As Trump and his staff have sparred over his Twitter practices, the president has contended that they’re part of an authentic image. But some aides have worried his tweets are a form of self-sabotage. In his book Fear, the journalist Bob Woodward described a scene in the Oval Office in 2017 after Trump tweeted that Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski had been “bleeding badly from a face-lift” when he saw her at his Mar-a-Lago estate. “I know what you are going to say,” Trump told his then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, according to Woodward’s reporting. “It’s not presidential. And guess what? I know it. But I had to do it anyway.”
The president has shown little indication that his instincts have changed. Amid record-setting staff churn, Trump is more and more untethered to the conventions and norms that past presidents observed, and he has steadily purged the senior officials with the stature to tell him hard truths. John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, came in as chief of staff in 2017 with a mandate to bring more discipline to White House operations. But Kelly’s clout eroded as Trump made plain he didn’t want a gatekeeper. In December, Kelly was replaced by budget chief Mick Mulvaney. But Mulvaney is serving in an acting capacity, meaning he is still auditioning for the permanent job and may be less empowered to tell Trump he’s wrong.