After GOP establishment forces inside President Donald Trump’s White House forced out National Security Adviser retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, sources close to the president confirm to Breitbart News there is serious doubt as to whether this early administration shake-up will also see the exit of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.
Specifically, multiple sources close to President Trump with internal knowledge of White House operations told Breitbart News on Monday night that the buck stops with Priebus when it comes to the botched rollout of the executive order temporarily banning most travel to the United States from seven nations with a history of exporting terrorism and temporarily halting the refugee program. This news comes of course in the wake of the news that Flynn was pushed out, but also as more and more reports of a likely shake-up at the top loom.
“Reince is responsible, ultimately, for the rollout of the immigration executive order,” one source said. “He failed to get [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions on the calendar in the Senate in time for what he knew would be a highly controversial executive order. He was supposed to be this wizard in dealing with congressional Republicans, but has not been successful in getting anything serious done.”
Sessions was not confirmed by the full Senate until Feb. 8, a much-longer timeline than by which former Attorney General Eric Holder was confirmed at the beginning of the Obama administration. While both had their hearings before the Jan. 20 inauguration, Holder was confirmed on Feb. 2 of that administration and Sessions was confirmed on Feb. 8 of this administration.
The timeline between when Holder passed committee and passed the Senate was much faster, too, than Sessions: Holder passed committee on Jan. 28 of 2009 and was confirmed within a few days by Feb. 2. Sessions, who didn’t pass committee until Feb. 1, saw his full Senate vote dragged out nearly a full week until Feb. 8. While Trump signed his executive order on immigration back on Jan. 27, at that time there were only a handful of Trump cabinet officials installed throughout government–just the Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of Defense, the CIA director and Ambassador to the United Nations–and committee votes were not even scheduled for people like Sessions.
At that point in the Obama administration, nearly his full cabinet was confirmed.
A second source says that Priebus knew about Sally Yates, the Deputy Attorney General under former President Barack Obama’s administration who was given the temporary spot as Acting Attorney General during the transition process until the president fired her for having “betrayed” her duty to enforce the law, getting that top Justice Department job and the risks it entailed and did not inform the president of that or stop her from reaching that position.
A third source added that while Senate Democrats are certainly playing games in the Senate holding up President Trump’s nominees, Priebus is also not utilizing his relationships with GOP leaders—his supposed biggest selling point for landing the point job in the White House—to get Trump’s nominees through and his government up and running quickly.
“It’s actually not just Sessions,” the third source said. “It’s everyone. Reince really has not done enough in pressuring [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell to move faster. Sure, the Democrats are using all their tools, but McConnell isn’t doing everything he can either—and Reince is not doing anything about it. With floor time so scarce, the White House can’t expect Mitch to click his heels without a little push.”
Trump is publicly still singing Priebus’s praises, telling reporters on Tuesday while he refused to defend Flynn that: “Reince is doing a great job. Not a good job. A great job.”
But one source even suggested that Priebus’ Monday meeting with former President Obama’s one-time White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was a way for Priebus to learn from his predecessor how to handle exactly this crisis over his own position and his lack of control in the White House, and that Priebus is struggling to maintain his grip on the position.
Many other potential Yateses—holdovers from the Obama administration who have found their way into spots throughout the Trump administration—await throughout government.
“They’re hiding like sleeper cells everywhere,” one source said.
White House and other government sources say there are as many as 50 of them throughout government, and Priebus has full knowledge of their whereabouts, who they are, and what potential for damage they may cause. He is not doing anything about it, these sources add.
“In some cases, we’ve held some individuals over because they hold a critical position within government,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told Breitbart News when asked during a recent briefing about the holdovers. “In some cases, we’ve named folks as acting. It’s a case-by-case basis and again I think part of it right now is the president wanted to focus on getting his cabinet up and complete. We’ll continue to make nominations at both the deputy, under and assistant secretary level. But in key agencies, ICE being one of them where it’s an assistant secretary, but there are thirty other agencies where we’ve named acting heads to ensure that as we move through the confirmation process we have somebody in that position to ensure continuity of government.”
