The Unending Humiliations Of Reince Priebus

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In just a little over a year, Reince Priebus went from respected GOP statesman to a discarded refugee of the Trump administration.

The road along the way has been paved with unending humiliations for the former Republican National Committee chairman.

Priebus was publicly undermined by President Donald Trump; overridden on staffing decisions by staffers junior to his position as chief of staff; and blamed by Trump’s base and the media for his failure to control the chaos in the West Wing and help shepherd legislation through Congress.

Setting aside his years of work to rebrand the Republican Party as one embracing of religious and ethnic minorities, Priebus gamely defended Trump administration policies like the travel ban against several majority-Muslim countries. He backed Trump’s musings about suing the press, and insisted reports of West Wing discord were “fake news.”

Then his turn finally came. The Trump family punching bag’s tenure in the White House puttered out on Friday as he was driven away from Joint Base Andrews in the rain, having just been publicly replaced by the President on Twitter. That night, Priebus would go on Hannity to earnestly thank his former boss for letting him go.

These are some of the worst humiliations Priebus endured since planting himself in Trump’s orbit.

Insisting he was not drinking booze for breakfast

Priebus had the unenviable task of leading his party through a painful, packed primary campaign with Trump at its helm. While the frontrunner gleefully lobbed bombs about the “rigged” process against him, Priebus worked to convince “Never Trump” donors and wary Republicans to unite behind Trump as best as possible.

“People assume oh, are you – you must be miserable. You’ve got a horrible job. But I don’t see it that way,” Priebus said in an April 2016 interview with CNN. “I’m not pouring Bailey’s in my cereal, I’m not sitting here trying to find a Johnnie Walker.”

Exactly what someone considering pouring Bailey’s in his cereal might say.

Fighting a Fox News host about Trump’s inauguration size

Shortly after Trump’s swearing-in, Priebus went on Fox News to lie to dispute photographic evidence that the President’s inauguration crowd was not, as he insisted, the largest in history. Host Chris Wallace, who was also in attendance, wasn’t having it.

“I was there on the Mall!” Wallace said, speaking over Priebus.
“I mean let me say first of all I think this is a ridiculous conversation, but there were huge areas. He said there were crowds all the way to the Washington Monument.”

“There was,” Priebus said. “I was sitting there.”

“Reince, there weren’t,” Wallace said, baffled.

Constant rumors of his departure started early

Rumors that Priebus would soon be dismissed started circulating within weeks of Trump taking office. In February, Newsmax CEO and Trump pal Chris Ruddy blamed Priebus for the botched rollout of the travel ban, calling him “way over his head.”

These rumors and comments from Trump allies would resurface any time the White House got into trouble. Priebus drew blame for the House’s failed first effort to repeal Obamacare and the torrent of leaks that have flooded from the West Wing since January. An entire genre of stories emerged of the Trump family reportedly tearing Priebus down to the President behind closed doors.

Asked the DOJ and FBI to quash negative stories

In one of his most outrageous moves in office, Priebus reportedly asked a top FBI official to dispute press reports that Trump campaign associates were in frequent touch with Russian officials during the campaign. Such requests would violate policies strictly limiting DOJ and White House communications, particularly about issues related to ongoing investigations.

But Priebus openly bragged about the calls on cable news, saying he’d heard from “
the top levels of the intelligence community” that the stories were false.

Serving as the President’s personal exterminator

Trump would occasionally ask Priebus to carry out tasks that would be cruel to give to an intern, like serving as Oval Office exterminator. He once summoned his chief of staff to the room in the middle of a meeting to kill a fly that was distracting him from the business at hand, the Washington Post reported Friday.

Getting the full Scaramucci treatment in the press

Priebus reportedly lost what was a six-month battle to keep Anthony Scaramucci out of the White House with his appointment last week as communications director. Furthermore, the President made clear, Scaramucci would report directly to him.

Scaramucci spent his fist week on the job eagerly shredding Priebus in the press. This culminated with an astonishing New Yorker interview in which the communications director trashed the chief of staff as a “fucking paranoid schizophrenic” and threatened to sic the FBI and DOJ against him for leaking to the press.

Scaramucci also compared the two to Biblical brothers Cain and Abel, without mentioning that one ultimately killed the other. In the hours after Priebus was forced from the West Wing for good, Twitter was filled with cracks about Cain vanquishing his brother.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
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