President Donald Trump’s chaotic leadership style, his high-handedness with advisers and constant urge to attack when question or criticized have left him isolated and bereft of allies — both in the White House and in the Republican Party.
Politico said on Saturday that Trump has allowed White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to push out his closest West Wing allies and confidants and now the combative chief executive is feeling cut off from his support network.
“I think he’s been humbled,” one longtime friend said. “But he has no friends left in his own administration. He trusted Jared, but Jared’s in a box, fighting his own battles. He had Keith, he had Corey every now and then. Now he’s alone.”
Trump’s longtime personal bodyguard Keith Schiller left the White House earlier this year, as well as Trump 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski — who claims he turned down a job at the White House because the salary was “chump change.”
Politico’s Annie Karni and Eliana Johnson spoke with a number of Republican officials, White House aides and advisers and longtime Trump associates to paint a portrait of a president frustrated by his lack of political and personal support — but who apparently can’t see that he is reaping the dividends of his own fecklessness, divisiveness and his driving need for vengeance.
“Trump has relished personal fights and nursed grudges; continued to vilify Clinton and defend his own legitimacy amid the expanding Russia probes; stirred racial tensions while measuring his success by the strength of his base; and taken more interest in throwing elbows on cultural issues than on the matters of policy that preoccupy Republican leaders in Congress,” wrote Karni and Johnson.
Infighting, petty grudges, a lack of focus and a preponderance of “middle school cafeteria behavior” have scuttled Trump’s drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), his ability to secure funding for a promised border wall with Mexico and chances are swiftly fading for the hamstrung administration to pass its much-vaunted tax cuts.
The arrival of John Kelly was supposed to impose a kind of military order on Trump’s whirling White House, but the end result has been that Trump feels hemmed in and isolated.
“Kelly is a tremendous guy in command and control,” said one Trump associate. “But it’s not how this president likes to live. He curates by having different points of view around. He wants an open door. He wants to be the final arbiter of everything.”
And while things inside the White House may run smoother, Trump has continued to regularly vent on Twitter and descend into personal attacks. One GOP operative told Politico that perhaps Kelly should put reining in Trump’s self-defeating antics “on his to-do list.”
Some of Trump’s would-be allies have shied away from the president in his time of crisis. With indictments closing in on the president’s inner circle, it would be a natural time for the president’s supporters to close ranks around the embattled commander-in-chief.
However, GOP loyalists and party pragmatists are seeing less and less benefit in shoring up a president who cares less about them than his own reputation and popularity.
“He sees things only through the framework of his reputation, not of America,” said Ambassador James Jeffrey — a deputy national security adviser to Pres. George W. Bush.