Imagine you're Reince Priebus. Every day, you hear speculation that your days as White House chief of staff are numbered. You wake up on a Sunday and read that colleague Kellyanne Conway's dream job is, well, yours.
Then, you flick on CNN to see Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy -- a Trump pal of 10 years (and Mar-a-Lago member) who just spent time alone with him in Florida -- saying this on "Reliable Sources": "The White House is showing not the amount of order that we need to see. I think there's a lot of weakness coming out of the chief of staff."
After a pleading call from Priebus, Ruddy tweeted: "Reince just briefed me on new WH plans. Impressive! CNN today my personal view. Told him I have 'open mind' based on his results." Then Ruddy got another call: "Jared Kushner tells me COS Reince is doing 'amazing job.'"
Yikes! Not a reassuring end to your third week on the job! But this is a problem hardly confined to Priebus: After watching Trump clean house several times during the campaign, everyone feels on thin ice. This naturally breeds insecurity, ass-covering and endless leaking.
Those who don't fear for their hide are busy gaming out how they rise when someone falls. Trump feeds all of this. It's why an insider describes the White House hierarchy as "fragile."
"These people are insecure because Trump does not respect them," said a person in constant contact with the West Wing. "He does not because they have not made any money. He respects [Steve] Bannon and Gary Cohn because they are financially successful."
Trump has already consulted friends about his next chief of staff. I'm told that to avoid admitting error, Trump plans a smooth transition from Priebus, perhaps by making him a Cabinet secretary!
Ruddy told us in a phone interview: "Trump is trying to figure out who he should trust. This is totally new for him, so he's trying to figure out who the strong ones are and who the weak ones are."
Heather Nauert, the news anchor on "Fox & Friends," was spotted at the White House last week -- talking to Trump, we're told, about a communications job. Yesterday she tweeted that she's buying Ivanka Trump heels in solidarity after Nordstrom dropped the line, and will wear them on "Fox & Friends" this week.
That certainly doesn't make embattled West Wing officials feel any more secure as they try to put out what one called "400 fires a day."
Any purge will begin with national security adviser Mike Flynn, for lying to Vice President Pence about contacts with Russia on sanctions. In retrospect, that was clear as soon as Trump told reporters Friday evening on Air Force One that he didn't know about the story, which had been on the front page of that morning's Washington Post. It was a way for Trump to dodge showing support for Flynn.
"Spread the butter: He is toast," said a top source. "Lying to Pence damaged Pence's credibility and the administration's. That is an unpardonable sin."
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Shot ... Trump policy guru Stephen Miller to John Dickerson on "Face the Nation": "The president of the United States has accomplished more in just a few weeks than many presidents accomplish in an entire administration."
Chaser ... Trump tweets: "Congratulations Stephen Miller- on representing me this morning on the various Sunday morning shows. Great job!"
Retweeted by ... Sean Spicer @PresSec.
While forgoing an official title for now, Ivanka Trump is already proving to be a vital player in her father's West Wing. Today, she shows she'll play a critical role with the international economic agenda, as well as the domestic issues where she has long been active.
After an Oval Office meeting today with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, POTUS and the prime minister will move into the Cabinet Room for an event engineered by Ivanka: a roundtable discussion on the advancement of women entrepreneurs and business leaders.
CNN's Brian Stelter says this story reads like a cry for help" from NSC staffers. It's the two-column lead of the N.Y. Times, "Tensions and Chaos Rattle National Security Council: Foreign Policy Made via Twitter Tests Staff," by David Sanger, Eric Schmitt and Peter Baker, "based on conversations with more than two dozen current and former council staff members and others throughout the government." Top nuggets:
Future N.Y. Times publisher Arthur Gregg Sulzberger -- "who goes by Arthur but is known as A.G. around the Times" -- is on the cover of Wired's March issue for "The News [in NYT font] in Crisis ... How The New York Times Is Clawing Its Way Into the Future," by Brooklyn writer Gabriel Snyder. Le highlights:
The whole article is worth reading -- love the angst over what is "Timesian."
"The new civics course in schools: How to avoid fake news," by AP's Carolyn Thompson: "Teachers from elementary school through college are telling students how to distinguish between factual and fictional news — and why they should care that there's a difference."
Tips on distinguishing fake news from the real thing:
Trump's three unshakable beliefs on trade, per Axios' Jonathan Swan:
Why this matters: Trump will inevitably ditch or scale back some of his less realistic promises. But an aide tells us Trump's views on trade only sharpened on the campaign trail as he spent time meeting unemployed factory workers in Rust Belt towns.
Bloomberg's David Tweed, based in Hong Kong: "India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam have largely escaped ... Trump's glare on trade [which has focused on China, Japan, South Korea], but he may yet come looking. The U.S. runs trade deficits with all of them, in some cases quite big ones."
Wall Street Journal front-pager, "SPEED LIMITS AWAIT INFRASTRUCTURE SPREE," by David Harrison: "Environmental regulations and neighborhood opposition routinely bog down projects and will likely constrain the administration's plan to spend $1 trillion on 'highways, bridges, tunnels, airports.'"
"Adele and David Bowie rack up wins as the Grammys struggle to keep up with the times" -- L.A. Times pop music writer Randy Lewis: "Adele, the English queen of pop heartbreak and redemption, scored a perfect five for five ... at the 59th Grammy Awards [in L.A. last night], sweeping the top categories of album, record and song of the year in a triumphant return to the spotlight following a long, trying hiatus."
"Not surprisingly given the mood of the country, the ceremony featured several moments of political commentary, ranging from calls for unity to blatant criticism ... [including a] call-out to 'President Agent Orange' from [Busta Rhymes for] hip-hop collective A Tribe Called Quest."
Beyoncé, pregnant with twins and "perhaps sensing it was her last chance," accepting award for Best Urban Contemporary Album, for "Lemonade": "It's important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty ... so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror, first through their own families, as well as the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House and the Grammys, and see themselves. And have no doubt that they're beautiful, intelligent and capable."
"Adele ... pays tribute to Beyonce," by AP's David Bauder: "In an extraordinary moment between the music industry's top female artists, Adele beat Beyonce for three of the top Grammy Awards — then said her competitor deserved at least one of them."
Adele: "[M]y album of the year is 'Lemonade' ... It's her time to win ... My view is kind of what the (expletive) does she have to do to win album of the year? I felt this album showed another side to her that we haven't seen and I felt blessed to be brought into that situation.'"