Report: Trump angry at Hope Hicks over Porter scandal for putting her interests before his; Update: Kelly offers to resign?
When he’s right, he’s right, and he’ll never be more right about anything than he is about this. I don’t know how else to explain the idiocy of Hicks and Kelly defending Porter initially except to say that they value his credibility more highly than they do Trump’s. They preferred to protect their buddy Rob, knowing that the president would take shrapnel if the domestic-abuse story blew up, rather than to protect Trump by taking the allegations against Porter seriously and moving swiftly to remove him. To repeat something I said yesterday, POTUS would be well within his rights to fire both of them.
“In any major corporation in America,” writes Axios, “Porter would have been escorted out the door the minute senior officials learned of these allegations. Everyone is entitled to their day in court, but in no normal corporation or White House could somebody continue [to] serve under these conditions.” Absolutely, and to the extent Trump views the executive branch as a type of corporation where everyone’s first duty is to the boss, he must be mystified as to why the entire West Wing seems to have felt their first duty was to Porter. The best spin you can put on this in defense of Hicks and Kelly, I think, is that they assumed Trump would want them to go to the mat to protect a staffer who’s under siege from the dreaded media, particularly given Trump’s stubbornness in sticking with Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race.
But why should they have assumed when they could have knocked on the Oval Office door and asked him?
I understand the arguments for keeping Kelly and Don McGahn on staff despite Trump’s justifiable annoyance at both of them. Kelly has brought some order to the West Wing, if not enough; he has decades of management experience as a Marine general; and Trump doesn’t want the political black eye of having to find his third chief of staff, a momentous role, in a year. McGahn is an experienced lawyer who has, allegedly, protected Trump (from his own instincts) at critical moments, and given the disgust for Trump that most of the legal establishment evinces, it might not be as easy to fill the role of White House counsel as we might think if McGahn was booted.
But what’s the argument for keeping Hicks as White House communications director apart from blind familial loyalty? She failed to police Michael Wolff when he was roaming the White House. Now she’s set off a stink bomb in the West Wing by scrambling to protect her significant other, Porter, knowing the trouble it could cause for Trump. She doesn’t have decades of experience as a PR pro, being only 29 years old. And unlike the White House counsel’s position, there probably *are* Republican flacks who’d be willing to replace her if she returned to the Trump Organization. Vanity Fair reported just a few days ago that Trump has been chattering to Jason Miller, one of his chief spokesmen during the campaign, about possibly returning to the White House. In fact, Miller was his original choice for White House communications director before he got blown up by a scandal of his own (albeit not one as sinister as the Porter mess). Why not bring him back? It’s not like Hicks is some singular presence on television defending the administration every day. On the contrary, she may be the first person in history to hold a communications job this important who doesn’t do interviews.
Besides, nothing would be Trumpier than the having the current comms director dismissed for defending her alleged wife-beater boyfriend only to be replaced by a new comms director who’s best known for fathering a child out of wedlock after he cheated on his wife. You wanted the Trump show in the White House? You got it.
I don’t think Trump can fire Hope, though. It’s not because she’s “family” and it would hurt him too much to do it — although, for a guy who’s internationally famous for saying “you’re fired,” he sure is reluctant to fire people, isn’t he? It’s because she knows where the proverbial bodies are buried. He’ll never be able to exile Hicks from the kingdom for fear of her telling the media, not to mention Bob Mueller, what she knows. Maybe he could convince her to return to the Trump Organization with the promise of a fat paycheck? A golden parachute softens any fall.
Speaking of scandalous Trump campaign staffers who might be en route to a White House job, here’s Corey Lewandowski twisting the knife in John Kelly. You make the call: Is Corey’s alleged involvement in taking down Porter the product of (a) sincere concern for his friend the president and his ex-girlfriend Hicks or (b) crude jealousy that Hicks moved on from him to Porter? Stay tuned for answers on the next episode of “The Apprentice: Oval Office.”
Update: I get the sense that some have tuned out the Porter story. Might be time to tune in. It’s getting real:
Kelly has made clear to the president in the last 24 hours that he’s willing to resign in light of the president’s dissatisfaction over the West Wing’s handling of the allegations against former Staff Secretary Rob Porter, according to sources who have spoken with Trump and Kelly.
While Kelly’s fate is in question, sources familiar with the matter said they did not believe his departure is imminent. Kelly was seen working in the West Wing on Friday, leading his daily senior staff meeting and joining Trump in the Oval Office during an afternoon photo op.
Several Trump confidantes reached by ABC News said the president is considering multiple names as possible Kelly replacements, among those, top economic adviser Gary Cohn, Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney and Rep. Mark Meadows.
Tom Barrack, a Trump pal and the man who planned his inauguration, has allegedly already been approached about the job but said no. I don’t get the sense from Kelly that he’ll linger indefinitely a la Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein while Trump sporadically humiliates him by badmouthing him or recruiting his replacements. He really will quit, I think. As for his possible successors, having Gary Cohn, Mark Meadows, and Mick Mulvaney on the same shortlist for a political job is a little like having Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan on the same list. They’re not at all aligned ideologically. Meadows and Mulvaney are, of course, as they’re both conservatives, but Cohn is famously a centrist Democrat who clashed with Steve Bannon due to his “globalist” preferences. Trump’s policies would presumably be wildly different depending upon whether his chief is Cohn or Meadows, and yet here they are both in contention. Does he want to govern as a centrist or as a conservative? He needs to figure that out before deciding whom to pick as chief.