Rumors of Shake-Up Do Little to Quell White House Leaks
Disclosures likely to continue as long as Trump surrounded by advisers with conflicting agendas
Who is leaking information about the president’s mood, thinking, and decision-making processes to a hostile Washington media?
The Washington Post, in a May 10 story entitled “Inside Trump’s Anger and Impatience — and His Sudden Decision to Fire Comey,” described the president as agitated “every time” Comey appeared in public, and said that at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, over the weekend before firing Comey, the president had “groused” about Comey’s congressional testimony.
“It’s vitally important that the president surround himself with loyalists.”
Who was with Trump “every time” Comey appeared on television? Who was by his side at his country club in New Jersey on Saturday, May 6, or Sunday, May 7?
The universe of people is certainly quite small, and the sense of betrayal must be acute, given the tone of the Washington Post piece, authored by Philip Rucker, Robert Costa, Ashley Parker, and Sari Horwitz, which referred to the president’s “baseless charge” that Trump Tower was wiretapped.
It is not the first time staffers working in a conservative White House were thought to be working to damage the president or his agenda in the press.
Reagan biographer Craig Shirley says Reagan used to complain about leaks, storming at one Cabinet meeting, "I've had it up to my keister with these leaks!"
"Everybody knew the chief leakers against him were David Gergen [director of communications] and Richard Darman [staff secretary], two moderate-to-liberal Bushies who worked in the early Reagan White House," Shirley told LifeZette.
In Reagan's second term, he says, it was the three aides to Chief of Staff Don Regan, known as "the mice," who were the chief leakers, relaying damaging things about the president to the press.
"The leaks came and went all eight years," says Shirley. "They went up with Gergen and Darman, and down when they left. They went up with Regan and down when he was fired. They pretty much stayed down when Howard Baker became chief of staff. Reagan counted on loyalty, and with loyal aides like Ed Meese he never worried about leaks. With less loyal aides, it was an ongoing problem."
Roger Stone, a longtime friend of President Donald Trump, contends the solution for Trump is to stock the White House with advisers who were loyal from the beginning of his presidential campaign — and who wholeheartedly support all aspects of the Trump agenda.
"It's vitally important that the president surround himself with loyalists," Stone said last month during a radio interview. "People like Ed Martin, people like David Urban, people like Wayne Berman. These are people who played an important role in his election. They don't need government jobs. They don't seek government jobs. But they would join the administration if they were asked."
Ed Martin is the former head of the Missouri Republican Party and a co-author, with conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, of the 2016 book, The Conservative Case for Trump — Schlafly's personal plea for conservatives to back Donald Trump. David Urban, meanwhile, is an old Washington politico who sprung into action and devoted himself to Trump's campaign in Pennsylvania — the state that put Trump over the top on election night.
The president, said Stone, must seek out and hire people who are "deeply committed" to his agenda.
But most of the president's high-level advisers, let alone the junior staffers, have at least some conflict, current or past, with aspects of the Trump agenda.
Chief of staff Reince Preibus opposed Trump's first stab at a travel ban in December of 2015 so strongly that he spoke out publicly to the Washington Examiner.
In May of 2016, he publicly scolded Trump, saying the candidate "must change his tone" and must adjust the way he relates to Hispanics, saying "our party is the party of the open door."
Gary Cohn, the president's top economic adviser and former Goldman Sachs executive, is still a registered Democrat, despite having served in the Trump administration for nearly four months.
The president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is registered to vote in New York with no party affiliation. Kushner, it should be noted, did not choose to change his party to Republican, as his wife Ivanka Trump did, after missing the deadline to be able to vote in New York's Republican primary. Kushner has reportedly pushed Trump to soften his positions on immigration and trade, as well as to adopt progressive criminal justice reforms.
H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security advisor, made a name for himself in the Iraq War as a top aide to Gen. David Petraeus, and reportedly wanted Trump to send up to 150,000 men into Syria to topple President Bashar al-Assad. But Trump, in his campaign, repeatedly said the U.S. should "stay out of" Syria, and ran against the Iraq War, pointing to the trillions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost, with nothing accomplished, and has insisted, "We're not going into Syria."
But regardless of policy and ideology conflicts — the motive for undermining the boss remains unclear for almost any White House staffer or adviser.
What may be almost as galling to Trump supporters as the number of leaks is the choice of news outlets on the receiving end of the leaks.
An article in the Daily Beast, the liberal website founded by Tina Brown (now owned by IAC), whose board of directors includes Chelsea Clinton, ran a story on Friday describing how a White House staffer yelled out, "Jesus!" while on the phone with the Daily Beast reporter when he saw what the president had tweeted.
Trump loyalists might wonder: Why in the world is a White House staffer on the phone with the Daily Beast? The website is so hostile to President Trump that it referred to him as a "toddler" in a story on Monday about the upcoming foreign trip, which is to include meetings with representatives of NATO.