John Kelly’s new duty: Keeping fake news off of Trump’s desk
When your boss is reputed to reliably favor whichever opinion was the last to be whispered in his ear, it’s crucially important to control who’s doing the whispering.
The Infowars pipeline to Trump’s desk may be getting turned off but Kelly will have to pry “Fox & Friends” from the president’s hands.
In a conference call last week, Kelly initiated a new policymaking process in which just he and one other aide — White House staff secretary Rob Porter, a little-known but highly regarded Rhodes scholar who overlapped with Jared Kushner as an undergraduate at Harvard — will review all documents that cross the Resolute desk.
The new system, laid out in two memos co-authored by Kelly and Porter and distributed to Cabinet members and White House staffers in recent days, is designed to ensure that the president won’t see any external policy documents, internal policy memos, agency reports and even news articles that haven’t been vetted…
[S]ome hope that this new policymaking process will deliver legislative victories that have so far been elusive — particularly now that senior strategist Steve Bannon, who was known for skipping formal meetings to take his proposals directly to Trump, is out of the White House. One official called Bannon a “disruptive force” who did not want to follow any set path for making White House decisions.
Kelly’s reportedly synthesizing cabinet input and differing administration viewpoints into “decision memos” for Trump to consume rather than having advisors wander into the Oval Office willy-nilly a la Bannon to pitch him on Erik Prince’s latest plan to have soldiers of fortune take over Afghanistan or whatever. Under Reince Priebus, notes Politico, “[t]he president made policy pronouncements without consulting with all the stakeholders in his own administration.” Left unsaid: One of those stakeholders who went unconsulted before Trump signed his travel ban in January was allegedly John Kelly himself, who got his first full briefing on the new policy as Trump was signing the order. That may have been the genesis of the supposed understanding between Kelly and Mattis that they should never both be out of the country at the same time just in case the president decides to surprise his cabinet with another spur-of-the-moment major policy shift. Now that Kelly’s in a position to control access to Trump, he’s making a logical adjustment: Instead of him and Mattis having to worry after the fact about what Trump’s advisors have privately egged him on to do, Kelly will make sure that only those advisors of whom Kelly himself has approved will see the president and brief him in the first place. Gatekeeping is much more useful before the horse has left the stable.
But let’s face it: He’s fighting a losing battle. No one’s getting that remote away from the commander-in-chief when Hannity’s doing a Very Special Episode on Seth Rich or the genius of Julian Assange. No one’s keeping the Trump kids away from dad either. Remember this detail from the recent kerfuffle about that “cultural Marxism” memo that got NSC staffer Rich Higgins fired?
Trump is being attacked, the memo says, because he represents “an existential threat to cultural Marxist memes that dominate the prevailing cultural narrative.” Those threatened by Trump include “‘deep state’ actors, globalists, bankers, Islamists, and establishment Republicans.”…
[T]he memo had been working its way through the Trump White House. Among those who received the memo, according to two sources, was Donald Trump Jr.
Trump Jr., at that time in the glare of media scrutiny around his meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower during the presidential campaign, gave the memo to his father, who gushed over it, according to sources.
Although it didn’t mention him by name, the memo was basically a hit on H.R. McMaster. Trump reportedly was “furious” when he found out (from Sean Hannity) that Higgins had been fired for, er, dogging his own boss, the man Trump handpicked to replace Mike Flynn as NSA. The point is, if Don Jr wants dad to read memos on “cultural Marxism,” he’s going to find a way to get dad to read memos on “cultural Marxism” whether John Kelly likes it or not. And ironically, now that it’s known that Kelly has made access to Trump hard to come by, it’s made alternate conduits like Junior or Eric or Ivanka that much more valuable. If you’re a big-name populist who’s being body-blocked by Kelly from the Oval Office, you can go to Don Jr with your concerns and have him approach the president after hours. The wrinkle is that Don Jr and Eric aren’t supposed to be talking politics with the president: Remember, they’re in charge of the Trump Organization and promised to steer clear of government business in order to minimize conflicts between the family’s private financial interests and Trump’s public duties. Sounds like Don Jr has already crossed that line, though, and will probably end up crossing it more often now that he’s a key end-around Kelly. What could go wrong?