Speed Reads

Just because you're paranoid...

Trump aides describe a White House hobbled by rampant mistrust and paranoia

The Trump White House and federal agencies are filled with paranoid staffers convinced that somebody is listening in on their conversations — be it administration rivals, their bosses, the CIA, the "deep state," or civil servants who don't like President Trump, nearly a dozen White House aides and agency staffers tell Politico. The great lengths these federal employees are going to in order to protect themselves from the perceived threats are proving detrimental to getting work done, as senior advisers waste time defending their bureaucratic fiefdoms, desks remain empty because Trump officials won't hire insufficiently loyal staffers, and people remain silent in meetings out of fear that what they say might show up in the next day's newspapers.

"People are scared," one senior administration aide tells Politico. The Trump White House has become "a pretty hostile environment to work in." "I'm paranoid," another White House aide says. "Anything significant seems to be on the front page the next day." He described one way he is dealing with his concerns:

Once he gets home in the evening, he turns off his work phone and stores it in a drawer because, he said, he believes it could be used to listen to him even when it's off. If he makes a call during off-hours, he uses a separate, personal phone in an adjoining room, where the stowed work device wouldn't be able to pick up his voice as clearly. [Politico]

Other staffers are communicating on their personal smartphones using secure apps where the message erases itself after a certain amount of time, removing any potentially harmful posts from their social media accounts, and assuming that anything they say out loud may be used against them. Not everyone thinks this is an overreaction. "I wouldn't call it paranoia under the circumstances," a Republican "who communicates with many administration aides through encrypted apps" tells Politico. "It's not paranoia if people really are out to get you, and everybody actually is out to get everyone else."

Others say that if junior staffers are watching their backs, they're just "mimicking what they're seeing at the top," a Republican "close to the White House" adds. "Everyone at the top is so suspicious that it trickles down the org chart, so everyone has become paranoid and suspicious." Read more about the mistrust at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at Politico.