"No one in the White House likes or respects Trump."
Those are the words of a source with very close ties to a number of officials in the White House explaining the views of key personnel advising the president.
It’s also the most helpful explanation of the dysfunction currently facing President Trump.
When you talk to Trump loyalists, they tell you that the president is surrounded by a slew of opportunist, conniving, disloyal staffers who are serving themselves and not the man who won on Election Day.
One Trump transition official griped to me Tuesday, "He left all the people who like him out of the White House."
Take Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s final campaign manager. The co-host of Morning Joe said yesterday that, after defending her boss on live TV, Conway told Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough and company, "Blech. I need to take a shower." Conway, the hosts said, explained she was only doing the job for the money. She is now White House counselor—and works in an office once occupied by Valerie Jarrett.
"The notion that I am serving for ‘the money' or ‘a paycheck' is absurd," Conway said today, adding of Trump, "I know him, I respect him, I believe in him, and I am confident in his capacity to be a successful and transformative president."
My understanding, though, is that much of the staff is skeptical towards if not outright hostile to the president. And the consequences of the shared dislike have been devastating, among them a slew of leaks that has kept the administration on the defensive and unable to pursue the agenda of the president. Trump is hardly able to have a conversation or meeting at the White House that doesn’t somehow get retold to the press within days. The more embarrassing the scoop, the better.
Shortly after his inauguration, the details of Trump's tough phone conversation with the Australian prime minister were soon made public. And most recently, when the president reportedly told Russian officials information obtained via intelligences services, details of that privileged conversation were leaked almost immediately.
One anonymous former campaign official blamed the leaks on dissatisfaction. "Dissatisfied people leak, so clearly a lot of senior advisers are not happy," the source told The Hill.
The president has also been ill-served by holdovers from the previous president, whose allegiances do not align with the president's own.
By contrast, President Obama was surrounded by members of his staff who thought he could walk on water. President George W. Bush staffers believed their boss to be a decent and honorable person and a bold chief executive.
Now, it's true that both former presidents in some ways suffered from the unwavering loyalty of their aides. They rarely were told no, and dissenting views were not heard. But Trump's predecessors also benefited tremendously by being able to trust and rely on their underlings.
To be sure, there are plenty of people who both love and respect Trump. But for some odd reason they are outnumbered in this White House.
As the transition official recommended, "[Trump] needs to put in the people he can trust, the ones who were there with him from the beginning."
"He brought in the swamp," the official added.