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Those living outside the United States might well ask, ‘Who is Reince Priebus?’

Reince Priebus was the chairman of the Republican Party in 2016 who went on to serve as President Donald Trump’s first chief of staff. General John Kelly is the current chief of staff.

Vanity Fair has an explosive article by Chris Whipple, author of the forthcoming book, The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency.

Whipple’s article, adapted from the book, is called “Who Needs a Controversy Over the Inauguration?” It is a must-read for anyone interested in the Trump White House. Whipple, not a Trump fan, talked to Priebus for his book. Admittedly, Priebus was only there for six months, but he saw a lot.

There are a number of things conservative Trump supporters are in denial about, especially Trump’s phone situation and, more importantly, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. Reince Priebus dispels both of these myths — and others.

Conservative Trump supporters — by which I mean traditional Republicans — are so far in the tank for Jeff Sessions it’s unreal. They need to open their eyes and see the truth. Honestly, they complain about Democrats being in the tank for Obama and Hillary. They have only to look at themselves to see they’ve fallen for the same emotional involvement.

Trump’s phone and the tweets

In 2017, Roger Stone, whom the traditional Republicans loathe for some reason, gave a lot of interviews to Alex Jones of Infowars about Trump’s phone. Stone has known Trump for many years and was accustomed to reaching his friend in the White House from time to time. Last year, Stone told Jones he was unable to do so. He said someone else would pick up Trump’s phone, take messages, then not relay them.

Conservative Trump supporters did not believe this at the time. Perhaps this was why they discounted Stone.

Priebus said that he perceived that Trump’s phone and the tweets were a problem. Priebus wanted to control Trump’s phone usage to prevent him from tweeting.

Priebus told Whipple about the phone situation (emphases mine):

At first Priebus thought he had succeeded in wresting Trump’s phone from him. “I talked about the security threat of having your own cell in the West Wing and got the Secret Service to go along with me to mothball his phone.” Priebus had managed to silence one device. But it turned out Trump had another.

Priebus and the White House staff around him attempted to wrest control of the president’s tweets:

Early on, the staff wrote daily tweets for him: “The team would give the president five or six tweets every day to choose from,” said Priebus, “and some of them would real­ly push the envelope. The idea would be at least they would be tweets that we could see and understand and control. But that didn’t allow the president to be fully in control of his own voice.

No one, not even First Lady Melania Trump, could do it:

After [last year’s] joint session [of Congress] we all talked to him, and Melania said, ‘No tweeting.’ And he said, ‘O.K.—for the next few days.’ We had many discussions involving this issue. We had meetings in the residence. I couldn’t stop it. [But] it’s now part of the American culture and the American presidency.

Priebus now concedes that Trump is right. His tweets serve a purpose in communicating with the American people:

And you know what? In many ways, the president was right. And all of us so-called experts might be totally wrong.

Correct.

Trump WAS angry with Jeff Sessions

This is the thing I believed from the very beginning, that Trump was — and probably still is — angry with Jeff Sessions.

Jeff Sessions’s recusal from investigating anything related to the 2016 campaign, because he worked on aspects of it, really landed Trump and his family — especially Don Jr and Jared Kushner — in hot water with the Mueller investigation into the charges of Russian collusion. The Mueller investigation would not have happened without Sessions’s recusal.

I am frustrated that traditional Republicans cannot see and understand this simple fact. They do not even want to know what Priebus witnessed.

Remember, nearly a year ago now, that Trump fired James Comey. Sessions’s recusal coupled with Comey’s firing landed Trump with Robert Mueller.

While the White House communications team argued about handling the backlash Trump got for firing Comey, Priebus heard dramatic news about Sessions. Priebus told Whipple something he’d never before revealed:

Priebus got an unexpected visit from the White House counsel—a story he has not told publicly before. “Don McGahn came in my office pretty hot, red, out of breath, and said, ‘We’ve got a problem.’ I responded, ‘What?’ And he said, ‘Well, we just got a special counsel, and [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions just resigned.’ I said, ‘What!? What the hell are you talking about?’ ”

It was bad enough that Trump, having fired Comey, would now be the target of a special prosecutor. Even worse, unbeknownst to Priebus, the president, only moments before, had subjected Sessions to a withering tirade in the Oval Office, calling him an “idiot” and blaming Sessions’s recusal from the Russia investigation for the whole mess. Humiliated, Sessions said he would resign.

Priebus told Whipple that he dashed out to the West Wing parking lot to find Sessions in the back seat of his car waiting to be driven away.

