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Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

LBJ withheld the title of chief of staff from his top aides, and President Trump is now living out that fantasy even with John Kelly in the building.

As part of his exasperation with being handled, Trump has taken to telling friends that — like Lyndon Johnson — he doesn't even need a chief.

  • And now, with Trump and his new TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani conducting their own media-legal operation with little to no White House oversight, it’s becoming a reality.

Steve Bannon — who has zero contact with Trump these days and is loathed by many in the building — has told associates that Trump never had any respect for the chief of staff position and from the outset saw it as a lowly, administrative post.

  • It needed to be explained to Trump that this was one of the most powerful roles in the U.S. government.
  • Trump has never fully grasped the concept. Sources close to Trump repeat the cliché that he wants to run the White House like the Trump Organization — an unstructured family business where he woke most days unsure of what lay ahead, and ran his business like a series of jazz improv sets.
  • Back then, he spent his days on the phone, taking calls, receiving ideas, making decisions on pure gut instinct with a disdain for sophisticated data or prescriptions from consultants.

Now, Trump is effectively running the White House the same way:

  • The Trump 'n' Rudy show of the past few days has operated entirely independently of the White House communications department.
  • Giuliani and Trump are playing a different game, and the staff inside the building only learn about the plays by watching them on TV.
  • White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders effectively conceded yesterday she’s been operating in the dark with her previous answers to questions about payments made to Stormy Daniels. (It’s not the first time Sanders has had to repeat lines from her boss that have quickly proven false.)

A source who speaks to Kelly often told Swan the chief is now resigned to the fact that he can’t come close to controlling Trump:

  • The reality is that nobody can and nobody ever will.
  • Whoever replaces Kelly — if, indeed, anybody does — will have to accept that there’s no such thing as a chief of staff in Trump’s White House.

Get more stories like this by signing up for our weekly political lookahead newsletter, Axios Sneak Peek.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: Former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

5 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.