A bombshell report from the Washington Post claims that even President Donald Trump’s most trusted aides and confidants are “bewildered and alarmed” by his recent behavior. One GOP insider fretted that the president appears to be “in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion” as he thrashes around for someone to blame for the tsunami of criticism generated by his abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey.
“The aftermath” of Comey’s firing, wrote the Post‘s Philip Rucker, “is a presidency rocked by its most serious self-inflicted crisis yet, exposing dysfunction and distrust within his West Wing and imperiling his agenda. The momentum for the health-care bill that passed the House is gone, and a week scheduled to be devoted to Trump’s preparations for a high-stakes foreign trip was overtaken by distractions and fury.”
He continued, “Across Washington, Trump’s allies have been buzzing about the staff’s competence as well as the president’s state of mind. One GOP figure close to the White House mused privately about whether Trump was ‘in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion.’”
Trump threw caution to the wind in his abrupt firing of Comey, counting on the enmity the former FBI director earned from Democrats in the 2016 election to pad the blow with regards to public opinion. Instead the firing has generated the largest firestorm the administration has faced thus far, a circumstance that Trump blames on the White House press shop, led by Communications Director Michael Dubke and Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
“This was the first major crisis or test they’ve had, and it looks like a lot of systems failed,” said Trump ally and CEO of the right-wing news site Newsmax.com Chris Ruddy. “My experience with the president is when he sees failure, he quickly adapts and tries new things. He’s not a guy that keeps the same ol’.”
“The system may be failing, but it is Trump who is picking which buttons to press,” countered Rucker. “The president takes pride in being the ultimate decision-maker, for matters large and small. And chaos has been a hallmark of Trump’s enterprises, from his family real estate empire to his presidential campaign, a 16-month venture during which he cycled through three leadership teams.”
“White House aides have felt bewildered and alarmed by how Trump arrives at his decisions — often on impulse and emotion and sometimes by rejecting the counsel of those around him — and how he then communicates those decisions to his personnel and the public,” the Post said. “Trump is in some ways like a pilot opting to fly a plane through heavy turbulence then blaming the flight attendants when the passengers get jittery.”
“The Comey firing is just the most dramatic example of a White House that is completely dysfunctional, the most chaotic in modern history,” said historian and author Chris Whipple. “Reince Priebus has made rookie mistake after rookie mistake. But, ultimately, it’s fundamentally on Donald Trump. A chief of staff can do very little to make the White House function if he’s not empowered by his president. That simply has not happened.”
The dysfunctional press shop is catching the blame for the fact that Democratic leader and fierce Trump critic Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) organized a press conference, handed out talking points and conducted a unified media assault on the Comey firing while the White House press shop was in complete disarray.
“They were running around like chickens with their heads cut off,” said a White House official who asked not to be named. “There was no leadership, no ‘get your troops in a room, and issue orders and execute.’”
“Some of Trump’s allies said they are worried that the president views the Comey episode entirely as a public-relations crisis — a branding problem — and has not been judicious about protecting himself from legal exposure as the FBI continues to investigate possible links between his campaign and Russia,” Rucker wrote.
“Trump is so unsophisticated about government, and he lacks even basic knowledge about how the government functions, of what the unwritten but very important rules and traditions are. His attitude toward all those things is they don’t matter: ‘I’m going to drain the swamp!'” said one Republican official.
In the growing chaos around Trump’s administration — and heightened demands for an independent counsel to examine Trump’s possibly criminal dealings with Russia — this dismissive attitude is unlikely to serve Trump or his administration well.