By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
As President Donald Trump’s popularity continues to dwindle and the White House struggles to fill vacant top jobs throughout the federal government and implement controversial budget and health-care reforms, a civil war is brewing inside the White House. Speaking to more than a dozen White House officials, the Washington Post reports that a new chasm has emerged between Republican populist ideologues chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and the people dismissed as “the Democrats”—former Goldman Sachs executives like Gary Cohn and Dina Powell, who are close to Ivanka Trump and her husband, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner. Some speculate as to whether Cohn and Powell may eventually begin to have an impact Trump’s messaging, perhaps making it more moderate than it has been under Bannon’s anti-establishment conservative influence.
The tensions within the White House administration have, perhaps inevitably, led to leaks to the press and backstabbing, though the Trump administration has gone out of its way to prove that everyone at the White House gets along, and to give the appearance of order among the administration’s upper echelons. Despite some reports claiming those within Trump’s conservative ranks are actually friendly, it seems to be a constant power struggle in which alliances are only forged out of necessity: Priebus and Bannon, for example, have reportedly grown closer as a means of countering the likes of Cohn and Powell, who have met wth business executives and help influence both foreign and domestic policies.
It had been widely assumed that the main chasm in the administration would be between the alt-right faction—Bannon and Stephen Miller, a Trump senior adviser—and the more establishment wing of the White House, including Priebus and Press Secretary Sean Spicer. But now it seems this latest schism is between the relatively wealthy—the majority of Trump’s cabinet—and the uber-wealthy former Goldman executives with whom Trump has chosen to surround himself, swamp-draining rhetoric be damned. The latter group was just promoted, and the former seems to be a potential understudy for nearly every job in the White House. Cohn, a registered Democrat and the director of the National Economic Council, and Powell, a former George W. Bush administration official and the president of Goldman Sachs’s philanthropic foundation, communicate directly with Trump, frustrating Priebus, sources tell the Post.
At the middle of all of the tension in the White House is one person: Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and one of his most powerful and influential advisers. In addition to being tasked with finding a means to bring peace to the Middle East, Kushner also acts “as though he were a couple’s therapist,” the Post reports, focusing on non-office politics and advising his colleagues on how to get on good terms with his mercurial father-in-law. Still, insiders say, it’s unclear whether the growing divide, though very real, will have a detrimental outcome. “We chose to hire a lot of alphas,” one adviser told the Post. “People in politics are insecure and will either adapt to the fact that this is an entrepreneurial White House and survive, or they won’t. The cream will rise and the [expletive] will sink.”