This public and often yawning gulf between Trump and his agency heads has added to the sense of chaos and turmoil emanating from the White House, sending his secretaries scrambling to interpret their boss’s exact positions and leaving other nations confused as to who, exactly, speaks on behalf of the administration.

“It puts the Cabinet officials in an awkward position,” said Ryan Williams, a Republican strategist. “They serve the president and obviously don’t want to contradict him, but at the same time they have to articulate administration policy, which sounds like an oxymoron — contradicting the president by articulating administration policy — but that’s been the case in some instances so far.”…

Robert Dallek, a presidential historian and biographer, said he found the stream of contradictions and cleanups worrying — and unprecedented.

“I don’t understand how this administration can be so full of errors and stumbles and retreats,” he said. “It’s as if what someone says doesn’t matter, because the next minute they change it. They don’t seem to understand that the words coming out of a presidential administration or a top adviser to the president count for something and resonate and reach people, not only in the media but across this country and around the world.”