Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and a friend of President Donald Trump, signaled on Sunday that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus may be in trouble.
That makes Priebus the second White House staffer in a week to be the subject of rumors that he’s on the chopping block, as Trump’s inner circle struggles to move past a tumultuous and leak-filled first few weeks at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“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,” Ruddy told the Washington Post. “He’s not knowledgeable of how federal agencies work, how the communications operations work. He botched this whole immigration rollout. This should’ve been a win for Donald, not two or three weeks of negative publicity.”
Ruddy also spoke with the New York Times and CNN about Priebus, hinting that Trump could boot the chief of staff from that role.
“He doesn’t waste a lot of time,” Ruddy told the New York Times, referring to Trump. “If he thinks somebody is not performing, he moves pretty quickly.”
Ruddy told CNN that “there’s a lot of weakness coming out of the chief of staff.”
“I think Reince Priebus, good guy, well-intentioned, but he clearly doesn’t know how the federal agencies work,” he said. “He doesn’t have a real good system. He doesn’t know how the communications flow.”
However, after making the rounds of all those news outlets, Ruddy published some tweets backing down from his criticism of Priebus:
Reince just briefed me on new WH plans. Impressive! CNN today my personal view. Told him I have ‘open mind’ based on his results.
— Christopher Ruddy (@ChrisRuddyNMX) February 12, 2017
Jared Kushner tells me COS Reince is doing “amazing job.” Disagrees with me!
— Christopher Ruddy (@ChrisRuddyNMX) February 13, 2017
But Politico also reported on Sunday night that Trump was not happy with Priebus’ performance:
Others who’ve talked with the president have begun to wonder about the future of Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Several Trump campaign aides have begun to draft lists of possible Priebus replacements, with senior White House aides Kellyanne Conway and Rick Dearborn and lobbyist David Urban among those mentioned. Gary Cohn, a Trump economic adviser who is close with senior adviser Jared Kushner, has also been the subject of chatter.
Hints that Priebus’ job could be imperiled came out as several reports indicated National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was also in hot water due to recent reports that he discussed U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office.
Politico reported that “Trump has told several people that he is particularly displeased with national security adviser Michael Flynn over reports that he had top-secret discussions with Russian officials and lied about it.”
According to CNN, staff inside the White House were concerned about reports that Flynn may not have revealed to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence exactly what he said on phone calls with the Russian ambassador before inauguration. But a senior administration official told CNN that Flynn is not planning on resigning, and it’s not expected that he will be fired, either.
The New York Times reported that the entire National Security Council staff has been operating in a state of confusion and been “kept in the dark about what Mr. Trump tells foreign leaders in his phone calls.”
KT McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, told the Times that staff was simply adjusting to the new President.
“Not only is this a new administration, but it is a different party, and Donald Trump was elected by people who wanted the status quo thrown out,” she said. “I think it would be a mistake if we didn’t have consternation about the changes — most of the cabinet haven’t even been in government before.”