The West Wing is leaking like a sieve again, this time with details pouring out of the White House into the press about how the new command and control structure is attempting to contain and manage President Donald Trump. But it does not appear they will be successful.
The main goal, per many White House leaks across the media, appears to be senior staff controlling what information and reports make it to President Trump—and tamping down who the president talks to and who has access to the president.
Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs and Margaret Talev wrote on Thursday:
Since retired Marine Corps General John Kelly started as White House chief of staff last month, President Donald Trump has added a routine caveat before approving proposals advisers place before him: Check with ‘The General’ before moving ahead. It’s a marked departure from Trump’s instinct to manage around Kelly’s predecessor, Reince Priebus. When making a decision, one aide recalls, Trump often would caution, ‘Don’t tell Reince.’ Trump’s appointment of Kelly has imposed new order on a White House that had been riven with infighting among warring camps. But it hasn’t been the political lifeline Republican allies had hoped for, as Kelly has so far been unable to perform one of the chief of staff’s most basic duties: to stop a president from following his worst instincts.
The Bloomberg piece is hardly the only one in media about new structures in the latest round of West Wing leaks pouring out of the White House.
Aug. 16, the Washington Post’s Ashley Parker and Bob Costa reported that Kelly has instituted a new structure for communication with the president.
“As the new White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly routes all calls to and from President Trump through the White House switchboard, where he can sign off on them,” Parker and Costa wrote. “He stanches the flow of information reaching the president’s desk. And he requires that all staff members — including Trump’s relatives — go through him to reach the president.”
Over at Politico on Thursday, Eliana Johnson and Nancy Cook got even more leaked details about the new structure Kelly is implementing. Johnson and Cook wrote:
Confronted with a West Wing that treated policymaking as a free-for-all, President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, is instituting a system used by previous administrations to limit internal competition — and to make himself the last word on the material that crosses the president’s deskIt’s a quiet effort to make Trump conform to White House decision-making norms he’s flouted without making him feel shackled or out of the loop. In a conference call last week, Kelly initiated a new policymaking process in which just he and one other aide — White House staff secretary Rob Porter, a little-known but highly regarded Rhodes scholar who overlapped with Jared Kushner as an undergraduate at Harvard — will review all documents that cross the Resolute desk.
All of this comes amid a Democrat takeover of the West Wing, with Republicans being pushed out of the White House. National Security Adviser and three-star Army Gen. H.R. McMaster purged a number of Trump-backing Republicans from the National Security Council, while ex-Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman and now former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus was replaced by retired four-star Marine Gen. John Kelly, the old Secretary of Homeland Security. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and his wife Ivanka Trump—as well as National Economic Council director Gary Cohn—have all seen a rise in prominence in the West Wing. They—McMaster, Kelly, Ivanka Trump, Kushner, and Cohn—are all Democrats.
In addition to controlling information flow to and from the president—and who communicates with him—the West Wing Democrats have aimed to force Trump to stick to pre-scripted remarks on the TelePrompTer whenever he gives speeches. They have not succeeded on that front, as Trump went on a 45-minute off-script tirade against the media, the left, the GOP establishment, and more during a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, this week.
Several people close to the president tell Breitbart News that while he is for now mostly following along with what Kelly and the others want him to do, people should not expect this to last.
“Those in the Administration who think they can shackle the President are in for a rude awakening,” one White House aide told Breitbart News. “Unlike so many other political ‘plastic men,’ he’s not a pre-programmed bot, he thinks for himself and makes his own decisions.”
The White House communications office did not comment for this piece to Breitbart News.
But, the crackdown in process by the West Wing Democrats is much broader than just what happens with the president. “Since taking over for Priebus last month, Kelly has sought to crack down not just on sneakiness and backbiting but also to impose order more broadly,” Johnson and Cook wrote in Politico. “He has tasked deputy chiefs of staff Rick Dearborn and Joe Hagin with bringing some order to the president’s schedule, pushing them to plan events further in advance and to include one public-facing event each day and one travel event each week, according to a senior White House aide. He is also reworking what were once free-flowing White House meetings. Each one now includes a list of attendees to prevent aides from inserting themselves gratuitously where Kelly does not want them.”
In Bloomberg, Jacobs and Talev quoted, “interviews with 14 current and former administration officials, congressional Republicans and people close to Trump and Kelly” most of whom, they say, “credited Kelly with imposing new processes and restrictions that have limited freelancing, drama, leaking and backbiting among staff.”
“Kelly has implored Trump repeatedly to stay on script, emphasizing the importance of being precise and sensitive to the constituencies hearing his words,” Talev and Jacobs wrote. “The president did stick to the text in his speech Monday night on his approach to Afghanistan. Beforehand, Kelly had emphasized the magnitude and somber nature of sending more young men and women into war.”
But Trump has pushed off script many times too, something that tests the patience of his staff. His decision to re-litigate his Charlottesville response at a press conference in Trump Tower in New York City last week sparked Cohn to write a resignation letter, and go on record in the press bashing President Trump and the administration in an interview with the Financial Times.
Cohn met w Trump Friday in NJ, per multiple sources. He had even drafted a resignation letter, per those sources https://t.co/GYGhilRf5X
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) August 25, 2017
According to Politico’s Anne Karni and Ben White, McMaster and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell—who worked with Cohn at Goldman Sachs—leaked that they were upset with the president’s Charlottesville response too. But Politico wrote that McMaster and Powell, unlike Cohn, were not thinking about resigning as of yet.
“National security adviser H.R. McMaster and his deputy, Dina Powell, have been unhappy with Trump’s rhetoric on race over the past week, according to a White House official,” Karni and White wrote. “But neither of them is considering resigning — they have told people it is too serious and dangerous a moment in the world for them to simply walk away.”
Similarly, leaks came out that West Wing aides were not happy with Trump’s Phoenix speech—to the point the president even tweeted out his explanation for different styles of speeches.
Overall, efforts to contain and control Trump are likely to fail, said one source close with the president.
“Every person who is trying to control Donald Trump and not let him be the person that he is has failed in their roles,” an associate of many senior White House officials and a close friend of the president told Breitbart News. “The establishment and elitists continue to think they are smarter than Trump. However, he has proven them wrong time and time again.”