Priebus said he knocked on the car door, then opened it and jumped in to talk with Sessions:

I said, ‘You cannot resign. It’s not possible. We are going to talk about this right now.’ So I dragged him back up to my office from the car. [Vice President Mike] Pence and Bannon came in, and we started talking to him to the point where he decided that he would not resign right then and he would instead think about it.” Later that night, Sessions delivered a resignation letter to the Oval Office, but, Priebus claimed, he ultimately persuaded the president to give it back.

That was not the end of the issue, which resurfaced again during the summer. Trump gave an interview to the New York Times in which he spoke frankly about his attorney general. His tweets were equally as scathing (language alert in this quote):

In June, Trump was still on a tear. He considered dumping special counsel Mueller, according to The New York Times, but was dissuaded from doing so. And by July, Trump was back on Sessions’s case, tweeting insults and calling him “weak.”Priebus was told to get Sessions’s resignation flat out,” said a White House insider. “The president told him, ‘Don’t give me any bullshit. Don’t try to slow me down like you always do. Get the resignation of Jeff Sessions.’ ”

Sessions supporters say we cannot take the word of ‘a White House insider’. The truth of the matter is that every president has ‘a White House insider’. I’ve been reading that phrase for decades.

Priebus reacted wisely, because what he predicted about Rachel Brand (see the quote) happened on Friday, February 9, 2018. Rosenstein is still in place, but Brand might have sensed something. She resigned to take head global governance for Walmart in faraway Arkansas:

Once more, Priebus stalled Trump, recalled a White House insider. “He told the president, ‘If I get this resignation, you are in for a spiral of calamity that makes Comey look like a picnic.’ Rosenstein’s going to resign. [Associate Attorney General] Rachel Brand, the number three, will say, ‘Forget it. I’m not going to be involved with this.’ And it is going to be a total mess.” The president agreed to hold off. (Sessions didn’t comment on the resignation letter and last July publicly stated that he planned to stay on the job “as long as that is appropriate.” Brand, in fact, resigned this month.)

Anthony Scaramucci and Priebus’s resignation

Trump was vexed with Priebus, because, part of his job was to corral the GOPe NeverTrumpers into voting to repeal and replace Obamacare. Whipple reminds us of what happened and includes a quote from Steve Bannon, who also left the Trump administration last year:

Repeal and replace” crashed and burned—not once but twice, the second time when John McCain delivered a dramatic 1:30 a.m. thumbs-down on the Senate floor. The debacle proved that Priebus could not count—or deliver—votes. “When McCain voted against it,” Bannon recalled, “I said to myself, Reince is gone. This is going to be so bad. The president is going to get so lit up.”

And so he did. But Priebus held on, withstanding Trump’s verbal put downs. Then Priebus got on the wrong side of Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner. They wanted Bannon gone. Priebus wouldn’t fire him.

The only thing that would make the Wisconsin guy Priebus leave was the unpredictable New Yorker, Anthony Scaramucci, who was hired and stayed only several days that summer:

And then came the last straw: the sudden arrival of a new, flamboyant communications director, Anthony Scaramucci. Priebus had opposed his hiring. Scaramucci immediately turned the West Wing into a circular firing squadHe went on, in a tweet, to all but accuse Priebus of leaking classified information about Scaramucci’s finances (which were publicly available). “When he accused me of a felony,” recalled Priebus, “I thought, What am I doing here? . . . I went in to the president and said, ‘I gotta go.’ ” Trump would say nothing publicly in Priebus’s defense. The president accepted his resignation.

It was even worse, as Priebus expected to work his notice period. President Trump must have been angry with him, because the next day, he announced the appointment of General Kelly as his new chief of staff:

The sudden shake-up was vintage Trump; the timing blindsided Priebus, who stepped off the plane into a drenching rain and was whisked away by car.

Priebus took a break, but landed on his feet as president of a law firm and public speaker:

Conclusion

Although Trump’s base might find the roller coaster of daily drama too much at times, Priebus says Trump clearly enjoys it as long as he wins in the long run:

[Trump] is a man who fears no one and nothing,” continued Priebus, “and there is absolutely nothing he’s intimidated by. . . . And that’s very rare in politics. Most people in politics are people who have sort of an approval addiction. Now, granted, President Trump does too, but he’s willing to weather one storm after the next to get to an end result that most people are not willing to weather. . . . He doesn’t mind the craziness, the drama, or the difficulty, as long as an end goal is in sight. He will endure it.”

I came to that realisation a few weeks ago, before Vanity Fair published Chris Whipple’s article. One day, while reading the latest instalments on White House goings-on, it occurred to me that Trump probably enjoys this, because he is getting briefings and intelligence that the media and public are not.

Perhaps it is time for Trump supporters, myself included, to relax, sit back and enjoy the show.

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