The nature of the comedy, it was soon clear, was that here was a group of ambitious men and women who had reached the pinnacle of power, a high-ranking White House appointment — with the punchline that Donald Trump was president. Their estimable accomplishment of getting to the West Wing risked at any moment becoming farce.
A new president typically surrounds himself with a small group of committed insiders and loyalists. But few on the Trump team knew him very well — most of his advisors had been with him only since the fall. Even his family, now closely gathered around him, seemed nonplussed. “You know, we never saw that much of him until he got the nomination,” Eric Trump’s wife, Lara, told one senior staffer. If much of the country was incredulous, his staff, trying to cement their poker faces, were at least as confused.
.. Reince Priebus, the new chief of staff, had, shortly after the announcement of his appointment in November, started to think he would not last until the inauguration.
Then, making it to the White House, he hoped he could last a respectable year, but he quickly scaled back his goal to six months.
.. Kellyanne Conway, who would put a finger-gun to her head in private about Trump’s public comments, continued to mount an implacable defense on cable television, until she was pulled off the air by others in the White House who, however much the president enjoyed her, found her militancy idiotic. (Even Ivanka and Jared regarded Conway’s fulsome defenses as cringeworthy.)
.. Leaking became the political manifestation of the don’t-blame-me eye roll.
.. Bannon tried to explain him as having a particular kind of Jungian brilliance. Trump, obviously without having read Jung, somehow had access to the collective unconscious of the other half of the country, and, too, a gift for inventing archetypes: Little Marco … Low-Energy Jeb … the Failing New York Times. Everybody in the West Wing tried, with some panic, to explain him, and, sheepishly, their own reason for being here. He’s intuitive, he gets it, he has a mind-meld with his base. But there was palpable relief, of an Emperor’s New Clothes sort, when longtime Trump staffer Sam Nunberg — fired by Trump during the campaign but credited with knowing him better than anyone else — came back into the fold and said, widely, “He’s just a fucking fool.”
.. Part of that foolishness was his inability to deal with his own family.
.. Even Donald Trump couldn’t say no to his kids. “It’s a littleee, littleee complicated …” he explained to Priebus about why he needed to give his daughter and son-in-law official jobs.
.. To lose your deputy chief of staff at the get-go would be a sign of crisis in any other administration, but inside an obviously exploding one it was hardly noticed.
.. To say that no one was in charge, that there were no guiding principles, not even a working org chart, would again be an understatement.
.. The competition to take charge, which, because each side represented an inimical position to the other, became not so much a struggle for leadership, but a near-violent factional war.
.. By July, Jared and Ivanka, who had, in less than six months, traversed from socialite couple to royal family to the most powerful people in the world, were now engaged in a desperate dance to save themselves, which mostly involved blaming Trump himself. It was all his idea to fire Comey! “The daughter,” Bannon declared, “will bring down the father.”
.. Scaramucci, a minor figure in the New York financial world, and quite a ridiculous one, had overnight become Jared and Ivanka’s solution to all of the White House’s management and messaging problems. After all, explained the couple, he was good on television and he was from New York — he knew their world. In effect, the couple had hired Scaramucci — as preposterous a hire in West Wing annals as any — to replace Priebus and Bannon and take over running the White House.
.. There was, after the abrupt Scaramucci meltdown, hardly any effort inside the West Wing to disguise the sense of ludicrousness and anger felt by every member of the senior staff toward Trump’s family and Trump himself. It became almost a kind of competition to demystify Trump. For Rex Tillerson, he was a moron. For Gary Cohn, he was dumb as shit. For H.R. McMaster, he was a hopeless idiot. For Steve Bannon, he had lost his mind.
.. Trump, in the estimation of his senior staff, did not have the discipline to navigate a tough investigation, nor the credibility to attract the caliber of lawyers he would need to help him. (At least nine major law firms had turned down an invitation to represent the president.)
.. Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions. It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories — now it was within 10 minutes. Indeed, many of his tweets were the product of his repetitions — he just couldn’t stop saying something.
.. By summer’s end, in something of a historic sweep — more usual for the end of a president’s first term than the end of his first six months — almost the entire senior staff, save Trump’s family, had been washed out: Michael Flynn, Katie Walsh, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon. Even Trump’s loyal, longtime body guard Keith Schiller — for reasons darkly whispered about in the West Wing — was out.
Gary Cohn, Dina Powell, Rick Dearborn, all on their way out.
.. The president, on the spur of the moment, appointed John Kelly, a former Marine Corps general and head of homeland security, chief of staff — without Kelly having been informed of his own appointment beforehand.
.. Kelly seemed compelled by a sense of duty to be, in case of disaster, the adult in the room who might, if needed, stand up to the president … if that is comfort.
.. Hope Hicks, Trump’s 29-year-old personal aide and confidant, became, practically speaking, his most powerful White House advisor.
.. the staff referred to Ivanka as the “real wife” and Hicks as the “real daughter.”
.. Hicks’ primary function was to tend to the Trump ego, to reassure him, to protect him, to buffer him, to soothe him. It was Hicks who, attentive to his lapses and repetitions, urged him to forgo an interview that was set to open the 60 Minutes fall season.
.. Instead, the interview went to Fox News’ Sean Hannity who, White House insiders happily explained, was willing to supply the questions beforehand. Indeed, the plan was to have all interviewers going forward provide the questions.
.. The tax bill, his singular accomplishment, was, arguably, quite a reversal of his populist promises, and confirmation of what Mitch McConnell had seen early on as the silver Trump lining: “He’ll sign anything we put in front of him.”
.. 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.
At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends.
Reince Priebus Is Ousted Amid Stormy Days for White House
Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff who failed to impose order on a chaos-racked West Wing, was pushed out on Friday after a stormy six-month tenure, and President Trump replaced him with John F. Kelly
.. The president became convinced that Mr. Priebus was not strong enough to run the White House operation and told him two weeks ago that he wanted to make a change
.. Intrigued at the idea of putting a general in charge, Mr. Trump offered the job to Mr. Kelly a few days ago.
.. Mr. Priebus said he had tendered his resignation to the president on Thursday, the same day the newly appointed White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, was quoted vowing to force the chief of staff out. Even so, as late as Friday morning, Mr. Priebus told colleagues that he thought he would have a week before the announcement to make a graceful exit, but he evidently learned otherwise later in the day. Mr. Kelly will take over the corner office in the West Wing on Monday.
.. Some advisers to Mr. Trump opposed the choice, arguing that Mr. Kelly did not have the political background for the job.
.. “The president needs someone who understands the Trump constituency as his chief of staff, someone who has both administrative skills and political savvy,” Roger Stone
.. In six months in office, he has fired
- a national security adviser (Michael Flynn),
- an F.B.I. director and (James Comey)
- a holdover acting attorney general, (Sally Yates)
- White House press secretary, (Sean Spicer)
- communications director, (Mike Dubke)
- deputy chief of staff, (Katie Walsh)
- deputy national security adviser and (K-T-McFarland)
- legal team spokesman (Mark Corall0)his resignation was due to growing frustration with operation and warring factions, as well as concerns over whether he was being told the truth. (The Hill)
- have all left.
.. Privately, even Mr. Priebus’s critics wondered how Mr. Kelly would surmount the same challenges — controlling a freewheeling president who often circumvents paid staff members by seeking counsel from a roster of outside advisers.
.. Several conservative supporters of Mr. Bannon — including Representative Mark Meadows, the House Freedom Caucus chairman — told Mr. Trump on Friday that the president would risk losing base supporters if he let the strategist go.
.. Mr. Priebus had hoped to last a full year, but in the end no other White House chief of staff has been forced out after such a short tenure.
.. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, soured on Mr. Priebus, partly because of what he viewed as the shortcomings of Sean Spicer, an ally of Mr. Priebus’s
.. Mr. Priebus and Mr. Spicer had told the president that they believed Mr. Scaramucci, a gregarious but edgy hedge fund manager and fund-raiser, lacked the required political experience and organizational skills.
.. Mr. Scaramucci quickly engaged in open war against Mr. Priebus — with the president’s encouragement. By Wednesday, the new communications chief publicly suggested that the chief of staff was a leaker and threatened to seek an F.B.I. inquiry.
.. help guide him through a capital that had never seen a president who had not served in politics or the military.
