Donald Trump’s White House, if at all structured, is structured based on loyalty. He keeps the allegiant close, and the rest at a distance. Those that are closest to him become those with the most power and the most information, while the others are left in the dark. He’s manipulating them by pitting them against each other, the only means of success is to pledge loyalty to him. This organization will fail; if his entire staff is not on the same page, they will not succeed, and if he continues to play favorites and ignore half of the West Wing, the White Hose will never be able to function.
The firing of Director Comey has raised plenty of questions regarding the ethicality of Trump’s actions. The press is still trying to get more information about Comey’s dismissal, but that task has proven to be exceedingly difficult due to conflicting accounts. When asked why the stories didn’t match up, Spicer explained that not everyone has time to “see [Trump] in his full thinking”; but we’re not sure what that means yet. Do they not consult him before talking to the press? Do they consult him and get varying answers from him? Is he usually at half thinking?
Trump responded to the ordeal on Friday the only way he knows how to, on Twitter of course. He first threatened to cancel the White House Press Briefings altogether, suggesting that maybe “informational handouts” would be more appropriate and explained that his officials cannot be expected to speak with “perfect accuracy”. In a later interview, he took some steps back and instead suggested that they be held less frequently, and by him.
What we can learn from this weekend’s events is that Trump obviously does not trust his staff to talk to the press because they’ve proven to be incompetent in handling the press. But is that because they don’t know how to handle briefings, or because they aren’t enough in the loop to speak correctly about his actions?
Furthermore, if Trump were to hold the briefings, would we get the truth? When have we ever gotten the truth from him? When he talked about his inauguration crowd? When he talked about the exceedingly high murder rates? When he said that 14% of noncitizens are registered to vote? This is a man that cares far more about his image than he does about keeping the American public informed, and if he were to hold his own press briefings, they’re as good as canceled. He wouldn’t answer a reporter’s question if they were from a publication he didn’t like; he may not even let them through the door.
And if he’s busy with press briefings and other endeavors that he doesn’t trust his staff to handle, who’s running the country? The White House employs staff to do the little things so the president doesn’t have to. Some of them are supposed to keep him informed; some of them are supposed to keep us informed. He wants to keep us informed while simultaneously remaining uninformed; an immeasurably terrible idea.
At the heart of all of the inaccuracies, inconsistent accounts, and blatant lies, is a conflict within the White House, a conflict between staffers to gain trust and power, and a conflict between Trump and his staffers due to a lack of trust. In order for him to survive as a president, his team must all be on the same page; or at least on relatively similar pages; a feat that he has yet to accomplish.
Moreover, though it’s unlikely that Trump will ever admit that there are problems within the White House, don’t we have a right to know if there are? Yes, we know that there is conflict; just yesterday, yelling was heard in the room full of officials. Buzzfeed’s White House correspondent reported hearing “yelling coming from the room where the officials were”, but soon after, televisions were turned up “super loud”. However, as of late, there is no way to know the magnitude of such conflict.
The White House has gone to great lengths to cover up the conflict among Trump’s officials, and we’re only 116 days in. Is this how it will be for the next four years? Half of his staff, and the rest of the country, in the dark? I wrote an article awhile ago called “We Can’t Let Trump Take Control of the Media”, but now it’s happening, it’s real. By keeping members of his own staff in the dark, he keeps the media (and the people) in the dark too. We’ll only know what he wants us to know. And when his power structure around loyalty and allegiance crumbles, we may not know; which may be the scariest part about this.