Palace intrigue. Loyalists. What country is this again? From the sound of it, we took a wrong turn at Albuquerque or something. Politico has in-depth look at the paranoia-infused
administration regime, where people admit to being paranoid, while paranoia is also dismissed. The whole thing is a dismantled mess, more resembling Bedlam of yore than any type of government. Splintered, running on mistrust, paranoia, and lies, all on a wobbly base of fake news fueled insanity. And of course, the gold-plated unpresident, who can’t seem to find time for anything, um, presidential, but once again resorts to Mr. Tweet, going after Snoop Dogg, who does not seem to have bothered noticing the gold menace.
A culture of paranoia is consuming the Trump administration, with staffers increasingly preoccupied with perceived enemies — inside their own government.
In interviews, nearly a dozen White House aides and federal agency staffers described a litany of suspicions: that rival factions in the administration are trying to embarrass them, that civil servants opposed to President Donald Trump are trying to undermine him, and even that a “deep state” of career military and intelligence officials is out to destroy them.
Aides are going to great lengths to protect themselves. They’re turning off work-issued smartphones and putting them in drawers when they arrive home from work out of fear that they could be used to eavesdrop. They’re staying mum in meetings out of concern that their comments could be leaked to the press by foes.
Many are using encrypted apps that automatically delete messages once they’ve been read, or are leaving their personal cellphones at home in case their bosses initiate phone checks of the sort that press secretary Sean Spicer deployed last month to try to identify leakers on his team.
It’s an environment of fear that has hamstrung the routine functioning of the executive branch. Senior advisers are spending much of their time trying to protect turf, key positions have remained vacant due to a reluctance to hire people deemed insufficiently loyal, and Trump’s ambitious agenda has been eclipsed by headlines surrounding his unproven claim that former President Barack Obama tapped his phone lines at Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign.
One senior administration aide, who like most others interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the degree of suspicion had created a toxicity that is unsustainable.
“People are scared,” he said, adding that the Trump White House had become “a pretty hostile environment to work in.”
One senior aide said staffers have become almost obsessed by daily news accounts of palace intrigue and spend hours in the office dissecting them in hopes of deciphering who is dishing — and who is trying to hurt whom.
Another Republican who is close to the White House said junior-level staffers are simply “mimicking what they’re seeing at the top … Everyone at the top is so suspicious that it trickles down the org chart, so everyone has become paranoid and suspicious.”
The distrust, some contend, isn’t unfounded.
“I wouldn’t call it paranoia under the circumstances,” said a Republican who communicates with many administration aides through encrypted apps. “It’s not paranoia if people really are out to get you, and everybody actually is out to get everyone else.”
Many staffers say they don’t like the idea that supervisors — or anyone else — could have access to their emails. Some have taken to using secure messengers like Confide and Signal in order to communicate on their personal phones. One program gaining popularity within the administration is Wickr, which allows users to set an expiration time on how long an unread message can remain in a recipient’s inbox before it self-destructs.
The encryption programs can’t be accessed from White House-issued phones, which prevent users from downloading most apps. There are no restrictions on employees using encrypted apps on their personal phones, the White House official said, as long as they’re not being used to conduct official business.
The most stress, however, may be outside the West Wing, in executive branch agencies, where staffers worry about career bureaucrats who are hostile to Trump.
The whole article is excellent, and quite disturbing. Recommended reading.
In keeping with all the palace paranoia, there’s been a showdown between Mattis and the palace:
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis reportedly told the White House he would resign unless a Trump campaign loyalist was removed from her job.
DefenseNews reported on Wednesday that supporters of Mattis were expecting the White House to reassign Mira Ricardel from her job at the Office of Presidential Personnel.
According to the report, Ricardel is a former member of Trump’s campaign who is seen as “a loyal soldier who is looking out for the interests of the President.”
Sources told DefenseNews that Ricardel was “a roadblock for nominees,” making it difficult for Mattis to fill top-level positions at the Pentagon.
Ricardel has allegedly imposed an ideological purity test that blocked many potential nominees. Sources said that the White House has blacklisted all candidates who signed “never Trump” letters during the election.
A source within the administration said that Ricardel’s opposition to “politically unacceptable” candidates was seen as a “badge of honor” in the White House.
“Mattis told the White House either Mira goes, or he walks,” one Pentagon source explained to Defense News. “They blinked.”
That full story is here. I have no doubt there will be more intrigue oozing out of Bedlam, and no doubt, Mr. Tweet will be back once again.