.. “I’ll tell you, Reince is really a star,” Mr. Trump said, using language that he would repeat less than a year later about the man he picked to replace Mr. Priebus.
Sean Spicer Resigns as White House Press Secretary
Mr. Trump asked Mr. Spicer to stay on as press secretary, reporting to Mr. Scaramucci. But Mr. Spicer rejected the offer, expressing his belief that
- Mr. Scaramucci’s hiring would add to the confusion and uncertainty already engulfing the White House,
according to two people with direct knowledge of the exchange.
- The president’s health care effort foundered in the Senate last week, and next week promises no respite, with his son
- Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, due to testify before Congress on questions about their contacts with Russia.
His rapport with the president establishes a new power center in a building already bristling with rivalry.
The president has no intention of changing his behavior — he merely believes his communications staff needs to defend him better — and Mr. Scaramucci even suggested his role would be to unshackle an already unfettered president.
.. “We have accomplished so much, and we are being given credit for so little,” he said. “The good news is the people get it, even if the media doesn’t.”
.. He had hoped to last a year as press secretary. He quit after six months and a day.
.. He attained a notoriety unusual for a presidential spokesman, his combative style spawning a caricature on “Saturday Night Live.”
.. The eventual appointment of Mr. Scaramucci was backed by the president’s daughter
- Mr. Kushner and the commerce secretary,
- Wilbur Ross
.. Mr. Kushner has grown increasingly critical of both Mr. Spicer and Mr. Priebus, whom he regards as party establishment figures who operate out of self-interest.
.. Mr. Priebus and Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, both strongly opposed the appointment of Mr. Scaramucci — in large part because he enjoys an easy banter and direct line to Mr. Trump, potentially threatening their positions
Mr. Trump, aggravated by their opposition, dressed the pair down in a testy Oval Office exchange around the time he decided to offer Mr. Scaramucci — known in Trump’s circle as “The Mooch” — the job.
.. one of the reasons he hired Mr. Scaramucci was to cut down on anonymous leaking — and took a swipe at his two advisers.
.. He asked them how the leaks were happening, according to a person familiar with the discussions, and called Mr. Spicer a “good guy” who leaks only when told to by Mr. Priebus.
.. He is said to be especially high on Sebastian Gorka, a blustery foreign policy official who has been accused of having ties to far-right groups in Europe.
.. Mr. Priebus urged Mr. Trump to hire Mr. Spicer and another lieutenant, Katie Walsh, as deputy chief of staff. But Ms. Walsh left the White House after a short time when Mr. Kushner and other West Wing officials forced her out
.. In recent weeks, Mr. Trump had told people that Mr. Spicer was no longer “tough,” one of the harshest insults he can level
.. Mr. Spicer told friends he was tired of being blindsided by Mr. Trump, and weary of Mr. Trump’s constant criticism.
.. He instituted the highly contentious practice of holding off-camera briefings, less so to snub reporters than to avoid Mr. Trump’s critiques of his performance
Donald Trump Racks Up Few Wins So Far
.. Other presidents have seen approval ratings significantly worse, but they have all come at later points in their presidencies, Gallup found.
President Bill Clinton hit a low in his first summer in office of 37%, but it marked a bottoming out from which he climbed back to win re-election.
Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush each reached the 20s in the latter years in their first, and only, terms of office, and didn’t recover.
- .. The selection of Judge Gorsuch, who now serves on the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, is a rare case in which the president has managed to clearly fulfill a campaign pledge,
- as was his promise to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and
- expedite approval of long-stalled pipeline projects.
.. His description of the revised ban as a “watered-down version of the first one” already has complicated the government’s arguments in support of it.
.. Mr. Trump lashed out at lawmakers in the House Freedom Caucus who withheld support for the White House-backed health-care bill after deeming it insufficiently conservative. He said he would “fight them” in the 2018 elections, if he had to. The rift, some conservatives have said, is mutual.
.. Ms. Walsh, in charge of assigning West Wing office space, gave Mr. Dearborn an office he found inferior to the space allotted to his assistant. Mr. Dearborn and the assistant switched offices, which angered Ms. Walsh. Aides loyal to Mr. Dearborn cheered Ms. Walsh’s White House departure, while other insiders—including top Trump adviser Steve Bannon—heaped praise on her.