According to White House staffers quoted at Axios.com, even administration personnel were caught completely off-guard by the news.
“Sources at the White House described scenes of confusion in the hours following news of Trump firing Comey. Internally, at least at a fairly senior level, people were scrambling to figure out what happened,” wrote Axios’ Jonathan Swan.
The majority of White House staff learned about the decision on TV like Comey. The Trump administration’s communications office was totally unprepared. Press Secretary Sean Spicer had a highly voluble “meltdown” and hid in the shrubbery outside the White House to avoid questions from the press.
Meanwhile, the Democratic response, Swan said, was swift and on-message, with politicians and pundits comparing Trump’s actions to those of President Richard Nixon when he fired Archibald Cox — the special prosecutor tasked with investigating his administration in 1973.
With no talking points or marching orders from the top tier of the administration, the White House staff was forced to wing it in the hours after the announcement, which went so badly that Pres. Trump took to Twitter to defend the decision himself and act as his own press office.
“It’s insane. The whole thing is just insane,” said one unnamed staffer to Swan.
Trump’s supporters, confidants and White House employees alike said they felt that the decision left them “exposed.”
“They didn’t have the information, the preparation, the tools, to defend the President,” said Swan.
The situation is hardly surprising, however, knowing Trump’s slapdash, chaotic leadership style and his White House’s fragmented and ever-shifting chain of command as factions duel for the president’s ear.