March 14, 2018

1 big thing: "The most toxic working environment on the planet"

In 14 months covering this White House, Axios' Jonathan Swan emails, he's never registered such a mood of acute anxiety from within the West Wing.

What we're hearing: Nobody knows what exactly is happening, who’s about to be fired, or which staffer will next be frogmarched out the door by security for some shadowy clearance issue.

"This is the most toxic working environment on the planet. Usually tough times bring people together. But right now this atmosphere is ripping people apart. There's no leadership, no trust, no direction and this point there's very little hope. Would you want to go to work every day not knowing whether your future career was going to be destroyed without explanation?"
— A White House official to Axios

Senior officials are equivocating privately when asked whether they think John Kelly and H.R. McMaster are staying or going. Nobody knows because it’s Trump, and the way he dealt with Rex Tillerson was sudden, even though he’d long been fed up with his Secretary of State.

But the clearance issues are more serious:

  • West Wingers believe more people are set to be escorted out the building for security clearance issues.
  • Swan has learned that it’s not just Johnny McEntee — the president’s trusted body man — who’s been pushed out for security clearance issues in recent days.
  • The same thing happened last week to an aide to the First Lady. He was escorted from the premises and his former colleagues don’t know what the security clearance issue was that forced him out. 

Why this matters: This acute level of uncertainty — and these rapid fire executions, especially the security clearance issues — are shredding an already devastated morale inside the building. 

Be smart: This makes it harder than ever to attract top-tier talent. They're going to have big problems replacing the next wave of vacancies.

2. Scenes from the walkout

Thousands of high schoolers walked out of class for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. local time this morning, commemorating the 17 victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and protesting for tightened laws on guns.

Students march to the Massachusetts State House in Boston:

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Students in Venice, California:

Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty

Students from Lane Technical High School in Chicago.

Photo: Max Herman/NurPhoto via Getty Images

And students at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Go deeper:

3. What you missed

  1. Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes was charged with "massive fraud" by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Details.
  2. The SEC is also charging a former Equifax executive with insider trading after he profited nearly $1 million by selling his shares ahead of the company's data breach announcement. What they're saying.
  3. Larry Kudlow accepted Trump's offer to be Gary Cohn's replacement as National Economic Adviser. More.
  4. The parents of Seth Rich have filed suit over a retracted 2017 Fox News article. The lawsuit.
  5. Around half of people imprisoned in the U.S. had no earnings in the years leading up to their incarceration, according to a new study by the Brookings Institution. See the chart.