The Trump administration has its first casualty with his National Security Advisor Michael Flynn being forced to resign amidst charges that he lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. He must be feeling pretty aggrieved since his boss lies brazenly and repeatedly and he must have thought that it was ok for him to follow his lead. What is extraordinary is the flood of news leaks leading up the resignation that, to me at least, suggested that leaks have become the weapons of choice in the Trump administration’s bureaucratic warfare. Robert Mackey says that the leaks by current and former intelligence officials are also aimed at Trump himself and that he is finding it increasingly irksome.
The White House is leaking all over the place. This is not unusual but what is unusual is how early the process has started and that Trump himself is often the subject of the leaks. It seems like anything he does, including phone calls with foreign leaders, is leaked to the press almost immediately.
Unsurprisingly, Trump’s volatile behavior has created an environment ripe for leaks from his executive agencies and even within his White House. And while leaks typically involve staffers sabotaging each other to improve their own standing or trying to scuttle policy ideas they find genuinely problematic, Trump’s 2-week-old administration has a third category: leaks from White House and agency officials alarmed by the president’s conduct.
Information about Trump’s personal interactions and the inner workings of his administration has come to HuffPost from individuals in executive agencies and in the White House itself. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs.
While some of the leaks are based on opposition to his policies – the travel ban on all refugees and on visitors from seven predominantly Muslim nations, for instance – many appear motivated by a belief that Trump’s words, deeds and tweets pose a genuine threat.
Something that should come as no surprise to anyone is that Trump is already bored and frustrated by the actual job involved in being president, as opposed to the glamor and the glitz.
The administration’s rocky opening days have been a setback for a president who, as a billionaire businessman, sold himself to voters as being uniquely qualified to fix what ailed the nation. Yet it has become apparent, say those close to the president, most of whom requested anonymity to describe the inner workings of the White House, that the transition from overseeing a family business to running the country has been tough on him.
Trump often asks simple questions about policies, proposals and personnel. And, when discussions get bogged down in details, the president has been known to quickly change the subject — to “seem in control at all times,” one senior government official said — or direct questions about details to his chief strategist Steve Bannon, his son-in-law Jared Kushner or House Speaker Paul Ryan. Trump has privately expressed disbelief over the ability of judges, bureaucrats or lawmakers to delay — or even stop — him from filling positions and implementing policies.
After Trump grew infuriated by disclosures of his confrontational phone calls with foreign leaders, an investigation was launched into the source of the leaks, according to one White House aide.
Last week, Trump told an associate he had become weary of in-fighting among — and leaks from — his White House staff “because it reflects on me,” and that he intended to sit down staffers to tell them “to cut this shit out.”
The interviews paint a picture of a powder-keg of a workplace where job duties are unclear, morale among some is low, factionalism is rampant and exhaustion is running high. Two visitors to the White House last week said they were struck by how tired the staff looks.
Presidenting is hard work. Yes, one has a whole slew of advisors and lackeys to actually carry out the decisions one makes. But making good decisions takes time and effort. Anyone who has been in a position of responsibility at any level knows this. One has to absorb a lot of information, weigh the pros and cons, and consider the many consequences. This requires attention to detail. For someone like Trump who has the attention span of a toddler, this can be almost impossible and so we can continue to see a ill-thought out and rushed decisions. And as we all know, cleaning up the mess caused by making a bad decision takes a lot of work.
No wonder that at the first opportunity he rushes to Twitter to talk about his daughter’s business or attack random critics. However inconsequential these things are, it must be providing him with the reassuring sense that he is being decisive and calling the shots.