Meh. Lots of buzz about this but I don’t buy it. Trump berates all of his staffers, no matter how august. John Kelly was reportedly chewed out so badly early on in his time as chief of staff that he told confidants he’d never been addressed that way in 35 years as a Marine. This is a guy who refers to his own AG, apparently, as “Mr. Magoo.” Verbal abuse is just one of the many charms of working for him and Hicks has been working for him longer than most. If anyone has developed a thick skin about it by now, she has. But the idea that POTUS lambasted his underqualified, often seemingly overwhelmed comms director is great copy so CNN went with it:
Maggie Haberman, the tapped-in Times reporter who broke the news about Hicks yesterday, spent the evening on Twitter fending off criticism from pissy liberals who insisted Hicks’s resignation must, must be related to her Russiagate testimony before the House Intel Committee. Hadn’t Haberman’s own paper reported that Hicks copped to telling “white lies” for Trump before the committee? Isn’t Hicks herself potentially in hot water with Bob Mueller for trying to conceal the truth about Don Jr’s 2016 meeting with the Russian lawyer? Well, there you go. Hicks is about to be indicted and/or turn state’s evidence against the president so she’s pulling the ripcord. It’s so obvious.
It’s not obvious, Haberman countered. Here she is this morning on CNN assuring viewers to trust her on this. Allegedly Hicks has been whispering to friends for awhile that she wanted to leave, and who could blame her? The Trump White House is a terrible place to work. There are lawyers snooping around, aides backstabbing each other endlessly, paparazzi harassing her on the street, and the boss is a little, ah, erratic and “temperamental,” shall we say. The fact that she bailed out the day after the House committee hearing is pure coincidence, Haberman insists.
Hope Hicks is vacating her position as White House communications director. Did she jump or was she pushed?
— New Day (@NewDay) March 1, 2018
One thing everyone seems to agree on, though, is that Hicks is a major loss for the White House. Not because she’s a PR genius but because she’s the rare aide who knows how to talk to the erratic and temperamental boss in a way that gets through to him. One White House official calls her “the Trump whisperer.” Says another:
“I cannot over-state how important Hope is to keeping this thing together,” one West Wing official said. “She really is one of the only people who has the President’s trust and respect.” In a building riven with suspicion and infighting, presided over by an unpredictable, some would say irrational, boss, a key pillar of support is leaving.
“I don’t know that anyone else can really do the job the way it needs to be done because of how the president operates,” said one former Trump aide to the Daily Beast. “Hope always seemed like the only workable solution to that. Big loss in that respect.” That’s not an uncommon reaction among White House beat reporters and their sources. The most striking thing about the last 24 hours is how dire some of the media has sounded about Trump’s mood right now with Jared and Ivanka feuding with John Kelly, the clean-up from the Rob Porter mess ongoing, the tricky politics of gun control getting him in hot water with his base, and now Hicks departing and leaving him alone with strangers in the White House. The AFP’s correspondent tweeted this:
Trump has lost Schiller, Hope and Jared and Ivanka are on the ropes. Meanwhile scandal after scandal after scandal is breaking. Trump has never been more isolated. Dangerous times for the presidency.
— Andrew Beatty (@AndrewBeatty) March 1, 2018
Haberman responded to that tweet with “+100.” Maybe it helps explain Trump’s shock announcement this morning about steel tariffs. At first his aides didn’t know he was preparing an announcement, then they thought they’d talked him out of it, then he turned around and declared a trade war anyway. No doubt yesterday’s surprise Ode to Gun-Grabbing by the president during the summit with congressional Democrats and Republicans caught them off-guard too. Trump is becoming more unpredictable, not less, as his term rolls on. And apparently less, not more, comfortable in the job as his closest aides scatter.
And it looks like it’ll only get worse, not better:
“Things are still pretty bleak inside the White House,” the source said. “I’ve talked to several people in the last week trying to find a way out, but they can’t get out because no one is really hiring people with Trump White House experience. Not a fun time to say the least.”…
This level of chaos, unusual even in the relative terms of the Trump presidency, is underlined by a staff exodus. Trump famously values loyalty to a supreme degree. And right now, Trump’s White House is bleeding loyalists, and those who are left are under deepening pressure.
It’s a mess. The leading candidate to replace Hicks as comms director is Mercedes Schlapp, if you believe the Daily Beast, but other outlets say the field is wide open. It could be Schlapp or Trump alum Jason Miller or Heather Nauert or a variety of others. John Kelly may even bring in his own nominee, although it’s anyone’s guess if Trump will go along with that. The days of him deferring to Kelly and surrounding himself with strangers seem like they’re winding down.
Speaking of Kelly, here he is today wondering how he affronted God so terribly as to warrant the punishment of serving Trump every day.
Chief of Staff John Kelly: "The last thing I wanted to do was walk away from one of the great honors of my life, being the secretary of Homeland Security, but I did something wrong and God punished me, I guess." pic.twitter.com/t3ofEumKAi
— ABC News (@ABC) March 1, 2018