Trump downplays 'chaos' amid departures of top White House staffers

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

President Trump on Tuesday attempted to downplay reports of chaos in the White House, insisting staffers are not demoralized by recent high-profile departures from the West Wing.

“The new Fake News narrative is that there is CHAOS in the White House. Wrong!” Trump tweeted. “People will always come & go, and I want strong dialogue before making a final decision. I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection). There is no Chaos, only great Energy!”

Over the weekend, the Washington Post published a story quoting aides who “described an air of anxiety and volatility” inside the White House — with “an uncontrollable commander in chief at its center.”

The Post described Trump as “angry and increasingly isolated.”

“He fumes in private that just about every time he looks up at a television screen, the cable news headlines are trumpeting yet another scandal,” the newspaper said.

Despite Trump’s assertion, talk of chaos inside the Trump administration is nothing new — it has been an ongoing storyline since Day 1 of his presidency. It’s also not the first time Trump has pushed back against reports of West Wing disarray.

“No chaos!” Trump tweeted last July, following the successive departures of White House press secretary Sean Spicer, chief of staff Reince Priebus and short-tenured White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

In an upcoming book, Priebus said the atmosphere inside the Trump White House during his time there was even more chaotic than what was reported.

“Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by 50,” Priebus said, according to an excerpt from the book published last month.

Last week, Hope Hicks, White House communications director and Trump’s longtime close aide, abruptly announced her resignation a day after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Hicks reportedly told the committee she sometimes told “white lies” on Trump’s behalf.)

Hicks’s departure followed that of White House staff secretary Rob Porter amid domestic abuse allegations by Porter’s ex-wives that kept him from receiving a permanent security clearance. Hicks, who had been romantically involved with Porter, helped craft White House statements supporting him that have been criticized as insensitive and misleading.

Hicks and Porter were just two of dozens of high-profile departures from the Trump administration. According to data from a Brookings Institution report cited by the New York Times, the turnover rate of Trump’s staff in his first year — 34 percent — was higher than any White House in decades.

The Porter saga put a spotlight on top West Wing staffers operating with interim security clearances — including Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. On Friday, Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, downgraded Kushner’s security clearance from top secret to secret — an almost meaningless designation that prevents Kushner from viewing many sensitive U.S. intelligence documents.

On Saturday, NBC News reported that Trump became “unglued” by Hicks’s testimony, Kushner’s downgrade and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s rare public response to one of Trump’s broadsides — and decided to blow off steam by proposing tariffs that economists warned could trigger a trade war with American allies.

Trump’s tweet proclaiming “great Energy” was one of several statements the president issued early Tuesday.

He took aim at Democrats for not engaging with him on a deal to address the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, an Obama-era policy that protected so-called Dreamers from deportation.

Trump also relayed “possible progress” in U.S. talks with North Korea over the rogue nation’s nuclear weapons program.

And the president mocked the television ratings of Sunday’s Academy Awards telecast.

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