Trump White House ‘Most Toxic Working Environment on the Planet’

According to one insider, "There's no leadership, no trust, no direction and this point there's very little hope."

Axios’ Mike Allen:

In 14 months covering this White House, Axios’ Jonathan Swan emails, he’s never registered such a mood of acute anxiety from within the West Wing.

What we’re hearing: Nobody knows what exactly is happening, who’s about to be fired, or which staffer will next be frogmarched out the door by security for some shadowy clearance issue.

“This is the most toxic working environment on the planet. Usually tough times bring people together. But right now this atmosphere is ripping people apart. There’s no leadership, no trust, no direction and this point there’s very little hope. Would you want to go to work every day not knowing whether your future career was going to be destroyed without explanation?” — A White House official to Axios

Senior officials are equivocating privately when asked whether they think John Kelly and H.R. McMaster are staying or going. Nobody knows because it’s Trump, and the way he dealt with Rex Tillerson was sudden, even though he’d long been fed up with his Secretary of State.

But the clearance issues are more serious:

  • West Wingers believe more people are set to be escorted out the building for security clearance issues.
  • Swan has learned that it’s not just Johnny McEntee — the president’s trusted body man — who’s been pushed out for security clearance issues in recent days.
  • The same thing happened last week to an aide to the First Lady. He was escorted from the premises and his former colleagues don’t know what the security clearance issue was that forced him out.

Why this matters: This acute level of uncertainty — and these rapid fire executions, especially the security clearance issues — are shredding an already devastated morale inside the building.

Be smart: This makes it harder than ever to attract top-tier talent. They’re going to have big problems replacing the next wave of vacancies.

Now, in fairness, it’s unlikely that the unnamed White House official has done a comprehensive survey of all the workplaces in America, let alone the planet. There are almost certainly worse places to work, somewhere. Chinese sweatshops or North Korean labor camps, for instance. Still, that’s not the type of thing one wants to hear from the work force.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    “Only Great Energy..”




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  2. Tony W says:

    As I approach early retirement from big-tech, I have often thought that working on IT strategy in an organization like the Executive Office of the President, or a similar government agency, might be a good way to give back a little to the society that took care of me all these years. The pay wouldn’t be great, but the impact would be worthwhile.

    That said, there is no friggen way I’d expose myself to the soul-killing environment this president has created.

    I certainly cannot be alone in this. Far more talented people than myself have ruled out ever working for the Trump administration.




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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Soon the rats will be jumping port and starboard.

    There are almost certainly worse places to work, somewhere. Chinese sweatshops or North Korean labor camps, for instance.

    I was thinking Chernobyl would be more toxic.




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  4. CSK says:

    The number of people who might have been willing to sacrifice their careers and lives to exert some control over him has probably dwindled down to zero by now.




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  5. mattb says:

    I am sure that some will attack this report — as the others that preceded it — as either (a) fake news, (b) “so what” (after all these reports have been happening from before Trump took office), and/or (c) “he’s not running a traditional White House and look at how much he has accomplished” (which is of course true, but most likely not the virtue they believe”).

    It is definitely the case that despite all the issues from day 1, Trump has accomplished some things and most of the more dramatic predictions about his presidency have yet to come to pass.

    That said, if one looks in the longer run, its becoming more and more clear that a lot of the predictions are happening, just not in the initially expected time frame (Tillerson’s departure and replacement with Pompeo being the most recent, “they were right, just not in terms of when it was going to happen”).




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  6. MBunge says:

    An unnamed White House source has something negative to say about Donald Trump. This is news?

    This may very well be how Donald Trump has always run things. There is a legitimate concern that in the past he’s been dealing with a larger pool of more tough-minded people as opposed to the shallower puddle of our snowflake political elite. It’s necessary to remember, though, that dysfunction is almost always a two-way street. Donald Trump has been surrounded by a White House and a federal bureaucracy full of people overtly trying to contradict, undermine, delegitimize, and sabotage him every way they can. What sort of working environment do you think that’s going to produce? How stupid do you have to be to complain no one is telling you anything AT THE VERY MOMENT YOU ARE ANONYMOUSLY LEAKING NEGATIVE STORIES TO THE PRESS?

