The Trump White House sees enemies in every direction. They’re skulking in the Senate. Marching in the streets. And certainly slinging arrows in the press. But the biggest concern isn’t outside. They can’t just lock the doors of the White House and man the barricades. Because there’s a suspicion that every person inside the walls could already be … one of them.
Leaks are hardly the only cause of Trump’s problems — the uproar over FBI Director James Comey’s dismissal wasn’t the result of a leak. But Trump-friendly talking heads see something that stretches the realms of believability. Far-right radio host Alex Jones warns of a plot by “deep-state” globalists to impeach Trump. On Fox News, Sean Hannity warned Wednesday of a “destroy Trump alliance” that is now “aligning to take down President Trump.”
Leakers. Faceless, hidden, deep-state leakers. They may look like ordinary staffers, but when not under close observation by Trump loyalists, they’re quick to slip away and drop a dime to the NYT.
This narrative, that the White House corridors are crowded with more in-disguise monsters than a remake of The Thing, isn’t just a staple of alt-right news hosts. It’s something that’s sincerely believed by the man at the middle of the ersatz siege, Donald Trump. As a result, the White House may not be filled with secret monsters, but it’s certainly weighed down by fear.
Staffers are on edge, weary from endless speculation about their jobs and struggling to keep their bearings amid the ever-shifting political terrain.
What really helps in an organization that feels like it’s being treated unfairly from the outside? An extra helping of internal strife and mistrust egged on by a boss that is 100 percent rage and zero percent empathy.
“SABOTAGE,” read the subject line of emails sent out by President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and the Republican Party, which pointed to “people within our own unelected bureaucracy that want to sabotage President Trump and our entire America First movement.” Trump tweeted Thursday that he’s facing “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”
Trump still hasn’t filled hundreds of roles in the administration simply because he can’t find enough names he trusts. The State Department lies fallow because Trump fears that some people working there might have fond memories of Hillary Clinton. As the pressure ramps up, the staff faces constant rumors of shifting power within the few people close to Trump and of turnover, reassignment, and removal of those who fall from favor.
“Some of them think it will pass, some are frustrated because they look like amateurs in responding to all of this, and some are freaked out because there is an actual investigation now,” said one GOP operative in touch with White House officials. “It’s leaks and tweets and frenzy. They wake up every day and are continually slapped in the face and it doesn’t look like it will stop. They’re demoralized.”
Trump’s allies say the president has failed to get a handle on the rolling crises, which have taken their toll on staff, according to interviews with about a dozen people in the White House or with close ties to the administration.
It’s a situation that certainly encourages those on the outside to apply even more pressure. Because this egg is showing plenty of cracks.
A sense of fatigue and despondence has set in as White House officials wait for new balls to drop. Again and again, they have tried to push forward with their agenda, only to see news reports dominated by near-daily leaks.
Wait. Those footsteps around the corner. The shadowy figure moving down the hall. Can the person next to you be trusted? That whispered conversation … is someone talking to the Washington Post.
Yes. Yes, they are.