Via the IJ Review, I missed this when it aired a few days ago but it’s worth watching now, if only because it’s fun to see people who advise Trump privately try to advise him through the teevee too. Who’s the real audience here? Is it Trump, because he’s not heeding this same advice when it’s given behind closed doors, or is it the Fox News viewership, with Hannity just polishing his populist credentials for their benefit? I’m sure Joe Scarborough runs into this same dilemma — how sharply should I criticize the president-elect whom I’m also advising? — all the time. The clip’s also fun as a flip side to the dilemma facing Republicans in Congress, who have been preaching small-government conservatism for years and now have to rouse themselves to support protectionism. Can Hannity and other populists cope with a Trump administration staffed with far more establishmentarians than they expected? There’ll be lots of discomfort on all sides watching a populist nationalist agenda take shape under the stewardship of, um, Reince Priebus and his merry band of RNC retreads.
The clip might not be brand new but it’s timely with stories like this circulating yesterday. Apparently many staffers who were with Trump’s campaign from the beginning, when Corey Lewandowski was at the helm, haven’t received offers of White House jobs yet and aren’t sure if they’ll be hired at all.
Many of them say they’ve heard nothing about their career prospects and, during furtive huddles, have been commiserating with one another about how they can’t seem to get their calls to top Trump transition brass returned. Some are convinced that party establishment figures who’ve taken the reins of the transition are giving them short shrift…
The concerns have become so intense that Karen Giorno, a Trump aide who oversaw his successful Florida campaign during the Republican primaries, recently had a telephone conversation with the president-elect in which she expressed concern that Trump loyalists wouldn’t be getting White House roles. During the call, which was described by three sources, Giorino also said she was alarmed that his establishment-minded choice for White House chief of staff, outgoing Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, wouldn’t support the early staffers who worked for him. (Neither Giorno nor a Trump spokesperson would comment.)
Even Lewandowski hasn’t been formally hired yet, although his name’s been kicked around for a deputy chief of staff position for weeks and he’s been seen in Trump Tower lately. Presumably he’ll end up somewhere, although his former aides on the campaign might not. An even bigger name that’s also being frozen out: Chris Christie. Christie’s not a true “original” Trump advisor, of course, as he was busy running his own presidential campaign at the time, but he was the first major politician in the Republican Party to endorse Trump, which helped legitimize his candidacy. Sounds like Christie is out in the cold:
Christie, who was leading the Trump transition until mid-November, when he was replaced by Pence, lobbied for the post [of RNC chairman] last week and was quickly shot down, according to a transition aide. “He has been totally politically decapitated in a sad way,” another transition official said. “Just brutal.”
Who’s to blame for Trump’s loyal anti-establishment team being sidelined in favor of the Romneys and Goldman Sachs executives of the world? This splashy Gabriel Sherman piece yesterday cites seven different transition officials as sources for the claim that a power struggle is developing between Mr. Establishment Reince Priebus and Mr. Populism Steve Bannon, a mirror image of the Paul Manafort/Corey Lewandowski dynamic that defined Trump’s campaign for much of this past summer. Supposedly it’s Reince who’s stopping the band from getting back together:
Trump campaign staffers are also angry that Priebus is attempting to staff the West Wing with mainstream GOP officials rather than Trump loyalists. According to sources, Priebus wants Trump to appoint RNC chief strategist Sean Spicer to serve as White House press secretary rather than Kellyanne Conway (who turned down the job, sources say); he is also promoting RNC chief of staff Katie Walsh for deputy chief of staff, and former George W. Bush deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin for deputy chief for operations. “If Priebus controls the schedule and the message, what does Bannon actually control?” one Bannon loyalist asked.
According to a senior transition official, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is supportive of Priebus’s staff choices because they bring a level of professionalism to the chaotic Trump team. But some at Trump Tower are alarmed that Priebus has so far not offered jobs to a number of Trump loyalists who may have been expecting them, including Michael Cohen, Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks, and Dave Bossie. “We didn’t fight two years against the swamp only to bring the swamp into the White House,” one senior Trump adviser told me. Sources said Trump himself may not be aware that members of his original team haven’t been offered jobs. With only about 40 West Wing positions available, Priebus is moving quickly to fill them with his choices.
Right around the same time that story appeared online yesterday, The Hill published a story citing “a high-level transition source” for the claim that, although Steve Bannon encouraged Trump to meet with Romney, he most definitely didn’t encourage him to consider Romney for a cabinet post. It sure sounds like Bannon or his allies within the transition team are a little nervous about the sort of criticism Hannity’s making here — Trump has been too receptive to “elites” thus far in staffing up — and want to disclaim responsibility for his hiring choices in order to protect their own populist credibility. Did Hannity’s monologue (it aired on Wednesday) inspire the Bannonites on the transition team to do some damage control on Thursday with well-targeted leaks? Or, given that Hannity knows Bannon and would be naturally sympathetic to the populist wing of Trump’s team, was the monologue itself part of the messaging effort?
Needless to say, if there are screw-ups early on in the administration, Priebus and his hires will take most of the blame in right-wing media.