White House week of controversy draws fire, but few defenders

White House week of controversy draws fire, but few defenders
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It was a turbulent week for President Trump, who within a matter of days saw the departure of one of his top aides, the disbandment of three advisory councils and an intense public furor over his comments on a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

But notably absent from the lineup of news shows on Sunday were the president's usual roster of defenders from the White House. 

On ABC's "This Week," anchor Martha Raddatz noted that when the program asked the White House for an official to appear on the show, Jerry Falwell Jr. — the president of Liberty University and a staunch Trump ally outside the administration — was recommended instead.

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Mike Huckabee, another vigorous Trump defender, also appeared on Fox News. 

The absence of White House officials was also noted by Brian Stelter, the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources."

Just over a week ago, the president began facing sharp criticism for his equivocal statements in the wake of a violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. 

Trump soon escalated his rhetoric on the matter, saying in a news conference Tuesday that "both sides" — white nationalists and counterprotesters — were responsible for the mayhem that broke out in the college town and led to the death of one counterprotester.

Those remarks prompted a chorus of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, who urged the president to more forcefully condemn hate groups and accused him of validating the views of white nationalists and neo-Nazis. 

"He's taken a position that is essentially, 'If you're with me you can do no wrong,'" Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package House Intelligence panel opens probe into DHS's involvement in response to protests MORE (D-Calif.) said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, charging that Trump has refrained from more fiercely condemning racist groups because of their support for him. 

But Trump is also facing questions after his chief strategist Stephen Bannon abruptly exited the White House Friday, marking the departure of an aide often credited with translating Trump's populist and nationalist message into policy.

In leaving the White House, Bannon joined a sizable group of former aides who have either resigned or been forced out of Trump's administration since he took office seven months ago.

Trump also announced the disbanding of his Manufacturing Advisory Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum this week after multiple CEOs resigned. Many CEOs cited Trump's Charlottesville response as a reason. 

The White House also announced Trump planned to dissolve the president's Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH) on the same day its members unanimously quit.

Others appearing on the talk show circuit Sunday suggested more Trump advisers should resign in the wake of a series of defections this week — and no White House officials were on hand to reassure Trump's base or the public that the White House is in stable condition, as has happened following past resignations.

"The problem you have is when you have chaos among your staff — staff in, staff out; new people here, new people there — it's hard to get anything done," Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) said on "State of the Union" Sunday.

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) told radio host John Catsimatidis on New York's AM 970 that Bannon had become a hindrance to Trump's White House because of his feuds with other aides.

"The White House could not function with him there," King said.

With the rumor mill already seeking the next likely member of Trump's staff to exit, Schiff on CNN proposed Trump's senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and national security aide Sebastian Gorka. 

An argument against further defections came from a surprising source: a former Obama administration aide.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said he’d tell Trump advisers “you have to stay” in the administration if any of them asked, he told ABC’s “This Week.”

They need to “right the ship," he said.