important comments Trump made were about his aides and the Cabinet. Currently, six acting officers are in Cabinet-level jobs: Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Acting United Nations Ambassador Jonathan Cohen, and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
“It’s easier to make moves when they’re acting,” Trump said Sunday, echoing similar comments he made to Reuters in January. But whereas the president told the wire service that he was “in no hurry” to fill the jobs permanently, he suggested to Brennan that he prefers the temporary jobs as a matter of course.
“Some are doing a fantastic job,” he said. “I like acting because I can move so quickly. It gives me more flexibility.”
The problem is that the arrangement also conflicts with the Constitution, which says the Senate must offer “advice and consent” on nominees for top jobs. Of the six open positions, five require confirmation. Trump has nominated permanent candidates for two of the posts: William Barr, a former attorney general, in Whitaker’s place, and Wheeler as permanent administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He has reportedly chosen Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman, as UN ambassador, but has not formally nominated her.
No matter how much Trump likes the flexibility, the Constitution doesn’t: It requires the president to put nominees to Senate approval in part to avoid chaotic policy making and mismanagement of government. The Constitution does allow recess appointments, and past presidents have sometimes made extensive use of them, including to install candidates the Senate opposes while calling for their confirmation.
Trump, however, isn’t bothering. He doesn’t care whether the Senate has a role, and apparently he’d rather it not, because that makes it easier for him to fire people. His position is especially brazen because, with the Senate in Republican hands, he could get nearly any nominee he wants confirmed. His preference is to flout the Constitution and keep his aides on edge.
Read: Why would Bill Barr even want to be Trump’s attorney general?
The president offered several obviously false statements about his Cabinet during the interview. He said he fired former Defense Secretary James Mattis, which is a lie—Mattis resigned in protest of Trump’s troop-withdrawal plans. Trump also claimed that reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was recruiting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to run for Senate were “fake news”—only to be reminded by Brennan that Pompeo had validated them.
The other acting Cabinet officials aside, Barr is expected to be confirmed soon in the Senate, though Democrats this week forced a postponement of the vote. Barr is expected to eventually receive a report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and will have to decide whether to release the report to the public.