“What are you talking about? What possibly could have been done to get Sessions done quicker? Is there some way he could have made Democrats vote?” Spicer said in an email response to the questions for this story about the problems Priebus has had getting the government up and running.
Pouring fuel on this fire around Priebus is the fact that he is not effectively working Republicans on Capitol Hill like his friend House Speaker Paul Ryan to push through key legislative items that Trump campaigned on, like the repealing and replacing of Obamacare and tax reform among other initiatives. Sources close to the president question whether Priebus will be able to stomach pushing through major pieces of legislation down the road, like the president’s infrastructure plan, a plan for the promised border wall, or the building up of the military among other things.
Also breaking late Monday was the revelation that House conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus and Republican Study Committee—led by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), a key Trump agenda ally on Capitol Hill—are now going to pressure House GOP leadership on repealing Obamacare faster since Ryan, and by extension his friend Priebus, have failed to get the Trump healthcare agenda moving in the first few weeks of the new administration.
These sources with inner workings of the White House and others independently confirm that President Trump has been privately critical of Priebus in many settings, asking questions about his performance in the position. That’s not all: Others say that Priebus is having a seriously difficult time communicating with all sides of the Republican Party, and cannot effectively build relationships across the divide to unite the Trump coalition. All of this could derail Trump’s presidency if he doesn’t fix it soon, and quickly bring in someone new as Chief of Staff who can smooth out the rocky start and get things back on track sooner rather than later.
In fact, Politico reported that Trump allies are actually circulating lists of potential Priebus replacements—a horrendous sign for the Chief of Staff. Citing those who have “talked with the president,” Politico reported that many “have begun to wonder about the future of chief of staff Reince Priebus.”
“Several Trump campaign aides have begun to draft lists of possible Priebus replacements, with senior White House aides Kellyanne Conway and Rick Dearborn and lobbyist David Urban among those mentioned,” Politico’s Josh Dawsey and Alex Isenstadt wrote. “Gary Cohn, a Trump economic adviser who is close with senior adviser Jared Kushner, has also been the subject of chatter.”
Many others are apparently on the short list to become the new White House chief of staff should Priebus face the same fate as Flynn over his own failures, sources tell Breitbart News.
All of this comes as Trump’s longtime friend Chris Ruddy of NewsMax went on CNN this weekend to detail how Priebus is showing “weakness.”
“I think Reince Priebus, good guy, well-intentioned, but he clearly doesn’t know how the federal agencies work,” Ruddy said on CNN. “He doesn’t have a real good system. He doesn’t know how the communications flow.”
He added that Priebus is not giving Trump the “back-up he needs.”
“I think the President is not getting the back-up he needs in the operation of the White House,” Ruddy said. “Sometimes the push-back that he needs, which you would have with a stronger White House counsel. That you would have with a stronger White House chief of staff.”
Ruddy, interestingly, defended Spicer—someone who’s also come under some criticism—as “doing a very good job under difficult circumstances.”
Later, after the appearance gained significant media attention, Priebus called Ruddy and Ruddy Tweeted that he told him that there are plans to get some of the things he has failed on going—and Ruddy said he will keep an “open mind” about Priebus moving forward based on whether the struggling chief of staff can deliver “results” soon.
Reince just briefed me on new WH plans. Impressive! CNN today my personal view. Told him I have 'open mind' based on his results.
— Christopher Ruddy (@ChrisRuddyNMX) February 12, 2017
Jared Kushner tells me COS Reince is doing "amazing job." Disagrees with me!
— Christopher Ruddy (@ChrisRuddyNMX) February 13, 2017
Ruddy later told his own publication that senior administration sources told him that Trump likes Priebus and doesn’t intend to replace him.
“I’m hearing from a number of senior people today that President Trump very much likes the job Reince Priebus is doing and has no intention of replacing him,” Ruddy told NewsMax on Monday evening.
He added: “I think President Trump has done a remarkable job in a short time, but the media are not talking about his successes. I like to tell people how I honestly see things. I also want Reince Priebus to succeed. If he does, we all do.”
In response to questions about Ruddy’s comments, Spicer told Breitbart News that “you have seen Ruddy already walk that back and the President’s on the record comments,” referring to Trump saying on Monday that Priebus was doing a “great job.”