Trump angry and frustrated at staff over Sessions fallout
WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Donald Trump is extremely frustrated with his senior staff and communications team for allowing the firestorm surrounding Attorney General Jeff Sessions to steal his thunder in the wake of his address to Congress, sources tell CNN.
“Nobody has seen him that upset,” one source said, adding the feeling was the communications team allowed the Sessions news, which the administration deemed a nonstory, to overtake the narrative.
On Thursday, Sessions recused himself from any current or future investigations into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign after it was reported he had met with the Russian ambassador to the US, something he had previously failed to disclose.
In particular, the renewed focus on Russia is seen as a major letdown after Tuesday when top officials were riding high, congratulating one another on Trump’s speech to Congress.
“The staff fumbled,” Trump told the team for not being prepared when the Sessions story came out, according to another source.
The President was “hot” and exasperated Thursday night after Sessions’ recusal, a source familiar with the situation said, considering it hasty and overkill.
When the President returned to the White House Thursday evening from a day trip to Virginia, there were “a lot of expletives.” The source said for more than a week Trump had been lamenting that his senior staff “just keep getting in their own way.”
“The President had a fantastic week advancing his agenda to lift up all Americans and keep the nation safe. His joint session speech will go down in history as one of the best,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in response to CNN’s reporting.
The President is showing increasing flashes of anger over the performance of his senior staff and daily developments about Russia overshadowing his message, multiple people inside the White House and outside the administration told CNN.
Trump voiced his frustration to his inner circle in the Oval Office Friday, sources said. He feels attacked by the media, former Obama administration officials and others, and frustrated that things are not going more smoothly. The President expressed his anger at non-stop leaks undermining his administration, the sources said.
One source familiar with the Friday meeting said Trump was angry at senior staff, including chief of staff Reince Priebus, about the state of affairs at the White House this week.
Word had spread through the White House that Priebus had been chewed out but those in the room dispute that.
Priebus declined to comment on the record about the meeting.
One official, who was in the Oval Office, said there was an “animated discussion” about a number of subjects during the meeting — the forthcoming immigration executive order, health care and Russia developments.
Trump is upset because he doesn’t believe he is getting credit he thinks he deserves for his time in office so far because of self-inflicted wounds and missteps, the source said. An informed presidential ally outside government but close to the President said Trump was really angry about having a “mini disaster” a week. The President’s mood is adding to tremendous pressure inside the West Wing and aides have been seen in tears in recent days at multiple meetings.
With so much on the administration’s plate — leaks, Russia story, pending executive order and Obamacare repeal and replacement — Priebus said he would not go to Florida with the President this weekend as had been previously planned, a source told CNN. He was on the manifest, and a big donor reception by the Republican National Committee which Priebus used to chair was on Preibus’ schedule.
But the President said he thought it wouldn’t be a good idea since he is not happy with the state of matters right now, the same source said.
A White House official disputed that Priebus was supposed to travel to Florida, adding that he stayed home this weekend for a family celebration.
White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who initially decided to also stay in Washington Friday, ended up traveling to Florida Saturday and is joining Trump, Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross at dinner at Mar-a-Lago.
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.
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