Is Trump's White House headed into troubled waters?
© Getty Images

There’s a whole lot of shaking going at in the White House.

In the wake of the fumbled firing of FBI Director James Comey, D.C. is ripe with speculation about a staff shakeup at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 

Some combination of White House Counselor Stephen Bannon (no relation to this author), Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Press Secretary Scott Spicer may go. While Donald Trump is president, chaos will continue to reign supreme.

These are the same people who Donald Trump picked only four months ago to run the White House and now he wants to fire them.

They are the lucky ones.

ADVERTISEMENT

Disgraced National Security Adviser James Flynn lasted less than a month. Potential presidential nominations for the Secretaries of the Army and Labor floundered because the White House staff failed to properly vet the nominees.

 

Why is Donald Trump’s presidency so dysfunctional?

You will find the answer in Chris Whipple’s new book, “Gatekeepers” about White House chiefs of staff going back to the Nixon administration.

Whipple believes the success or failure of a presidency is a product of how a President sets up the administration of his White House

Before Trump’s inauguration, Whipple wrote “President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos claims he was pressured to sign plea deal Tlaib asking colleagues to support impeachment investigation resolution Trump rips 'Mainstream Media': 'They truly are the Enemy of the People' MORE may try to run the White House himself-his gut instincts unchecked, his decisions uninformed, his Twitter unfiltered.

Or he may empower his chief of staff to implements his agenda, advise him honestly on difficult choices, and tell him what he does not want to hear.”

It's clear six months later that the new president chose chaos over order. Even Republicans worry about the chaos in the White House. GOP Senator Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Brexit and exit: A transatlantic comparison Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE said, “The White House needs to do something soon to bring itself under control…”

There have been three power centers in the Trump White House which is two too many.

Bannon is the darling of the alt right. Right after the nomination, he had Trump’s ear.

But Bannon now seems to be out of favor because he encouraged Trump’s worst instincts. At Bannon’s urging, the president issued two executive orders banning travel from majority Muslim countries.

Federal District Court judges ruled that both orders violated the principle of separation between church and state in the First Amendment. Someone should have told Trump that the orders would not pass constitutional muster. No one did or the president didn’t listen.

Priebus, the former chairman of the Republican Committee, got the big White House title but little power. Priebus is an D.C. insider and not a true believer like Bannon. 

Trump picked him to be chief of staff as a sop to establishment Republicans who wanted a counterweight to Bannon. The chief of staff should be the person who calls the shots in the White House but Trump apparently never gave Priebus the ammunition.

Fox digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt wrote “what Trump badly needs now is straight talk and honest appraisal from his advisers and supporters.”

But there’s no one like that in the White House. 

The White House staff tells Trump want he wants to hear not what he should know.

An effective and politically experienced chief of staff would have warned Trump that Comey’s dismissal would remind people of Watergate and the Saturday Night Massacre that destroyed Richard Nixon’s presidency.

Events in the next few days put the spotlight on the cloud over the White House.

The day after Comey’s dismissal, the president met with one of Richard Nixon’s most powerful aides, Henry Kissinger. While Kissinger worked for the disgraced president, he ordered the FBI to tap the telephones of White House staffers who he thought might have been leaking information to the press.

The president met with the Russian foreign minister the same day. This of course raised the spectre of Comey’s investigation into undue Russian influence on the Trump presidential campaign.

To make matters even worse, on the Washington Post reported the President revealed highly classified information to the Russian official.

Two days after he fired Comey, the president told the press that he had taped his conversations with the former FBI Director. Let’s hope there isn’t an 18-and-a-half-minute gap in the recordings.

The piece de resistance with a Nixonian flair was Comey’s announcement that Trump asked him not to press the investigation of Flynn for ties to the Russians.

It’s time for the president to shape up or ship out.

There may be staff changes in the White House but Donald Trump will still be there. 

The president can rearrange the deck chairs but if he is still the captain, the Trump Titanic will go down with all hands lost.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. (He is not related in any way to the Trump adviser Stephen Bannon.) Campaigns and Elections magazine called him a "mover and shaker" in the political consulting industry. He hosts and contributes regularly to the nationally syndicated progressive talk show, "The Leslie Marshall Show." Bannon is also a political analyst for CLTV, the cable news station of the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV. He is also a senior adviser to, and editor of, the blog at MyTiller.com, the social media network for politics.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.