Mar 14, 2018

"The most toxic working environment on the planet"

President Trump standing outside the West Wing earlier this month. Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Never in the 14 months of the Trump White House has there been 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. (The Daily Beast first reported his departure.)

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.

Go deeper

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Photos via Getty Images: Jim Watson/AFP (L); Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency (R)

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Why it matters: Americans are seeing firsthand how each presidential nominee responds to a national crisis happening during a global pandemic.

Louisville police chief fired after body cameras found inactive in shooting of black man

Louisville police officers during protests. Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer fired the city's chief of police Steve Conrad after it was discovered that police officers had not activated their body cameras during the shooting of David McAtee, a local black business owner who was killed during protests early Monday morning.

Why it matters: Mandatory body camera policies have proven to be important in efforts to hold police officers accountable for excessive force against civilians and other misconduct. Those policies are under even greater scrutiny as the nation has erupted in protest over the killing of black people at the hands of police.

Increased armed presence planned for D.C. tonight

Demonstrators stand around a fire during a protest near the White House in response to the killing of George Floyd. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Government officials say plans are in place for a significantly heavier armed presence on the streets of Washington, D.C. tonight in response to the increasingly violent protests linked to the death of George Floyd.

What we're hearing: "Tonight you will see increased presence, both police...other agencies, and National Guard presence," a source familiar with the government's plans said.