White House officials endured their worst day yet working for President Donald Trump, and they dread what’s coming next.
Tuesday began with questions about Trump revealing highly classified intelligence to senior Russian officials, and the day closed with revelations of a memo showing Trump asked former FBI director James Comey to end his investigation of disgraced national security adviser Mike Flynn, reported Politico.
“Nobody knows where this really goes from here,” a White House official said. “Everyone is walking around saying, ‘What is next?'”
Top White House officials knew the bombshell report on the Comey memo was coming two hours before the New York Times posted it online, and the president angrily retreated to his residence upstairs within 75 minutes of the story going live.
That left aides to “figure out how bad the fallout was,” Politico reported, but without tape recordings or even a full readout of Trump’s conversation with Comey, which took place the day after Flynn resigned.
White House surrogates were reluctant to go on TV to defend the president because they weren’t sure what to say, and Fox News host Bret Baier complained Tuesday night that no Republicans were willing to go on camera to push back against the Comey memo.
“We are kind of helpless,” said one White House official.
Staffers are demoralized by constant reports that their jobs are in danger, and they said Trump ignores their advice or unilaterally blows up their communications strategy.
Two sources told Politico that Trump insisted on writing a line in his letter firing Comey that the FBI director had assured him three times that he wasn’t under investigation, against the warnings of his advisers.
The president made that decision while golfing in New Jersey, without his staff, and few advisers saw the letter before it was sent out.
“They’re in a bad situation,” said one adviser who has known the president for years. “If people wanted the Comey situation to go away, he did nothing to help that happen.”
White House officials decided not to send anyone on TV or issue a signed statement on the Comey memo, and they went to bed waiting for the next shoe to drop.
“We are hoping the president doesn’t tweet,” one official said. “Fingers crossed.”