An already frantic and factionalized White House goes into the next week even more divided against itself after the humiliating failure of Pres. Donald Trump’s first big legislative push — a bill to “repeal and replace” Obamacare — on Friday.
Politico reported Sunday that “top aides, political allies and donors are embroiled in a furious round of finger-pointing over who is at fault” for the fact that the Trump agenda is already “hitting the rocks” as the administration approaches the milestone of its first 100 days.
“The recriminations extend far beyond the implosion of the GOP’s Obamacare repeal on Friday. Senior aides are lashing each other over their inability to stem a never-ending tide of negative stories about the president,” wrote Alex Isenstadt.
He continued, “There is second-guessing of the Republican National Committee’s efforts to mobilize Trump’s electoral coalition on behalf of his legislative priorities. At the Environmental Protection Agency, a top official quit recently amid accusations the department is failing to advance the president’s campaign promises. And one of Trump’s most generous benefactors, Rebekah Mercer, has expressed frustration over the direction of the administration.”
Isenstadt spoke with more than two dozen Trump aides, advisers and others close to the administration, many of whom asked not to be named for fear of reprisals in the highly competitive, “paranoid” White House where “everybody actually is out to get everyone else.”
“They described a distracting and toxic atmosphere, with warring power centers blaming one another for an ever-growing list of setbacks. The dysfunction has further paralyzed an administration struggling to deliver on its blunt promises of wholesale change,” Politico said.
By many accounts, the ignominious failure this week of the GOP healthcare bill has darkened the already stormy mood at a White House beset by multiple federal investigations and still struggling to establish its legitimacy amid swirling rumors of possible interfacing between the Trump 2016 campaign and the Russian government.
Former Breitbart.com CEO Stephen Bannon reportedly lays the blame for the healthcare bill’s failure at the feet of moderate Republicans and the Washington establishment. Other in the White House point to Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, the former RNC chairman, who they say was insufficiently persuasive to the Republican rank and file.
Others blame Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who declined to join in the face-to-face lobbying of House Republicans and then — just as the bill was lagging — left mid-week for an Aspen ski vacation.
The White House communications office is largely made up of former RNC employees, who Trump loyalists believe are more invested in defending Priebus and the Republican Party than Pres. Trump.
“If you have people that don’t believe in the president, I don’t think they’re going to be that forceful in protecting the White House,” said one former Trump campaign staffer to Isenstadt. “There’s nothing there to push through the agenda, to push through the Supreme Court justice, there’s nothing there to help him with.”
Adding to the pressure is the fact that the president has yet to fill a tremendous number of posts in the federal government and many agencies are languishing, while other appointees like EPA Director Scott Pruitt are being accused of operating under their own agendas and not executing Trump’s demands quickly enough.
Rebecca Mercer — half of the mega-donor father-daughter team who brought Bannon and former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway into the Trump campaign — is reportedly unhappy with the number of Washington insiders who have permeated the Trump team. Billionaire casino magnate and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson is also apparently grumbling that the administration isn’t moving fast enough with regard to Israel.
As the administration licks its wounds in the wake of the healthcare bill’s crash, “the blame game is taking a toll on an exhausted White House,” said Isenstadt. “At the highest levels of the West Wing, the mood has grown so tense that staffers have begun calling up reporters inquiring whether other senior aides are leaking damaging information about them.”
A former Trump 2016 aide told Politico, “The various warring fiefdoms and camps within the White House are constantly changing and are so vast and complicated in their nature, that there is no amount of reporting that could accurately describe the subterfuge, animosity and finger-pointing that is currently happening within the ranks of the senior staff.”