There has been a bit of whispering about turmoil within the inner circle of Team Trump for some time, now. The most prominent theory being it is Bannon versus Priebus.
According to POLITICO, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus may be coming out of this with the short end of the stick.
In interviews, over a dozen Trump aides, allies, and others close to the White House said that Priebus, the 44-year-old chief of staff, was becoming a singular target of criticism within the White House.
They described a micro-manager who sprints from one West Wing meeting to another, inserting himself into conversations big and small and leaving many staffers feeling as if he’s trying to block their access to Trump. They vented about his determination to fill the administration with his political allies. And they expressed alarm at what they say are directionless morning staff meetings Priebus oversees that could otherwise be used to rigorously set the day’s agenda and counterbalance the president’s own unpredictability.
Still, Priebus and Steve Bannon, the ex-CEO/current chief strategist have made several appearances together, presumably to give the illusion of unity and to cut down on rumors of a split between them.
“We’re implementing President Trump’s agenda in record time and fulfilling one campaign promise after another,” said Stephen Bannon, the chief strategist, in a statement sent through a White House spokeswoman. “That shows you what a great job Reince is doing.”
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said that Priebus “continues to be a strong and effective leader,” in another statement sent by the White House.
And that is always better than letting it slip that there are problems. In fact, Kushner’s statement is the equivalent of, “He has the president’s full confidence.”
Other reports suggest Priebus’ struggle is with keeping President Trump on message (and off Twitter). Priebus is frequently tasked with putting out all the fires.
The focus on Priebus comes at a time of growing distress for the president, who has taken to asking Cabinet members and White House officials for their thoughts on how his chief of staff is performing. Priebus did not accompany Trump on a trip this weekend to Florida, an absence that left many wondering if Trump, who complained loudly to top aides during a tense Oval Office meeting on Friday over how things in his White House were going, had put his chief of staff in the doghouse.
Priebus likes to have frequent meetings to talk about whatever is hot in the news. He keeps three TVs going in his office, while attempting to peel through the more important stories and looking for angles to work with.
Not a bad strategy, but I get how it can be frustrating for staffers, especially considering how quickly the news can change and other issues may arise.
Some staffers roll their eyes as Priebus reiterates the need for them to not leak to the press, or as he stresses that if they want to talk to the president they need to go through him or one of his lieutenants, Katie Walsh.
“No one says anything of relevance,” said one senior staffer. “People are more than happy to schedule a breakfast and send their deputy now.”
Then there are those who say that not only is Priebus trying to stack the administration with those who are loyal to him (not a bad idea, if he really thinks others are out to get him), but that he actively seeks to block access to the president for those he has butted heads with during the campaign.
Little Corey Lewandowski would be one of those people. Unfortunately for Priebus, Lewandowski is still very much in Trump’s graces, and he’s still coming around.
One senior administration official said another big problem was that aides often don’t know “what everyone else is doing on any given issue,” and that Priebus needs to give staffers “clear lanes of responsibility.” The confusion means different people are sometimes sending conflicting messages to lawmakers, Capitol Hill aides or outside groups, this person said, while “all saying that they speak for the president.”
There has also been White House conflict with Cabinet members such as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has vented to friends that Priebus has blocked his choice for deputy secretary, Goldman Sachs managing director Jim Donovan, according to one person familiar with the talks. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, has complained that the chief of staff is picking who will get plum ambassador posts without always consulting others, said another person familiar with that situation.
What seems to be sticking out with many now is this past weekend’s White House junket to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida club. A lot of key players within the administration were there (including Bannon), but Priebus stayed behind to work.
With so much distrust, how long is it before the ax falls again?
I feel kind of bad for the little weasel. If it is his job, as chief of staff, to keep things running smoothly within the administration, Trump may be the biggest obstacle to doing the job.