More than a dozen staffers spoke to Politico and said that the “knives are out” for Priebus, 44, who they feel has been remarkably ineffective in his role and inept at handling the myriad controversies and missteps of the Trump White House.
“They described a micro-manager who sprints from one West Wing meeting to another, inserting himself into conversations big and small and leaving many staffers feeling as if he’s trying to block their access to Trump. They vented about his determination to fill the administration with his political allies. And they expressed alarm at what they say are directionless morning staff meetings Priebus oversees that could otherwise be used to rigorously set the day’s agenda and counterbalance the president’s own unpredictability,” wrote Alex Isenstadt and and Josh Dawsey.
The White House’s leaks, internecine squabbles and conflicting currents of power and influence have only gotten worse under Priebus’ leadership, staffers said.
“There’s a real frustration among many — including from the president — that things aren’t going as smoothly as one had hoped,” said one anonymous senior White House official. “Reince, fairly or not, is likely to take the blame and take the fault for that.”
“It’s sheer incompetence,” said another White House staffer who did not want to be named. “There’s a lack of management, and a lack of strategy.”
Priebus is seen by some as a representative of the establishment wing of the Republican Party, which would position him as a natural rival to Stephen Bannon, the former Breitbart.com CEO, who has long held the Republican Party’s old guard in contempt.
“We’re implementing President Trump’s agenda in record time and fulfilling one campaign promise after another,” Bannon told Politio in a written statement. “That shows you what a great job Reince is doing.”
In a separate statement, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner said Priebus “continues to be a strong and effective leader.”
Politico conceded that it would be unfair to tar Priebus with all of the White House’s missteps, saying, “Much of the fault can be assigned to the president himself — a notoriously unpredictable figure who relishes drama.”
The White House personnel who spoke to Politico complained about a range of issues from lackluster morning meetings to Priebus’ “suffocating” management style and the fact that he sprints into meetings.
“He literally runs,” said one staffer, who believed the sudden arrival is a gambit for Priebus to catch snatches of conversation not intended for him in a White House plagued with leaks.
“To some, Priebus’ determination to always be at Trump’s side — not to mention his desire to place loyalists in the White House — underscores his desire for greater control,” wrote Isenstadt and Dawsey. “He has competed for influence along with several other senior aides, including Bannon, Kushner, counselor Kellyanne Conway, and economic adviser Gary Cohn.”
“I feel for him,” said one senior administration official, who also asked to go unnamed. “I really do.”