White House Memo: ‘Drama, Action, Emotional Power’: As Exhausted Aides Eye the Exits, Trump Is Re-energized


As Mr. Kelly has receded from some of the managerial aspects of his job, a series of fiefs and empire-building efforts have sprouted in the areas of trade and national security. Without Gary D. Cohn, the process-focused former director of the National Economic Council, at the White House, the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, has tried to attain more power as the council’s staff has dwindled.

Even as his administration faces a series of diplomatic high-wire acts, including persuading Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, to give up his nuclear arsenal, Mr. Trump has remained fixated on leaks back home. He has recently pitted aides against each other in his search to find those who may be disloyal.

“Is he the leaker? Is she the leaker?” Mr. Trump asks visitors to the Oval Office, or outside advisers he talks to on the phone, whenever the names of specific staff members come up.

Some aides have sought to stoke the president’s fears about leaks, trying to identify people who could be disloyal: At least one senior aide is dropping inaccurate stories into the West Wing rumor mill to identify people who speak to reporters.

The communications office is likely to lose several staff members, some voluntarily but most at the request of a president who often complains that he has the biggest communications team and still gets terrible press.

On other issues, including trade — which roiled the Group of 7 summit meeting on Friday and Saturday, and which people close to the White House say will define the rest of the president’s second year — Mr. Trump has ignored the warnings of some advisers and has instead sought out people who will find ways to get done what he wants accomplished.

When the president could not quickly enlist the support of Robert E. Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, to find a way to make national security an issue with regard to imported automobiles, he circumvented his trade expert and asked Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, to carry out an investigation.


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