"You’re a prop in the back": Advisers struggle to obey Trump’s Kafkaesque rules

“You’re there more as an annoyance to him because he has to fill some of these jobs, but you’re not there to do anything other than be backlighting,” said Anthony Scaramucci, a former White House communications director who is now critical of Trump. “He wants, like, a catatonic loyalty, and he wants you to be behind the backlights. There’s one spotlight on the stage, it’s shining on Trump, and you’re a prop in the back with dim lights.”

Trump’s desires for his advisers range from the trivial — someone who looks the part — to the traditional — someone willing to vigorously support him and defend his policies in media appearances. But these demands can be grating and at times terminal for members of his staff — especially for those who, like the national security adviser, may find themselves at odds with the president on critical issues.

“There is no person that is part of the daily Trump decision-making process that can survive long term,” said a former senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment. “The president doesn’t like people to get good press. He doesn’t like people to get bad press. Yet he expects everyone to be relevant and important and supportive at all times. Even if a person could do all those things, the president would grow tired of anyone in his immediate orbit.”