White House staffers have grown paranoid and obsess over anonymously sourced reports of palace intrigue, and that sense of distrust reportedly goes all the way to the top.
A senior aide told Politico that staffers spend hours digging through news reports trying to determine who’s leaking information to the press, and aides use encrypted messages and turn off their work-issued devices to thwart eavesdroppers.
“I wouldn’t call it paranoia under the circumstances,” one Republican close to the Trump administration said. “It’s not paranoia if people really are out to get you, and everybody actually is out to get everyone else.”
One aide told the website that he turns off his work phone and stashes it in a drawer, and he makes off-hours calls on a personal phone in the next room, like Winston Smith ducking into an alcove to hide from the telescreen in George Orwell’s “1984,” so the hidden phone can’t pick up his voice.
“(They’re) mimicking what they’re seeing at the top,” said another Republican close to the White House. “Everyone at the top is so suspicious that it trickles down the org chart, so everyone has become paranoid and suspicious.”
Many officials and staffers inside the White House suspect national security officials, including the CIA, are secretly listening and leaking their findings to the media.
“I’m paranoid,” said the aide who stashes his phone. “Anything significant seems to be on the front page the next day.”
The paranoia is even worse outside the White House, in executive agencies, where staffers fear Obama loyalists are out to get them.
“I do think there’s a concerted effort to disrupt us,” said one agency aide, who told Politico he keeps his office door closed all day and monitors colleagues’ social media accounts for anti-Trump views. “We’re professional, we’re courteous. But it’s a one-way street. The [anti-Trump staffers are] out to hurt the administration, and you have to handle yourself accordingly.”
Administration officials have warned darkly that Obama loyalists had “burrowed” into the government to form a “deep state” hostile to Trump, but the former spokesman for the National Security Council dismissed those fears as “overstated and ridiculous.”
“The idea that there are career officials who are holdovers who may not agree with Trump is neither new nor remarkable,” said Tommy Vietor, NSC spokesman under Obama. “That’s not the deep state.”