In political television shows and films, it’s the ultimate cliché: a senior aide or Cabinet secretary, standing in a hallowed hall, declares that he or she serves at the pleasure of the President. But in Donald Trump’s Administration, the adage is being rewritten. At one time or another, almost everyone who works in the White House has discovered they are serving at the President’s displeasure.
Amid the Russia investigations and Washington’s legislative morass, Trump has turned his frustrations on some of his most loyal advisers. His stunning parade of attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom the President faults for recusing himself from the Russia probe, has drawn much of the attention. But since the hiring of Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is increasingly under fire as well.
Scaramucci, whose title doesn’t fully capture his influence with the President, has taken the lead in the hunt to root out the source of leaks in the Trump Administration. That effort has quickly turned into an all-out-assault on Priebus—one seemingly sanctioned from the top.
In a late-Wednesday tweet, Scaramucci speciously accused Priebus of “leaking” his publicly available financial disclosure form. That tweet followed a dinner with the President. Then Scaramucci called into CNN Thursday morning, compared his relationship with Priebus to the Biblical feud between Cain and Abel, and suggested that the chief of staff should answer publicly for his leaks. That call also followed an early-morning chat with Trump.
Priebus been under fire since the start of the Administration. As the nominal top aide in the Trump White House, he’s an easy person to blame when things go awry—especially when Trump refuses to admit that he’s the one at fault. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, arguably the two most influential advisers to the President, have expressed frustration with Priebus’ performance.
But the arrival of…