On Friday evening, Newsmax Media CEO Christopher Ruddy spent half an hour drinking with President Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe retired to bed, Ruddy said on Twitter (Trump had Diet Coke, he noted). On Sunday, Ruddy — a member of Mar-a-Lago and a longtime friend of Trump's — went on CNN to share his impressions of President Trump's first few weeks in office. "I think he is a little sensitive to the press criticism," Ruddy told Brian Stelter, adding that Trump is "battle-tested" after facing down the New York media for decades. The real problem, Ruddy argued, is White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.
"There's a lot of weakness coming out of the chief of staff," he said. "I think Reince Priebus, good guy, well-intentioned, but he clearly doesn't know how the federal agencies work. He doesn't have a really good system. He doesn't know how the communications flow." Ruddy said he thinks White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is doing a good job under tough circumstances, but "the president is not getting the backup he needs in the operation of the White House, and sometimes the pushback that he needs, which you would have with... a stronger White House chief of staff."
After his CNN appearance, Ruddy elaborated to The Washington Post, stating that personally, "it's my view that Reince is the problem. I think on paper Reince looked good as the chief of staff — and Donald trusted him — but it's pretty clear the guy is in way over his head." He specifically blamed Priebus for botching "this whole immigration rollout," and said he's actually "hearing from a lot of people on the inside" that Priebus isn't pushing back like Trump needs him too. "He just doesn't have the gravitas that Donald would respect at the end of the day."
By the end of Sunday, Ruddy was softening his critique a bit, tweeting: "Reince just briefed me on new WH plans. Impressive! CNN today my personal view. Told him I have 'open mind' based on his results." He also said Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, "tells me COS Reince is doing 'amazing job.' Disagrees with me!"