Isn't this kind of like calling your ex to complain about the new girlfriend you dumped her for?
President Trump is reportedly so annoyed by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that he's been in touch with the only other person who could understand: Reince Priebus, his former chief of staff, who also annoyed him. Priebus was pushed out to make room for Kelly, the retired four-star Marine general who was touted as bringing calm to a chaotic White House. But it turns out, The New York Times reports, Trump doesn't like it when his aides are in the news for the wrong reasons, and Kelly made negative headlines this week for forcefully defending former White House staff secretary Rob Porter after he was accused of domestic violence, and suggesting that some undocumented immigrants are "too lazy to get off their asses" to apply for legal status.
Two people briefed on the subject told the Times that Trump has been asking his advisers what they think about Mick Mulvaney — director of the White House budget office and interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — as a potential replacement for Kelly. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who was chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton, told the Times he's worried about Kelly. "Even he has admitted it's probably the toughest job he's ever had," he said. "And I really do think sometimes, particularly with this president, you're fighting on so many fronts it's tough not to have that job wear on you." Read more about Kelly's precarious situation, and the memo he sent out to White House staffers regarding domestic violence, at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray spent their Monday appealing to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, warning him of the danger in making a secret memo compiled by Republicans public, several people briefed on the meeting told The Washington Post.
The memo claims to show abuses by top FBI officials, and Rosenstein said that not only could the four-page document jeopardize classified information, but the Department of Justice is not convinced that it's even entirely accurate. Kelly told Rosenstein President Trump is leaning toward releasing the memo, but it will go through a review by the National Security Council and White House Counsel's Office, a senior administration official told the Post.
The meeting took place shortly before Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to make the memo public, but voted against releasing a document written by Democrats and denied a request by Wray to talk to the committee about the intelligence behind the memo. Catherine Garcia
President Trump's need to disagree with his advisers may be borderline pathological.
Some aides have gone so far as to diagnose the president with "defiance disorder," The Washington Post reports, citing revelations from a forthcoming book written by the former Fox News host and Post reporter Howard Kurtz. Kurtz's book, Media Madness: Donald Trump, The Press, And The War Over The Truth, explains that some of the president's top staffers "privately coined" the term for Trump's "seeming compulsion to do whatever it is his advisers are most strongly urging against," the Post reports.
The New York Times' Maggie Haberman pointed out on Twitter that "defiance disorder" is in fact a valid malady, listed in formal psychiatry diagnostic texts, and not just a catchphrase for people in the White House to describe their boss' quirks. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says that ODD is marked by "defiance, spitefulness, negativity, hostility, and verbal aggression," while the Mayo Clinic recommends managing ODD by giving "unconditional love" and "recognizing and praising ... good behaviors."
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is learning the hard way what happens when you make moves without consulting the White House.
Several people with knowledge of the matter told Axios that President Trump was upset that Zinke went "rogue" two weeks ago and promised Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) his state would be exempt from the Interior Department's offshore oil and gas leasing program. Zinke never spoke with Trump or anyone in the administration about the exemption, Axios says, and this could lead to legal problems — environmental groups and state attorneys general could sue the federal government, arguing it wasn't fair for just Florida to be exempt and not other coastal states.
The Eastern Gulf of Mexico next to Florida is filled with oil and gas reserves, and former Interior Department officials told Axios they believe the Trump administration will find a way to work around Zinke's promise. Trump and Zinke have had a good relationship, and while this isn't the end of Zinke's tenure, he's been knocked down several pegs as far as the administration is concerned, Axios reports. Catherine Garcia
Confidential documents turned over to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team by the White House indicate that White House Counsel Don McGahn researched both the Logan Act and federal law dealing with lying to federal investigators and warned President Trump about then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn possibly violating both, Foreign Policy reports.
FP's Murray Waas spoke with three people with knowledge of the records and was read portions of the documents, which show that McGahn conducted his research shortly after he was told in late January by then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates that during the transition, Flynn told Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak not to worry about sanctions imposed by outgoing President Barack Obama. Despite Yates' warning and apparently McGahn's as well, Trump kept Flynn for two more weeks, firing him in mid-February and saying it was because Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his Kislyak conversations.
Two people who worked in the Trump administration told FP that McGahn believed Flynn was potentially in violation of the Logan Act, a law that prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. Flynn pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to the FBI, but has not been charged with violating the Logan Act. A White House official close to McGahn told FP that McGahn feels as though Trump and others in the administration are using him as a scapegoat; in February, former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said Trump kept Flynn on because "the legal department came back and said they didn't see anything wrong," a statement contradicted by McGahn's documents, FP reports. Read the entire report at Foreign Policy. Catherine Garcia
One of the few big things to go President Trump's way this year was conservative Neil Gorsuch becoming a Supreme Court justice, but an errant thank you note and words said in private nearly derailed his nomination.
Several people told The Washington Post that earlier this year, Trump was infuriated by critical comments Gorsuch made about him to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and didn't think Gorsuch was sufficiently grateful or particularly loyal, telling advisers he wanted to rescind the nomination. One person shared with the Post that Trump told House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that Gorsuch was "probably going to end up being a liberal like the rest of them. You never know with these guys." McConnell, who made sure the seat remained open by refusing to hold a hearing for former President Barack Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, told Trump not to give up on Gorsuch.
The Post saw a copy of a handwritten note Gorsuch wrote to Trump, dated March 2. He thanked Trump for the nomination and gushed that his "address to Congress was magnificent." Trump aides told the Post the note got lost along the way, and Trump didn't see the letter until March 10, at which point he felt better about Gorsuch. A White House spokesman denied that Trump ever considering withdrawing Gorsuch's nomination, and did not comment on the tardiness of the letter. Catherine Garcia
The White House's IT department believes that Chief of Staff John Kelly's personal cellphone was compromised at some point before the summer, three government officials told Politico.
Over the summer, Kelly asked the department to take a look at his phone, because it hadn't been working right for several months and couldn't update software, Politico reports. After investigating further, workers determined the phone had been compromised at some point, and Kelly couldn't use it any more. They aren't sure when or where his phone was when it became compromised, or if any data has been accessed by hackers. There's also the concern that a hacker could have gained complete access to the phone, including the camera and microphone.
Before becoming chief of staff in July, Kelly was secretary of Homeland Security. A White House official told Politico that Kelly rarely used his personal cellphone, instead primarily relying on his government-issued phone. Catherine Garcia
After finding out that a special counsel had been appointed to take over the federal investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia, President Trump went off on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, blaming this turn of events on Sessions having recused himself from overseeing the investigation and demanding his resignation, several current and former Trump administration officials told The New York Times.
This is the first time details of the May 17 meeting in the Oval Office, also attended by Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Don McGahn, have been published. During the meeting, McGahn received a phone call from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who informed him of his decision to appoint Mueller as special counsel, following pressure from Congress. After he told Trump, the president called Sessions an "idiot" and said choosing him as his attorney general was one of the worst decisions he made.
An upset Sessions — who later told associates this was the most humiliating experience he'd had in his professional career — said he would quit, and sent a resignation letter to the White House, four people with knowledge of the meeting told the Times, but other administration officials talked Trump out of accepting it, saying it would look bad to let go of the attorney general after already firing former FBI Director James Comey and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (this would also happen again in July, the Times reports). Read more about the Oval Office blow up and its aftermath at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia