“President Trump has gone through senior staff about as fast as he can shove them through the meat grinder, to use a metaphor that best describes that condition his aides wind up in after he’s through with them.
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The toll that working for the president takes on the mind, bodies, spirits, and reputations of the people whom he employs explains why he’s had such difficulty recruiting “only the best people” for White House jobs.
Now a new report from Axios, explains why Trump is already on his third Chief of Staff in just two years with the latest, Mick Mulvaney, only serving on an acting basis as he moonlights from his full-time job as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Axios details a previously undisclosed episode that took place during the recent government shutdown negotiations between President Trump and his staff and the senior Democratic leaders Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
The two sides were assembled in the White House situation room on January 4th to negotiate the president’s demands for the ransom money he’s been trying to extort from Congress for his useless border wall.
Vice President Pence had already presented the Democratic leaders with a request for just $2.5 billion at the request of President Trump, but the mercurial president had decided — perhaps out of anger and spite that the Dems had rejected the compromise number — to go back to demanding the full $5.7 billion that he had originally quoted as necessary.
As Trump’s new Chief of Staff and the head of the executive branch department responsible for generating budget requests, Mick Mulvaney thought he was being helpful in attempting to reach a compromise with the Democrats that could prevent the shutdown from continuing to stretch further.
In a paraphrased quote from a source in the room, Mulvaney said “that if Dems weren’t OK with $5.7 [billion] and the president wasn’t OK with $1.3 [the Democratic offer] … he was trying to say we should find a middle ground,” Axios writes.
Trump’s reaction to this fairly innocuous compromise-seeking solution? Go nuclear on his new Chief of Staff.
“Trump cut him off … ‘You just fucked it all up, Mick,'” the source recalled Trump saying. “It was kind of weird.”
“Another source who was in the room confirmed the account. That source said their impression was that Trump was irritated at Mulvaney’s negotiating style. ‘As a negotiator, Trump was resetting,’ the source said. ‘Mick was not reading the room or the president,'” Axios reports.
A White House official asked about the incident claimed that the rancor involved was “exaggerated” and “doesn’t reflect the good relationship Mulvaney has built over the last two years with the president,” but did not deny that it took place. They also claimed that “The president and Mulvaney joked about it afterwards.”
Another White House source who was not at the meeting in question has told Axios that “Trump has long been irritated that Mulvaney’s initial 2019 budget only requested $1.6 billion for the wall,” a fact that Pelosi and Schumer have continued to confront the president with throughout the negotiations, questioning why Trump suddenly isn’t content with the budget he had already signed off on.
Trump’s continued practice of publicly humiliating his senior staff, particularly in front of the opposition party, makes it pretty obvious why he has trouble retaining qualified people in the executive branch and has to rely on family members enured to his abuse to work with him.
It’s not like his winning personality and generous sharing of the limelight are going to have talented individuals flocking to work with him. Perhaps he thinks he’s still hosting The Apprentice, and he’s only supposed to have one person left at the end of the season. With more episodes like the one described above, that may wind up actually happening sooner than he thinks.
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Original reporting by Johnathan Swan at Axios.