TRUMP INCREASINGLY DISTRUSTFUL OF STAFF
White House reeling from blowback over FBI director’s firing
AFTER four months in office, President Donald Trump has become distrustful of some of his White House staff. He is heavily reliant on a handful of family members and longtime aides, and furious that the White House’s attempts to quell the firestorm over the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and congressional Russia investigations only seem to add more fuel.
Trump’s frustrations came to a head this week with the firing of FBI director James Comey, who was overseeing the probe into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia’s election meddling. Fearful that his own team would leak the decision, Trump kept key staff in the dark as he pondered the dramatic move.
Chief strategist Steve Bannon learnt on television. The communications staff charged with explaining the decision to the American people had an hour’s notice.
When the White House’s defence of the move failed to meet his ever-changing expectations, Trump tried to take over himself. But he wound up creating new headaches for the White House, including with an apparent threat to Comey.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday.
People close to the president said his reliance on a small cadre of advisers as he mulled firing Comey reflected his broader distrust of many of his own staffers. He leans heavily on daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kusher, as well as Hope Hicks, his trusted campaign spokeswoman and Keith Schiller, his longtime bodyguard.
Trump confidants said Bannon had been marginalised on major decisions, including Comey’s firing, after clashing with Kushner. And while Trump praised chief of staff Reince Priebus after the House passed a healthcare bill last week, associates said the president had continued to raise occasional questions about Priebus’ leadership in the West Wing.
After he decided to fire Comey, he was told by aides that Democrats would likely react positively to the news given the role many believe Comey played in Hillary Clinton’s defeat last year. When the opposite occurred, Trump grew incensed — both at Democrats and his own communications staff for not quickly lining up more Republicans to defend him on television.
Much of Trump’s ire has been focused on the communications team, all of whom were caught off guard by Comey’s ouster.
He increasingly sees himself as the White House’s only effective spokesperson, according to people who have spoken with him. By week’s end, he was musing about cutting back on the White House’s televised press briefings.
White House officials had hoped last week’s House vote would give the president a muchneeded burst of momentum and infuse new energy into efforts to fully overhaul the Obamacare health law and pass a massive tax reform package.
Aides were also eager for Trump’s first foreign trip, a highstakes blitz through the Middle East and Europe.
But the blowback from Comey’s firing left the White House reeling once again.
Trump’s visible anger and erratic tweets prompted a reporter to ask Spicer on Friday whether the president was “out of control”.
“That’s, frankly, offensive,” Spicer said. AP
Protesters rallying against President Donald Trump’s sacking of FBI director James Comey at the White House in Washington.