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Trump may replace up to five senior advisers

This article is more than 12 months old

But US President maintains that his administration is 'running like a well-oiled machine'

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump is thinking of replacing up to five senior advisers but insisted that his administration is "running like a well-oiled machine", according to an interview that aired on Sunday.

"I have three or four or five positions that I'm thinking about," he said. "Maybe it's going to end up being two. But I need flexibility."

Denying recurrent reports of a White House in turmoil - with pressure growing from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election - he said that some staff turnover was normal.

He declined to repeat an earlier assurance that Mr John Kelly would remain his chief of staff through 2020.

"There are certain things I love what he does and certain things I don't like that he does. And that aren't his strength," he said, referring to Mr Kelly.

While crediting Mr Kelly with "doing an excellent job in many ways", Mr Trump said: "At some point he's going to want to move on. John will move on."

He also said "there's a chance" that Ms Kirstjen Nielsen might be replaced as homeland security secretary.

"I like her very much, I respect her very much," he said, before adding: "I would like her to be much tougher on the border (with Mexico). Much tougher."

Mr Trump also defended the decision last week by the office of his wife Melania to issue a highly unusual statement suggesting that deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel be replaced. Mrs Ricardel left that post the following day for assignment to an unspecified new position.

The First Lady was reportedly peeved with Mrs Ricardel's involvement in her recent Africa trip.

"I thought it was fine," Mr Trump said of his wife's intervention, adding of Mrs Ricardel: "She was with me for a long time, although I don't know her."


Mr Trump also said he would not intervene if Mr Matthew Whitaker, his acting US Attorney-General, moved to curtail Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Mr Whitaker took over supervision of Mr Mueller's investigation on Nov 7 after Mr Trump appointed him as the chief US law enforcement official to replace Mr Jeff Sessions, whom the President ousted.

Mr Whitaker has criticised the scope of the Mueller probe and brought up the possibility of undermining it by slashing Mr Mueller's funding.

Mr Trump said he was unaware of Mr Whitaker's past statements and that he would "not get involved" if Mr Whitaker moved to curtail it.

"It's going to be up to him," Mr Trump said.

He also again declared "a tremendous victory" in the midterm elections .

Democrats have picked up at least 36 seats in the House of Representatives - possibly as many as 40 - giving them an overall majority, with notable strength in some of the Midwestern states that were key to Mr Trump's 2016 election.

When Republicans lost 30 seats in 2006, Republican President George Bush declared it a "thumping".

Asked about that on Fox, Mr Trump replied: "I won the Senate and that's historic too" for a president's party in a midterm election.

"It's almost never happened."

Republicans have secured at least 52 seats in the 100-member Senate.

Mr Trump said Republicans would have done better, but "I wasn't on the ballot". But it was pointed out that Mr Trump had repeatedly urged voters to "pretend I'm on the ballot".

Asked what grade he would give his presidency so far, Mr Trump said, "I hate to do it, but I will do it: I give myself an A-plus... Can I go higher than that?" - AFP, REUTERS