Usage and meaning of “cash out” in 2017-18
According to Merriam-Webster, the phrasal verb cash out first appeared in print in 1971. In the US, where it more commonly used, it carries positive connotations because it signifies a gambling person who is either collecting their winnings or leaving the table while they still have some money left.
However, in the context of White House staffers, who have either resigned or been publically fired under the Trump administration, this note of positivity seems to have soured. To cash out, in the context of the article, refers to someone exchanging knowledge, experience, or any commodity for cash. In the New York Times article, the author suggests that President Trump's ex-employees are "milking" their tenure at the White House for all it's worth. (See, What's the evolution of the phrase "milk it for all its worth"? for more details on its meaning.)
The following expressions used in the same article, flame out, and lash out have strong negative connotations. Flame out would refer to those staffers whose employment at the White House were spectacularly brief: Sally Yates, former attorney general, was dismissed after 10 days; Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor, was fired after 23 days; and Anthony Scaramucci's official tenure lasted just six days.
Meanwhile, lash, as defined by M-W is “to make a verbal attack or retort —usually used with out” The NYT was most likely thinking of Anthony Scaramucci, whose intemperate words and crude language became infamous. Another former White House assistant, Sebastian Gorka, is also notorious for his fierce verbal attacks on "fake news".
Thus, the author of the article used cashed out as a rather neat rhetorical device. I'm not absolutely sure whether flamed out, lashed out, or cashed out is strictly a tricolon device, but according to this source, a tricolon is a “series of three words, phrases or sentences that are parallel in structure, length and/or rhythm”
How common is “cash out” in American English?
In what form does this "cash out" take? Usually, its book deals, TV show appearances or public speaking fees. Former White House staffer, Omarosa Manigault, whose contract was terminated on December 13, 2017, is currently appearing on CBS's Celebrity Big Brother, which is scheduled to end on February 27.
Omarosa Continues to Cash Out on Her Time in the White House Because That’s What Soulless People Do
Former political figures tend to make some extra money speaking after their tenures end, and Omarosa is no exception. The former White House aide signed with a speakers bureau on Monday and will begin asking for up to $50,000 a speech, according to The Daily Mail. source
Reince Priebus, former Chief of Staff, who was replaced by Gen. John F. Kelly, "retired" from the White House administration on July 27, 2017
Priebus in talks to join lucrative speaking circuit
- Another former White House official is seeking to cash out.
President Donald Trump’s former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, has been interviewing with speakers bureaus around Washington, D.C., as he seeks a place on the lucrative paid speaking circuit, according to multiple sources familiar with his life-after-Trump plans. (source)
And another former employee of the White House, ex-FBI director, James Comey, is said to have been offered a lucrative "tell-all" book deal
Former FBI chief James Comey signs $2m book deal
- James Comey, the former director of the FBI who was sacked by President Donald Trump in May, has signed a deal for a book, ostensibly on leadership and decision-making, that is scheduled to come out in spring next year. Financial Times