    And by the way…who exactly are we discussing here? Are these people Donald Trump brought into the White House who should never have been there in the first place? Aren’t we supposed to be happy those folks are being kicked out? If we’re talking about more long-standing members of the semi-permanent White House staff who have been working without proper security clearances…that’s not Trump’s fault, is it?

    Mike




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  7. Kathy says:

    Turns out if you hurl a well-oiled machine off a cliff, it goes faster!




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  8. JKB says:

    Well, assuming this “White House official” actually exists, what we know it that you can’t trust a lot of people who work in the White House. Everything must be couched in the fact that one or more of your colleagues are going to relay it to the media to damage the White House. It’s very hard to come together when you can’t trust the people you work with to support the team.

    The timing of Tillerson’s departure may have been less sudden than financial. Apparently, there were hundreds of millions of dollars on the line if he was out before vesting in a tax law governing appointees forced to sale investments to accept a government job. On the other hand, things are happening quickly now with NK, Israel, Russia, etc.
    See this interview of James Hohmann, National Political Correspondent for The Washington Post




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  9. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK:

    The number of people who might have been willing to sacrifice their careers and lives to exert some control over him has probably dwindled down to zero by now.

    Those people will also have been calculating the odds of having any success in containing him. People might sacrifice, but not for a hopeless cause.

    And I’ll make a fearless prediction that the Rs in the Senate will, barring massive closet skeletons, confirm all of Trump’s incompetent sycophant picks.




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  10. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @MBunge:
    More imaginary 10-D chess, eh Bunge?




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  11. MarkedMan says:

    The Kudlow pick would seem to be solid evidence that Trump can no longer attract even C grade people. Kudlow hasn’t had an active role in economics in 25 years, instead becoming essentially the Sean Hannity of finance, endlessly and hysterically pitching the Republican line on television. And he has been wrong, spectacularly wrong, about every major economic era in that twenty five years. It is not an exaggeration to say that you could have become immensely rich by taking a $1000 and investing it opposite to every piece of advice he’s ever given.




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  12. Gustopher says:

    If we aren’t enjoying this administration, I don’t see why they should either.




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  13. Brooklyn Dave says:

    @MBunge:
    You do realize that when a new administration comes in they bring their own people and those seem to often be the ones who are doing a lot of the leaking, don’t you? I think we can all infer what this says about Trump’s ability to run an organization.




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  14. Tony W says:

    @MBunge: Dude, we don’t need secret leaks from ‘insiders’ to know that the White House under Trump is toxic.

    People are frog-marched out of the building daily. His associates and toadies are under indictment.

    This is not liberal media bias, this is just simple fact.




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  15. @MBunge: @JKB: While healthy skepticism in life is not a bad thing, one can take multiple pieces of evidence into consideration before just being contrarian.

    It is clear from the turnover in this WH, along with the rather obvious management style challenges (“I like chaos”) of this president, that this story has significant face validity.

    I will agree, however, that Axios loves these internal staffing stories a bit much.




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  16. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Well, Axios is just POLITICO under a different name. Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei started both. Not quite clear on why they left the old joint and started over.




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  17. barbintheboonies says:

    Most toxic work environment on the PLANET REALLY? You could not find a worse place ? Stop your nonsense. This place here has been so one sided for so long it is not worth reading anymore.




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  18. Just 'nutha ig;nint cracker says:

    What I’ve found most amazing is the notion that Trump was going to somehow attract top-tier government service talent having never actually had any connection to government except as a seeker of rents or tax abatements. Wow! Harder than before? Not likely before, not likely now.




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  19. teve tory says:

    Barb, if you stopped coming here, why, i just don’t know how we’d make it.




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  20. michael reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: @James Joyner:

    Politico, Axios, Daily Beast and the WaPo and NYT are all defined to some extent by the identity of their reporter’s sources. If Reporter X has Source Y you get stories focusing on Y’s area of knowledge. Someone with way too much time on their hands should be able to identify various leakers by the dates when certain reporters dried up. Fortunately Trump’s clown college leaks like the Titanic – after it was on the bottom of the Atlantic.




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  21. Mister Bluster says:

    t




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  22. MarkedMan says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    t

    Well said




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  23. Mister Bluster says:

    brevity is the soul of wit




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  24. @James Joyner: @michael reynolds: My point is that Axios has been especially focused on the staffing drama for some time.




