White House staffers are paralyzed by a leadership crisis as President Donald Trump faces impeachment.
The president has insisted on handling the response himself, and his strategy has changed on a day-to-day basis, which leaves staffers and chief of staff Mick Mulvaney unsure of their roles, reported Politico.
“Mick is lying low, but everyone is lying low,” a former senior administration official told the website. “White House aides are hoping the president deals with this himself, and everyone is trying to keep their heads down.”
“Popping your head up will only lead to bad things,” that former official said. “It’s uncommon for a chief to do this as well, but Mick seems to be in the same shelter-in-place posture everyone is in.”
Current and former White House aides told Politico that Mulvaney's job was safe because no one else would want to be chief of staff to a president facing impeachment, and because Mulvaney was too entangled in the Ukraine scandal to be forced out of the White House.
“This is the point in Trumpworld where they figure out who to blame,” said another former administration official.
Mulvaney has gained a reputation for letting the president do whatever he wants, but one expert on White House leadership said that indirectly led to the Ukraine scandal that threatens Trump's presidency.
“The central question here is: Where is Mick Mulvaney?” said Chris Whipple, author of “The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency.” “He's abdicated the most important duty as White House chief of staff, and that is telling the president what he doesn't want to hear. And the most dramatic result of his ‘Let Trump be Trump’ posture is the Ukraine scandal. He should have thrown his body in front of that phone call.“
Mulvaney and the White House press office declined to comment on the report, but one former official suggested the acting chief of staff may be eyeing an exit.
“Mick, in general, is someone who likes to keep his options open,” said a former White House official. “If his plan was to stay for a very long time, he would have pushed for a title change. If he got a real sense that the president wants somebody else, he‘s not going to fight that. He is in good standing with Trump right now, but this is a hard time for anybody. So, it wouldn‘t shock me if he‘s thinking about what he wants to do next.“
Mulvaney and other White House aides have largely kept low profiles and haven't made appearances on TV to defend the president, a job that has been filled primarily by Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and the president himself.
“Clearly the president wants to be the messenger here," said one Mulvaney ally. "What difference does it make to have the chief of staff on TV?”
But Mulvaney's absence on television has raised speculation that he has lost favor with Trump and might be plotting an exit.
“The frustration I’ve heard is that they’re not really set up to fight this impeachment battle and he would normally be the one spearheading that effort on the inside since he’s chief of staff,” said one former White House official.