When you’re running an outfit as well-organized and harmonious as the Trump White House, I suppose you can afford to tear a few superfluous gears out of the finely-tuned machine.
There’s one and only one argument that this isn’t nutty. Namely, the more comfortable Trump feels in the job, the more he’s going to assume the duties of these two positions anyway even if there’s someone nominally filling them. He’s already effectively his own communications director. No one speaks with any real authority for the president except the president himself. Sarah Huckabee Sanders could say X, Y, and Z at today’s press briefing and go to bed tonight having no idea whether Trump might contradict her on all three points in a tweet before she wakes up tomorrow.
So why pretend? Shed the dead weight at chief of staff and comms director! By 2020 there’ll be like four people working in the West Wing apart from Trump himself. Ivanka will be acting Secretary of Defense.
Several of President Donald Trump’s outside advisers have told him over the past week he requires neither a chief of staff nor a communications director, at least in the traditional definition of those jobs, according to a person familiar with the conversations…
There are no signs Trump is ready to dismiss top aide John Kelly. But the option of running his White House without a chief of staff has been planted in Trump’s mind, and he’s not rejected it outright, the person said…
Without a chief of staff, advisers have told Trump he would exert more control over which policies are prioritized, including his beloved border wall.
It’s no secret who one of those “outside advisors” is. Steve Bannon is eager to get back in Trump’s good graces and knows he would stand a better chance without a gatekeeper like John Kelly around. In fact, I wonder if Bannon and others whispering to Trump about shedding his top aide helps explain this Bloomberg story published earlier this morning. Apparently Trump *is* shedding Kelly — not officially but as a matter of daily habit. Maybe it’s a test run to see how well things might work in the West Wing if Trump fired him and flew solo without a chief for awhile:
Kelly wasn’t with the president last week when Trump abruptly decided to oust H.R. McMaster as national security adviser and replace him with John Bolton. Just two people were in the room for that decision: Trump and Bolton.
And Kelly is rarely on the line any more when Trump calls foreign leaders. Last week, when Trump spoke with President Vladimir Putin days before the U.S. decided to expel dozens of Russian diplomats, Kelly wasn’t on the call…
Lately, Kelly is less aware of what’s on Trump’s mind and what he’s planning to do next, according to several aides, with one describing the men as sometimes on different wavelengths. Trump doesn’t seek his input on staffing or policy decisions as much as he used to, and Kelly is no longer as successful in blocking access to former aides Kelly has described as disruptive.
How out of the loop is Kelly these days? Per Politico, he called VA chief David Shulkin on Wednesday morning to reassure him that he wouldn’t be fired via a tweet that afternoon. He had to call back a few hours later to say oops, change of plans.
Also of note: Trump had Corey Lewandowski over to the White House for dinner on Monday night despite Kelly supposedly having a rule in which Corey isn’t allowed on the grounds without Kelly personally escorting him. If Trump is leery of abolishing the chief of staff role altogether, knowing the media uproar that would ensue, and wants someone in the role to do the drudge work of the job without trying to impose any discipline on the president himself, Lewandowski would be perfect. He’s the middle-ground option between keeping Kelly on and leaving the position vacant. Although, if Trump and Kelly are both comfortable with the latter being increasingly sidelined on major decisions, why not stick with Kelly? Trump gets to be his own de facto chief of staff and Kelly hangs around to reassure Trump critics that there’s still some sort of gatekeeper, if only in name.
Besides, everyone knows that chief of staff isn’t the real power position in the White House:
“In this White House, the comms shop is 100 times more important than the policy shop. The comms shop is what Trump lives for — that’s why he’s on Twitter all the time. Policy is not relevant to him, he doesn’t care. What he cares about are stories,” a second former White House official told New York.
As it happens, yesterday was the last day at work for the current and soon-to-be former communications director, the person widely regarded by the media’s sources in the West Wing as the most important aide to the president of the United States. That would be 29-year-old PR flack Hope Hicks. Exit quotation from a White House source who spoke to CBS: “She’s the glue to the entire place. She helps keep the White House from fracturing. I don’t think people realize what’s about to happen once she leaves.” Does that sound like an office that can’t afford to shed a few major, major positions?