When Donald Trump was first considering Rex Tillerson for the role of secretary of State, back in December of 2016, he tweeted that the former Exxon Mobil CEO was a “world class player and dealmaker.” Two days later, Trump made his decision, tweeting that he’d “chosen one of the truly great business leaders of the world, Rex Tillerson” to be secretary of State. And two months after that, following Tillerson’s confirmation, Trump declared that he would “be a star!”
Last week, Trump questioned Tillerson’s mental capacity, called him “ dumb as a rock,” and said he was “lazy as hell.”
By now, this pattern is familiar. Trump praises someone when he hires them and dumps on them once he’s fired them. Any normal person might hesitate to publicly contradict their initial assessment to avoid exposing their terrible judgement. But that’s too complicated an idea for Trump. The people who work for him are good (with one notable exception) and once he fires them they’re bad. We’ve seen this story play out before with:
Before: When Cohen first entered his orbit, Trump was still three years away from starting @realDonaldTrump, so he didn’t publicly lavish Cohen with praise. Still, it’s clear that Trump liked Cohen, who Trump once called “a fine person with a wonderful family.”
After: Cohen left the Trump Organization in January of 2017, but it took a while for his former boss to sour on him. August 22, 2018 was the big day. That’s when Trump tweeted: “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” He’d later call Cohen, who worked for the Trump Organization for over a decade, “a weak person and not a very smart person.”
Before: In August of 2016, Bannon became Trump’s third campaign manager, and he’d stick by him through Election Day. After Trump’s win, the former head of Breitbart News transitioned into a role that Trump created just for him, chief strategist. Bannon hung around until August of 2017, when Trump gave him the parting gift: a tweet calling him “tough and smart.”
After: By January of this year, Trump had turned on Bannon, branding him “Sloppy Steve” after the publication of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, in which Bannon was extensively quoted.
Omarosa Manigault Newman
Before: The former Apprentice contestant, who Trump once called a “loyal friend,” was good enough to work as director of African-American outreach for Trump’s campaign and land a job in his White House.
After: Once she was booted from the Office of Public Liaison by John Kelly and began criticizing Trump, he turned on her quickly. She became a “not smart” “lowlife” and earned the nickname “wacky Omarosa.” Trump added that he only kept her around because she said nice things about him.
Before: One of the first major politicians to back Trump’s campaign, Sessions was rewarded with the job of attorney general. But after committing the cardinal sin of recusing himself from the Russia probe, Sessions was no longer worthy of the praise Trump once gave him.
After: Sessions was the target of Trump’s barbs for more than a year before he was finally fired. Trump called Sessions’s Justice Department a “total joke” and suggested that the Attorney General didn’t understand what was happening there. Twice, Trump tweeted about reports of his insulting Sessions, including the insults — “mentally retarded,” “a dumb southerner,” “Mr. Magoo” — each time. Then, in tweets that ensured millions of people would read the insults, Trump denied ever saying them.