President Trump is besieged by internal leaks as he tries to weather the fallout from his firing of FBI Director James Comey.
Media reports about the run-up to Trump’s decision paint him as isolated and consumed by anger and paranoia, prompting questions from Trump allies about whose interests these government officials had in mind when they spoke to the press.
The behind-the-scenes stories have often undermined the White House’s public reasoning for firing Comey, causing further political trouble for the administration and exacerbating growing divisions between Trump and his law enforcement agencies.
And Trump’s abrupt firing of Comey appears to have stirred opposition from the former FBI director’s loyalists, who are pushing back on the administration’s claims in the press.
The White House felt it was under attack by anonymous leaks coming out of federal agencies in the early days of the administration, leading Trump’s allies to launch public attacks against the “deep state” leakers they described as lifelong bureaucrats and Obama administration holdovers.
The conflict with Comey appears to have launched a new round of leaks from the Justice Department and the FBI. Citing sources close to Comey or lawmakers in touch with the FBI and DOJ, media outlets ran with stories about how Comey was fired because the administration felt the noose tightening on the Russia investigation.
At a moment of crisis, the White House looks surrounded on the outside and divided on the inside.
“It’s total chaos,” said one former transition team official with close ties to the administration.
“It’s image-making on the inside and people trying to protect themselves. There is a deep streak of paranoia among staff. The communications team shit the bed on the Comey firing and now the war with the FBI has them all scared and throwing each other under the bus.
“Thank God I don’t work there. If I did, I’d be dialing up my attorney.”
The behind-the-scenes stories that gripped Washington on Thursday were relayed to the press in the publications and news outlets Trump loves to hate — the New York Times and Washington Post.
In the stories, Trump’s decision to fire Comey was described as the result of “festering anger” at the FBI director for failing to prioritize leaks coming out of the bureau over the investigation into allegations Trump campaign officials colluded with the Russians during last year’s presidential race.
Trump was “stewing” at Comey for weeks, even as some close to him, including chief strategist Stephen Bannon, reportedly advised that the time was not right to fire Comey.
Trump only informed his communications team about the firing an hour beforehand, according to reports, but still raged at his staff for not being more prepared to defend his blowback against his actions.
The accounts were almost uniformly unflattering for the president. The stories also elevated some wings of the White House at the expense of others, underscoring the persistent divisions among Trump’s team of rivals and their propensity to air grievances in the press.
The rush of leaks comes as the White House deals with normal course palace intrigue stories.
SOURCE: Jonathan Easley