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  25. wr says:

    @MBunge: “If we’re talking about more long-standing members of the semi-permanent White House staff who have been working without proper security clearances…that’s not Trump’s fault, is it?”

    If it’s not Trump’s fault for bringing in a set of grifters, cheaters, wife-beaters, gamblers and other security risks who can’t get clearance, whose fault is it? Liberals? The Deep State?




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  26. al-Ameda says:

    @MBunge:

    It’s necessary to remember, though, that dysfunction is almost always a two-way street. Donald Trump has been surrounded by a White House and a federal bureaucracy full of people overtly trying to contradict, undermine, delegitimize, and sabotage him every way they can.

    I think it’s a LOT more necessary to remember that Trump has diminished or in some manner humiliated many of the people that he brought into his administration.

    That federal bureaucracy that’s working to ‘sabotage’ Trump? Yeah, right.
    They not not only had nothing to do with how Trump treats his staff and in so doing created the toxic work environment that everyone but my father is leaking reports about. The federal bureaucracy as a so-called disloyal Fifth Column? That’s a timeless right-wing fever and delusion.




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  27. Mister Bluster says:

    There are almost certainly worse places to work, somewhere.

    Toxic work environment.
    City of Murphysboro IL Sewage Treatment Plant. 1976-1978.
    Two of the longest years of my life.
    The position was funded by a grant from Republican President Richard Nixon’s 1973 Comprehensive Employment and Training Act. CETA
    After the “government money” ran out the city offered me a full time position reading water meters…for less money than the CETA Grant position paid.
    Walked every street in General Logan’s hometown for a few month’s before I found work in the land line telephone industry.
    I still have my Illinois Class C Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator’s License hanging on the wall.
    For a while my ex-wife’s Law School Degree was next to it but she took it with her when we got divorced.




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  28. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    @James Joyner: @michael reynolds: My point is that Axios has been especially focused on the staffing drama for some time.

    Indeed Axios has focused on the Trump Admin. staffing drama and for those intrigued by the intra relations of organizations, it has been enlightening and entertaining. If the Donald of Orange administration were a business, it would have been in bankruptcy months ago.




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  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @barbintheboonies: And yet you just keep on coming back. “Why can’t I quit you?”




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  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MBunge:

    It’s necessary to remember, though, that dysfunction is almost always a two-way street. Donald Trump has been surrounded by a White House and a federal bureaucracy full of people overtly trying to contradict, undermine, delegitimize, and sabotage him every way they can.

    Otherwise known as “trying to do the jobs they have been hired for in a safe and legal manner.”




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  31. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    Most toxic work environment on the PLANET REALLY? You could not find a worse place ? Stop your nonsense. This place here has been so one sided for so long it is not worth reading anymore.

    On the upside she constantly shows why Trumpland has such problems with the media: she literally does not understand the difference between reporting on something, commenting on something and stating something as ones own opinion.

    Like the citizens of third world countries and tin-pot dictatorships they assume that all media is centrally planned disinformation. So they turn to the “underground” of word of mouth. No wonder their participation in a democratic process is a wonky prospect at the best of times.




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  32. No toxicity here! Anyone who says otherwise is just anti-Trump!!

    Trump jokes ‘who’s next?’ as tumult engulfs his White House

    President Donald Trump consumed Thursday morning’s TV headlines with amusement. Reports of tumult in the administration were at a feverish pitch — even on his beloved Fox News — as the president reflected on the latest staff departures during an Oval Office conversation with Vice President Mike Pence and Chief of Staff John Kelly.

    With a laugh, Trump said: “Who’s next?”

    I mean, really, any neutral observer of the presidency will tell you how normal all of this is.




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  33. Mister Bluster says:

    @JKB:..what we know it that you can’t trust a lot of people who work in the White House.

    You Can Say That Again!

    Start at the top with our Pussy Grabber-in-Chief REPUBLICAN President Pork Chop Pud!

    “He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he flew from Da Nang to Hanoi in Vietnam. Trump spoke to Putin three times on the sidelines of summit here, where the Russia meddling issue arose.
    “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ ” Trump said. “And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.”
    “I think he is very insulted by it,” Trump added.

    It is bad enough that Trump believes this murderous bastard, the fact that he is concerned that his boyfriend’s feelings are hurt is outrageous!




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