The chief of staff is out. The president publicly mocks his AG. The new communications director viciously attacks his coworkers.
The level of chaos in President Trump’s administration right now is astounding — even for him.
And that’s all in just over a week.
All of this is clearly borne out of the president’s frustration with how his administration has gone so far. Trump is unpopular, his legislative agenda has stalled, and his presidency could be in serious legal danger from the Russia investigation. So he very clearly (and understandably) wants to make changes.
But the way he’s going about it — by publicly humiliating officials who have long supported him but are now out of favor — is downright deranged. And it will make his problems far worse in the long run, as competent and qualified people will choose to stay far away rather than risk similar disgrace.
Amazingly, it’s not Scaramucci but Priebus who was ousted after Scaramucci’s rant
Take the profane, violent tirade that newly minted White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci recently delivered to New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza. “Unprofessional” doesn’t even begin to cover it.
- Scaramucci mocked his coworkers, calling Priebus a “fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac” and saying Steve Bannon was “trying to suck [his] own cock.”
- He threatened to “fucking kill all the leakers” in the administration.
- He (falsely) accused Priebus of leaking his financial disclosures and claimed to have called the FBI and Department of Justice on him (the White House chief of staff!).
- Finally, Scaramucci openly admitted, at the end of the conversation, that he was planning to “start tweeting some shit to make this guy [Priebus] crazy” — and then did so:
Naturally, then, the person who was ousted from the administration on Friday was not Anthony Scaramucci but instead Reince Priebus.
And amazingly enough, Trump may have come away from this controversy not with a lower opinion of Scaramucci but of Priebus. One Trump adviser “said Mr. Trump was dismissive of Mr. Priebus for not returning fire” at Scaramucci, the Wall Street Journal’s Peter Nicholas and Michael Bender report.
This White House has featured back-stabbing and knife-fighting since the very start, but now the president seems to have given the green light — his subordinates should attack their rivals as viciously as possible, and they’ll face no consequences for it whatsoever.
The president himself will publicly drag his longtime supporters like Jeff Sessions
Or take the president’s tweets and public statements about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, one of his oldest supporters who’s been truly committed to his policy agenda.
In recent days, Trump has mocked Sessions as “beleaguered,” said he’s “very disappointed” in Sessions, criticized him for recusing himself from the Russia probe (saying he would not have nominated Sessions if he’d known he would do that), and complained that Sessions isn’t sufficiently investigating Democrats.
This raises very serious questions about the president trying to politicize the Justice Department, and about whether he’s trying to get rid of Sessions so a new attorney general can shut down the Russia investigation.
Additionally, because he’s not content just complain about policy disagreements, Trump has gone out of his way to portray Sessions’s very character as petty.
Sessions was the first US senator to endorse Trump’s presidential campaign, doing so in February 2016 at a moment when Trump was toxic to practically every other elected Republican. In doing so, Sessions was risking his own career — Josh Green reports in his new book The Devil’s Bargain that Sessions feared that Republican leaders would retaliate against him.
One would think that Trump, who constantly talks about the importance of “loyalty,” would reward such loyalty. Instead, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week, the president rewrote history to portray Sessions as a self-interested climber who endorsed him because of his big crowds:
When they say he endorsed me, I went to Alabama. I had 40,000 people. He was a senator from Alabama. I won the state by a lot, massive numbers. A lot of the states I won by massive numbers. But he was a senator, he looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, ’What do I have to lose?’ And he endorsed me. So it’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement. But I’m very disappointed in Jeff Sessions.
In doing so, the president has sent the message loud and clear — your past loyalty to Donald Trump will mean nothing if you displease him about something later on. “If he [Sessions] can get treated that way, what about the rest of us?” a sitting Cabinet secretary asked Erick Erickson.
How is the White House going to fix itself?
Trump has appointed John Kelly, a retired general who he initially picked as Secretary of Homeland Security, as his new chief of staff — reportedly because he wanted someone he felt was “strong” in contrast to Priebus, who he deemed “weak.”
But while Priebus surely was an ineffective chief of staff, that was the case in large part because Donald Trump made him so.
Trump prefers to have free-form, unstructured interactions with his many staffers and outside advisers. His policymaking process has been chaotic, and can be upended by a presidential tweet at any time. Trump’s son-in-law occupies a high-ranking, unaccountable White House post with which he can circumvent the chief of staff at any time.
It’s possible that some of these problems could be fixed, or at least ameliorated, under Kelly. But there’s a larger problem: a culture that is set from the very top, from Donald Trump. It’s a culture in which aides are positively encouraged to viciously attack each other, and to fear that they could lose the president’s favor at any moment.
And it’s a culture that should make us all fear what will happen when this White House faces a serious crisis.
Jul 29, 2017, 10:50am EDT