President Trump in a Cabinet meeting. Photo: Michael Reynolds-Pool / Getty Images
This week, President Trump ripped the steering wheel out of John Kelly’s hands and played chief of staff and communications director, all wrapped into one:
Trump kept his own senior staff on edge, with top officials uncertain from hour to hour what was happening with two globally consequential issues: tariffs and North Korea.
Want to know what it’s like to work for this president? A senior administration official, who likes Trump but can't keep up, tells Jonathan Swan:
- “No single individual in history has been able to direct an entire news cycle on a whim, and he's using that power at his sole discretion, with the WH policy, press, and comms teams just along for the ride."
- "SURPRISE, we're taking major trade actions. WAIT, maybe we're not."
- "ACTUALLY, yes we are, and we're going to do it TODAY. "
- "SURPRISE, there'll be a big announcement in a few hours. You'll want to watch. *Media gives it hours of breathless attention,* followed by one of the most significant foreign policy announcements in recent memory."
- "Both at a policy level (e.g. what trade actions to take, whether or not to accept Kim invitation) or a comms level (when/how to announce these decisions), Trump is doing what he wants, when he wants, how he wants."
- "The WH staff I talk to are constantly having to make the decision whether to push back on him, push forward with him, or head for the exits in exasperation."
Be smart: The restraints on Trump are fully removed. Imagine if Trump did publicly what he said privately during the first year-plus. He didn’t, in part because Reince Priebus, Gary Cohn, General Mattis, Dina Powell, Rob Porter and others conspired to box him in and occasionally talk him off the ledge. No more.
- Now, what Trump says will likely just happen.
How it's playing: