When Donald Trump on Wednesday became the first president ever impeached twice in a bipartisan rebuke, he did so as a leader increasingly isolated, sullen and vengeful.
With less than seven days remaining in his presidency, Trump’s inner circle is shrinking, offices in his White House are emptying, and the president is lashing out at some of those who remain. He is angry that his allies have not mounted a more forceful defense of his incitement of the mob that stormed the Capitol last week, advisers and associates said.
Though Trump has been exceptionally furious with Vice President Pence, his relationship with lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of his most steadfast defenders, is also fracturing, according to people with knowledge of the dynamics between the men.
Trump has instructed aides not to pay Giuliani’s legal fees, two officials said, and has demanded that he personally approve any reimbursements for the expenses Giuliani incurred while traveling on the president’s behalf to challenge election results in key states. They said Trump has privately expressed concern with some of Giuliani’s moves and did not appreciate a demand from Giuliani for $20,000 a day in fees for his work attempting to overturn the election.
As he watched impeachment quickly gain steam, Trump was upset generally that virtually nobody is defending him — including press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, economic adviser Larry Kudlow, national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, according to a senior administration official.
“The president is pretty wound up,” said the senior administration official, who, like some others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid. “No one is out there.”
I mean if you can’t trust Donald Trump to honor his commitments, who can you trust?*
*Spoiler: Literally every other person on the planet.
The White House released a video Wednesday evening featuring Trump seated behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office pleading with supporters not to engage in further violence. “Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country and no place in our movement,” he said.
Still, in a stark illustration of Trump’s isolation, the White House did not mount a vigorous defense on Wednesday as House members debated his fitness for office and, ultimately, voted to impeach him. The president’s aides did not blast out talking points to allies. His press secretary did not hold a briefing with reporters. His advisers did not do television interviews from the White House’s North Lawn. His lawyers and legislative affairs staffers did not whip votes or seek to persuade lawmakers to vote against impeachment.
This is both because there was no organized campaign to block impeachment and because many of his aides believe Trump’s incitement of the riot was too odious to defend. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who was central to the president’s defense in his first impeachment a year ago, told other staffers to make sure word got out that he was not involved in defending Trump this time, according to one aide.
“I just think this is the logical conclusion of someone who will only accept people in his inner orbit if they are willing to completely set themselves on fire on his behalf, and you’ve just reached a point to where everyone is burned out,” a senior administration official said. “Everyone is thinking, ‘I’ll set myself on fire for the president of the United States for this, for this and for this — but I’m not doing it for that.’ ”
A former senior administration official in touch with the White House said in describing the staff mind-set: “People are just over it. The 20th couldn’t come soon enough. Sometimes there’s a bunker mentality or us-versus-them or righteous indignation that the Democrats or the media are being unfair, but there’s none of that right now. People are just exhausted and disappointed and angry and ready for all this to be done.” . .
Other than family members, the president is mainly talking to Meadows, deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and personnel director Johnny McEntee. Hope Hicks, counselor to the president and long one of his closest confidants, has been checked out for some time, according to people familiar with her status.
Other than his trip to Texas, Trump’s public schedule has been empty, and he is said to be doing little these days besides watching television and fulminating with this coterie of loyalists about Republicans not defending him enough.
Several aides laid blame for the situation not only on Trump but also on Meadows, because the chief of staff indulged Trump’s delusion that the election was rigged and fed him misinformation about alleged voter fraud.
“He is the one who kept bringing kook after kook after kook in there to talk to him,” one adviser said
The backstabbing and criminations over the next few months are going to be delicious.