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Trump says acting Cabinet members give him ‘more flexibility’

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he departs for Camp David from the White House in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday he was in no hurry to find permanent replacements for one-quarter of his Cabinet currently serving in an acting capacity because it gives him “more flexibility.”

“I am in no hurry,” Trump told reporters as he departed for Camp David, the U.S. presidential retreat, for meetings on the partial government shutdown. About one-fourth of the U.S. government has been shuttered for more than two weeks and about 800,000 government workers have been either furloughed or working without pay.

“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,” Trump said. He did not elaborate on why they give him more flexibility.

There are 24 Cabinet-level positions and six are currently filled by individuals who are serving in an acting capacity after the departure of members confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Other than the White House chief of staff and the vice president, Cabinet-level officials require confirmation by the Senate. Federal law allows presidents to temporarily fill vacancies by appointing acting department heads who are already employees there.

Trump said last month he was in no hurry to name a new defense secretary after Jim Mattis quit over policy differences, and he has praised the acting secretary, Patrick Shanahan.

David Bernhardt is acting secretary of the Interior Department while Matthew Whitaker is acting attorney general. Andrew Wheeler is acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency while Mick Mulvaney is the acting White House chief of staff. Jonathan Cohen is acting ambassador to the United Nations.

In the first two years of Trump’s presidency, there has been a 65 percent turnover rate among senior-level advisers, according to the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

Reporting by Amanda Becker; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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