Well, Reince Priebus’s days as White House Chief of Staff are numbered. That became clear last week when President Trump hired Anthony Scaramucci to be the White House Communications Director, going around Priebus’s recommendations, and leading White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to resign. But events last night and this morning have hammered that idea home.
Scaramucci has been in a foul mood since the financial disclosure form he filed upon taking his position at the White House was made public. Scaramucci flew to twitter to denounce the ‘leak’ of a document that is not classified or private in any way, declaring such a leak to be a felony (it is not), saying that he will be contacting the FBI (even though there is no crime), and making sure to include Priebus’s Twitter handle, seemingly accusing the Chief of Staff of being behind the leak. Then this morning, still feeling aggrieved, Scaramucci called into Chris Cuomo’s show on CNN.
Scaramucci went on a rambling defense of his past night’s Twitter activity, and his West Wing crusade to identify and punish leakers. He continued his attacks on Priebus, who is Scaramucci’s boss, by the way, hinting that Priebus’s relationship with Trump might not be reparable.
Scaramucci’s hire is a direct confrontation from Trump. Not to his enemies or critics or to Democrats on Capitol Hill. Rather, Scaramucci is a bulldog hired by Trump to terrorize his staff and reassert control over them.
Trump has never appeared happy with his senior staff. That’s because he listened to advice when it came to filling out positions. He hired people ready to work for a conventional, rule-abiding president. But Trump has never been that guy. He’s a person who craves worship and self-indulgence. He’s hears the word ‘no’ in the same way that a toddler does. It’s offensive and galling. How dare anyone tell Trump there’s something he can’t do?
After six months in the Oval Office, Trump is ready to blame his staff for his administration’s troubles. In Trump’s mind, his own staff has been undermining his directives and undermining his presidency. If his people would just do what he wants, there would be no Russia investigation, there would be no howling about 189 consecutive days of emoluments violations, and there would be no more leaks. To Trump, it was a plus that members of his senior staff objected to Scaramucci. To Trump, that meant Scaramucci would be a good hire. Scaramucci has a mandate from the president to wreak havoc in the West Wing, and that’s just what he’s doing.
Meanwhile, news came this week that Ivanka Trump is the latest member of Trump’s family to lawyer up. There hasn’t been reporting confirming how many members of Trump’s family and staff have retained counsel, but by this point, if there is anyone of consequence in the administration who has not hired a lawyer, that person is taking a terrible chance.
Scaramucci or no Scaramucci, this administration is going down in flames. No significant legislation has crossed the president’s desk, and as the healthcare bill fizzles out in the Senate, it looks as if none will.
For seven years the GOP promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, but now that the moment has come, the party is found wanting. Every single plan the GOP has come up with to replace Obamacare leaves tens of millions of Americans without health insurance. Voters who supported Trump and the Republicans last November are finally waking up to the fact that the GOP’s promises on healthcare were a bait and switch, leading to a majority of Americans supporting Obamacare for the first time in polling. If the GOP can’t figure out their signature legislation, then it seems less and less likely they will be able to figure out how to pass anything else of consequence, much less send it to a president whose approval ratings are cratering.
Finally, there’s Trump’s recent treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions has been a warrior for Trump ever since he was the first Senator to endorse Trump’s candidacy. But he made one mistake. After being confirmed as Attorney General, Sessions was caught in some fibs about contacts with Russian diplomats during the campaign, and had to recuse himself from any Justice Department investigation into the campaign and its ties to Russia.
Trump has probably wanted to get rid of Sessions since the recusal announcement, but it was Trump’s recent interview with the New York Times that made it appear he wants Sessions gone. Since that interview Trump has been unable to restrain himself, trashing his Attorney General in public on multiple occasions. He has said that had he known Sessions would recuse himself beforehand, he never would have nominated Sessions for Attorney General.
In the last week, Trump has sent a number of Tweets questioning Sessions’ actions as Attorney General. There was this from yesterday:
“Why didn’t A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got big dollars ($700,000) for his wife’s political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!”
And this from Tuesday:
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!”
There are more tweets I’m not going to bother quoting. This has been going on for a week, now. Bringing up Hillary Clinton is a lame attempt at distraction from the investigation into his own campaign and administration, while the real meat of these tweets are Trump’s attacks on Sessions. He appears to want Sessions to quit. Why Trump doesn’t just fire Sessions is unknown to me. After the very public way in which he has been bashing his Attorney General, any political cover he would have had with a resignation rather than a firing is gone. Instead, as is part of Trump’s pattern as president, he is doing damage to his own cause, giving reticent Republican Senators, the people who might ultimately decide whether Trump gets to stay president, more reason to come out against him.
Trump has lost trust in his senior staff, and they have probably lost confidence in him. He is battling constantly against allegations of criminal wrongdoing in his administration, and has publicly castigated a member of his cabinet. His approval ratings continue to sink, buoyed only by supporters who are unconcerned with reality. After 189 days, he has yet to show the temperament or any competency for the job. He is a failed president. The only hope left for this administration is that it ends before Trump is faced with the type of crisis that requires real leadership.