Chaos in the White House: ‘There’s never been anything like this’

After the fastest, most furious week yet for the Trump administration, America’s elder statesmen say they have never seen such turmoil or ineptitude

By David Smith and Ben Jacobs in Washington / The Guardian / Saturday 18 February 2017 10.56 EST


When press officers at the White House glance up from their desks, they are constantly reminded of their boss’s big day. On the wall, in thick dark frames, are photos: Donald Trump taking the oath of office, giving a thumbs up at his inaugural address, bidding farewell to Barack Obama, waving to the crowd during his inaugural parade, dancing with his wife at an inaugural ball.

Walking by last Monday, Trump gestured towards an image of his inauguration crowd – a point that still irks him – and told reporters there would soon be an official statement about the future of his national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Trouble was, an hour earlier, adviser Kellyanne Conway had appeared on television declaring that the president had “full confidence” in Flynn. Soon after, Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer read a statement that said “the president is evaluating the situation”. Six hours later, Flynn was gone.

It was the fastest, most furious week yet for an administration that, like a runaway train, has Washington and America’s elder statesmen shaking their heads, declaring that they have never seen such turmoil or ineptitude.

“Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil,” Gen Tony Thomas, head of the military’s special operations command, told a conference last week. “I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war.”

Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war Gen Tony Thomas

Some of the malaise can be attributed to the growing pains that plague any new administration. Some is said to be down to the factional struggles, imported to the White House from Trump’s businesses. And much is believed to be on the shoulders of the capricious, egocentric, volatile president, the first in US history to have been elected with no political or military experience.

Yet both Trump and his supporters deny the dysfunction, pointing to executive orders, a supreme court nomination and the scrapping of a Pacific trade deal at breakneck speed.

“Don’t believe the main stream (fake news) media,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning. “The White House is running VERY WELL. I inherited a MESS and am in the process of fixing it.”

Sleeping just four or five hours a night, Trump’s manic pace has made the world’s head spin. He had an angry phone call with the prime minister of Australia, a Twitter spat that convinced the president of Mexico to cancel a meeting, and consulted the prime minister of Japan about a North Korean missile launch in full view of dinner guests at his Florida country club, Mar-a-Lago. He approved, over dinner, a commando raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of a Navy Seal and an eight-year-old girl.