With Donald Trump’s narcissistic paranoia amid accusations of being wire tapped by the previous administration and blatant media bias, it’s not surprising that the mood has affected White House staffers.
According to a report in POLITICO on Wednesday, White House staff are going out of their way to avoid being spied on themselves, turning off work smartphones and keeping silent in meetings.
The report describes the mood as paranoid, and states that aides are using encrypted apps for communications as well as those that delete messages as soon as they’re read in order to protect themselves. After White House press secretary Sean Spicer initiated a surprise inspection of cell phones last month at a stand up meeting — an act signed off on by Donald Trump himself — some White House staffers are leaving their personal phones at home
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one senior Trump administration aide told POLITICO that the tone had become unsustainably toxic:
“People are scared… [it’s] a pretty hostile environment to work in.”
One thing observers have noticed about the former reality TV show host in the Oval Office is that if he issues an accusation from his Twitter throne, it’s very likely it’s something he’s guilty of himself. Recently, Trump accused the Obama administration of “wire tapping” him during the presidential campaign, but Trump himself is known for using surveillance on his own employees.
One of the most disturbing claims is that top intelligence officials have infiltrated the Trump administration in order to undermine Trump by leaking classified information to the press. Donald Trump has been discrediting U.S. intelligence agents throughout his campaign and during his few weeks in office.
Some of Trump’s most loyal staffers are placing the blame for the paranoid tone on the Central Intelligence Agency, some alleging that the agency is the source of the leaks that forced Gen. Michael Flynn into resignation when it was discovered he had communicated with a Russian ambassador prior to Trump’s inauguration.
These same staffers also say the CIA are monitoring their emails, text messages, and phone calls, fears that were exacerbated when WikiLeaks released CIA documents showing how the agency can hack electronic devices.
One White House aide told POLITICO that he turns off his work phone when he gets home and puts it in a closed drawer to avoid it recording him; he uses a personal cell phone in another room, far away from his work device’s reach. The aide said he believes that national security officials are listening to him:
“I’m paranoid. Anything significant seems to be on the front page the next day.”
The tone of fear and suspicion can be traced from the top down; one Republican close to the administration said:
“Everyone at the top is so suspicious that it trickles down the org chart, so everyone has become paranoid and suspicious.”
Some White House loyalists say that career employees hired under President Obama are hostile toward Trump and intentionally sabotaging his administration. This includes Sid Bowdidge, who was canned from his cushy Department of Energy job after Obama-era staffers found anti-Muslim messages on his social media. Bowdidge told POLITICO:
“A lot of these career folks were put in there over the last eight years, they’re Obama supporters. By and large, they hate Trump.”
Anti-Muslim Twitter messages aside, Bowdidge had no experience or qualifications relevant to his DOE position, having been described by news reports as a “massage therapist.” Having no experience or qualifications for jobs in government seem to be a hallmark of the Trump administration.
Paranoia is so rampant, one staffer said that he spends his off-duty hours scanning the Twitter and Facebook messages of co-workers, looking for anti-Trump sentiment in order to identify which one could be a threat.
“I do think there’s a concerted effort to disrupt us. We’re professional, we’re courteous. But it’s a one-way street. The [anti-Trump staffers] are out to hurt the administration, and you have to handle yourself accordingly.”
The mood of fear and paranoia has filtered down from the top layers, from a “leader” who issues non-credible accusations of spying against former President Obama and a senior staffer who suggested that the presence of a “deep state” that was actively working against the Trump administration.
Spicer told reporters:
“I don’t think it should come as any surprise that there are people that burrowed into government during eight years of the last administration, and may have believed in that agenda and that to continue to seek it.”
The palace drama and intrigue dogging the incompetent and unprofessional Trump administration would make great television, perhaps a new Shonda Rhimes series, but in the real world, it’s just an embarrassment.
POLITICO talked to former national Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor, who calls concerns about a deep state both “overstated and ridiculous.” Vietor told POLITICO:
“The idea that there are career officials who are holdovers who may not agree with Trump is neither new nor remarkable. That’s not the deep state.”
It looks like the Trump administration is going to have to pull up its big boy pants and get used to criticism and obstruction … just like the Obama administration had to do over the last eight years.