The recent bloodbath in the Trump White House, which led to the departure of multiple top advisers to the president, created the kind of conditions that would seem ripe for producing damaging leaks to the press and helpful tips to special counsel Robert Mueller. Disgruntled former aides, after all, often have bones to pick and little to lose.
But inside the administration, officials aren’t yet sweating the possibility of ex-colleagues turning into current thorns—in part because many see the most likely suspects as either too loyal, too eager for a future in the party, or too gutless to start leaking.
Chief among the suspects is ex-chief of staff Reince Priebus.
Late last week, Priebus was ousted from the White House and replaced by former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, following months of marginalization and humiliation inflicted on him by fellow top West Wing colleagues and the president himself. Priebus’ exit was preceded by the resignation of former press secretary and Priebus-ally Sean Spicer—who will formally leave the White House shortly—and the firing of spokesman Michael Short.
Trump and several top aides and family members had grown increasingly dissatisfied with Priebus’ job performance and level of loyalty. And they pushed him out in a truly unceremonious fashion. As The Daily Beast previously reported, the president personally green-lit now former comms director Anthony Scaramucci’s brutal campaign against Priebus—someone Scaramucci deemed a “leaker,” a “fucking paranoid schizophrenic,” and nicknamed “Reince Penis” and “Rancid Penis.”
In the wake of a recent Washington Post article detailing how President Trump personally dictated his son Donald Trump Jr.’s misleading statement on the infamous Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, public speculation started flying that Priebus was the source of that information—a bit of retribution for the gratuitous abuse from his former boss.
Administration officials aren’t convinced.
“Reince was ritually humiliated by [Trump] and is still selling himself as a Trump guy [so] I wouldn’t worry too much [that] he’s going to become the next Deep Throat,” a White House official told The Daily Beast. Officials spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely.
Priebus could not be reached for comment.
There was some mild concern among aides that a “vengeful” Priebus could somehow “roll a grenade back in[to]” the White House in the form of leaks or testimony, as the official put it. But few, if any, expect either him or Spicer to be the source of that now.
A senior Trump administration official familiar with the former chief of staff’s thinking said that Priebus wants to continue being involved with the Republican Party, which he recognizes remains very much tied to Trump. The official insisted that they can’t see Priebus taking a cushy lobbying or consulting gig directly after his White House post, and said Priebus wants to do everything he can to avoid alienating the current levers of power, including the president himself.
Another senior White House official, when asked whether there’s concern about Priebus or other recent departures leaking or talking to Mueller, simply replied: “Not necessarily anyone who’s already left, but if people keep leaving at this pace it’s only a matter of time.”