Reince Priebus, facing growing criticism and calls for his ouster, is racing to bring order to a White House that looks to be spiraling out of control.
After weeks of West Wing turmoil and critiques from President Donald Trump himself, the chief of staff is scrambling to impose a more traditional approach on a White House that is anything but, according to more than a dozen administration aides and others close to Priebus.
Priebus, who arrives at the White House by 6:30 a.m. and often doesn’t leave until midnight, has launched an early-morning staff meeting aimed at streamlining each day. He spends hours on the phone with Capitol Hill Republicans, who have been left confused and flat-footed by the administration’s stormy opening days. He’s trying to reshape an overwhelmed communications office that has had its share of fumbles. And, along with several others, he guided the search for a replacement for scandal-ridden national security adviser Michael Flynn, whose dismissal an infuriated Priebus helped to engineer.
The maneuvers paint a picture of an embattled aide frantically trying to corral a White House that has been swamped by division and dysfunction. Whether he succeeds could determine his political future — and determine the administration’s path as it moves beyond its tumultuous first month.
Priebus, a 44-year-old lawyer-turned-Republican National Committee chairman new to the federal government, has turned to a group of former chiefs of staff who have briefed him on how previous administrations functioned. They include Rahm Emanuel, the hard-charging Chicago mayor and former top Barack Obama aide, whom he met with this week. He has also leaned on Andy Card and Josh Bolten, who navigated the fires of the George W. Bush years.
It all comes at a time of mounting urgency for Priebus, who has become a favorite target for those unhappy with the rocky start — some of whom are demanding he get the hook. Breitbart, a conservative website deeply influential in Trump world, published an article Tuesday hyping the possibility of a Priebus firing. Over the past week, two longtime Trump friends, Republican strategist Roger Stone and NewsMax chief executive Christopher Ruddy, have called for his removal — though Ruddy changed his position after a pledge from Priebus that he’d improve.
“I had this quaint idea that the chief of staff would know what he was doing,” Stone said in an interview, adding that many of the president’s longtime supporters were losing faith in Priebus. “There will be more revelations about things he’s done in this job that don’t serve the president well. I promise you there will be more revelations.”
Although many chiefs of staff become subjects of shakeup rumors, the earliness and intensity of those confronting Priebus are unusual.
Trump himself in recent days has burned up his phone line to sound out friends in the business world about how they think his chief of staff is performing, something he has done in the past when he’s not happy with an employee. The president, ever the fan of theater, has stoked speculation about a shakeup, meeting Tuesday for lunch in the White House with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his wife, Mary Pat. Christie has long been rumored for a top job in the administration.
For now, the president is waving off talk of a change — telling reporters this week that Priebus is…