In the White House East Room Monday, President Donald Trump held a news conference with the Canadian Prime Minister that was standard and drama-free. But that belied what is going on behind the scenes: a White House in turmoil.
Multiple Trump sources describe aides as worried that on any given day they could get fired because of a leak, or because another White House staffer may be out to get them. In fact, some campaign aides initially upset about not getting jobs inside the White House now say they are relieved to not be involved in what some of their friends call a toxic environment.
As for the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, sources inside several Trump fiefdoms tell CNN that for now, he is on safe ground – despite Trump friend, CEO of conservative Newsmax, Chris Ruddy, dissing Priebus this weekend as “weak.”
The President himself made a point of telling reporters Monday that Preibus is doing a “great job.”
One alliance that appears to be solid right now is that of Priebus and chief White House strategist Steve Bannon.
They have a close working relationship, several administration sources told CNN, and Bannon sees Priebus as a partner.
One source jokingly said Bannon and Priebus are “co-parenting.”
In fact – Priebus is with the President a lot. Even as Trump has kept a relentless schedule of meetings and photo ops, Priebus is almost always there.
The chief of staff’s critics argue he should spend more time making the White House function. But sources say Priebus wants to be at the President’s side so much for an important reason: President Trump is firmly in charge of his White House from the big picture to in-the-weeds decisions. Priebus feels he needs to be there, at every step, to cheer what he sees as good decisions and try to steer the President away from bad ones.
Communicating a consistent message is also challenge, even when it comes to something as sensitive as the fate of national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Monday afternoon White House counselor Kellyanne Conway went on television to declare Trump has “full confidence” in Flynn.
An hour later, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said something different.
“The President is evaluating the situation,” said Spicer said in a statement.
Another dynamic inside White House staff: Trump rewards those who toe his line, especially on fact-free statements like claims of widespread voter fraud.
Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller did just that on Sunday.
“I can tell you this, voter fraud is a serious problem in the country,” Miller had told ABC News.
Trump sources tell CNN that the President loves Miller who served as his campaign travel buddy and speech writer. Miller was instrumental in writing Trump’s ill-fated travel ban and though the President was furious at the way that was handled, the 31-year-old Miller stays in the President’s favor.
Miller’s performance Sunday, warning the world not to question the President’s power, didn’t hurt.
“Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the President to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned,” Miller had told CBS News.
After Miller appeared on four Sunday shows (CNN was not one of them), the television-watching President sent an attaboy tweet.
“Congratulations Stephen Miller- on representing me this morning on the various Sunday morning shows. Great job!” he said.