Media Outlets Repeatedly Report Priebus Is About to Be Fired, But He Remains in White House

President Donald Trump with his chief of staff, Reince Priebus (L), and Vice President Mike Pence / Getty
• July 5, 2017 12:32 pm


White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has repeatedly been the subject of news reports saying he is about to be fired by President Donald Trump, yet he remains in his post, a Washington Free Beacon analysis has found.

Stories by the New York TimesPolitico, Axios, and other publications have consistently reported rumored "shakeups" in the tumultuous early months of the Trump administration that include dismissing Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman who gave the White House a direct connection to the GOP establishment.

When stories about the rumored firings have been written, they have all been widely re-reported by other outlets.

On April 7, Axios‘ Mike Allen reported that "President Trump is considering a broad shakeup of his White House" that could include replacing Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, according to "aides and advisers."

In the next sentence, however, an aide cautioned that Trump may do nothing at all:

A top aide to Trump said he's contemplating major changes, but that the situation is very fluid and the timing uncertain: "Things are happening, but it's very unclear the president's willing to pull that trigger.

On May 14, Allen reported again on a coming shakeup that could include booting Priebus. At the urging of longtime friends and advisers of Trump, Allen wrote, the president was considering a "huge reboot" that could result in firing Priebus, Bannon, and press secretary Sean Spicer:

At the urging of longtime friends and outside advisers, most of whom he consults after dark, President Trump is considering a "huge reboot" that could take out everyone from Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, to counsel Don McGahn and press secretary Sean Spicer, White House sources tell me.

Trump is also irritated with several Cabinet members, the sources said.

"He's frustrated, and angry at everyone," said one of the confidants.

Allen's report included a "note of caution" that Trump often threatens to fire people and does not follow through on it:

And it all could take a while: Trump heads out on his first international trip at the end of the week. Also, there's an internal argument for minimizing drama by cutting people out of the information flow rather than firing them. So the existing structure may get "one more college try," a trusted adviser said.

In a New York Times report from May 12, Priebus' name was listed in another story about a potential White House shakeup. Trump had grown "increasingly dissatisfied" with Priebus' job performance, the story said, which added that Trump had considered replacing Spicer as press secretary with Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle. Spicer has been phased out of his lead spokesman role, but Guilfoyle stayed with Fox News.

The New York Times reported on May 30 about Trump's open discussion about "shaking it up" inside his White House and removing Priebus. The Times wrote that Trump had joked with Priebus about making him the ambassador to Greece:

Mr. Trump has been more open in discussing the possible departure of Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff. The president has joked repeatedly with Mr. Priebus, whose mother is of Greek descent, that he would send him to Athens as ambassador to Greece. Speculation grew last week when a list of ambassadors was compiled at Mr. Priebus's request, and the Athens position was left blank, officials said.

NBC News reported on May 31 that Trump was "actively seeking advice about a shakeup that could envelop his chief of staff, Reince Priebus." The report said, however, that one administration source "flatly denies" Priebus' job was at risk.

Conservative radio host Erick Erickson cited "two White House sources" in a June 1 post for The Resurgent that said Priebus' "departure is imminent."

The president would like to land Reince somewhere still in government, but regardless has decided to move on. I was not told who the replacement is or even that the president has settled on a replacement. It will not be, despite some rumors, Steve Bannon. One name circulating in the media is lobbyist David Urban, who once served as chief of staff to Arlen Specter. Choosing Urban would be bringing the swamp into the White House instead of draining it.

Politico noted Erickson's story on June 5 in an article headlined, "How Reince Priebus hangs on," describing how the piece was indicative of a media narrative that he is a "dead man walking, according to senior White House officials, advisers, and others close to the president."

However, the same story contributed to that narrative by saying interviews with a "dozen" administration officials suggested he would not stay chief of staff for long. Another "friend" of Trump told the outlet that "it's basically decided that Reince is gone" and was just a matter of when:

Interviews with a dozen Trump administration officials and advisers suggest few expect Priebus to be long for the West Wing. A Trump adviser said the president has made no secret of his plans to remove Priebus and is in regular communication with a group of outside advisers about who could replace him. Inside the White House, Priebus is considered by some a lame-duck chief of staff soon to be reassigned. New names seem to surface daily, and Trump's allies have begun calling Capitol Hill chiefs of staff and asking for potential replacement candidates.

A friend of the president said: "It's basically decided that Reince is gone. It's just a matter of who replaces him and when.

Politico then reported on June 11 that Trump had set a deadline of July 4 for a "shakeup of the White House that could include removing Reince Priebus as his chief of staff." The report cited "multiple sources" that claimed Trump had berated Priebus for administration dysfunction in front of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and deputy campaign manager David Bossie:

"I'm giving you until July 4," Trump said, according to a person with knowledge of the conversation.

"I don't want them to come into this mess. If I'm going to clean house, they will come in as fresh blood."

As of July 5, however, Priebus remained in place, continuing to serve as chief of staff, the Washington Examiner noted.