U.S. President Donald Trump gestures to the audience following an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S.(Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg)

Trump’s Trust-Free White House

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- With the news that former celebrity White House staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman apparently taped Donald Trump during his presidency, anti-Trump Republican campaign professional Liz Mair wants to know why people close to Trump keep taping him.

I suspect she knows the answer, but it’s actually worth going over some of the obvious reasons as they show what is different about this president and why it matters.

The most obvious one is that Trump can’t be counted on to tell the truth, so people tape him to protect themselves. That’s also why his lawyers say they meet with him in pairs

But I suspect a large part of it is that Trump keeps people around him who just aren’t very trustworthy people — and because of the way he treats them, they also aren’t very loyal.

Is anyone really surprised, for example, that Omarosa is betraying Trump and using her brief White House stint to enrich herself at his expense? Or, for that matter, that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is looking out for himself at this point? It’s not just them; consider the tawdry spectacle of the Paul Manafort trial, in which Rick Gates has turned against Manafort and both of them are painting each other as cheap crooks. We don’t know what Gates has told prosecutors about Trump, and as far as we know Manafort has stayed silent so far, and of course it’s possible neither of them has anything on Trump — but it’s hard to believe at this point that either would stay quiet out of loyalty. 

In part, Trump hired untrustworthy people because many Republican campaign and governing professionals refused to work for him, and he wanted nothing to do with some who had opposed him during the election but were now willing to join his administration. But Trump also simply has … well, either bad judgment in who he can rely on, or he actively prefers people who are likely to betray each other and him. 

And the other element is that Trump just doesn’t seem to inspire loyalty in those close to him, at least outside of his family. It’s hardly unusual for people in politics to be out for themselves at some level, but there are plenty of examples in past administrations of people who were highly dedicated to the president to the point that they were willing to sacrifice their own interests. Even Richard Nixon’s White House, which was eventually plagued by crooks racing to the prosecutors to cut the best deal, still had plenty of people who truly believed in Nixon and were loyal to him for a long time, even to the bitter end. 

That simply doesn’t seem to be the case with this president. Instead, he’s surrounded by people who appear to be constantly leaking highly embarrassing stories about him to the news media. Yes, it’s happened with other presidents, but never at anything close to this rate or with so many things that seem to have no point except to make the president look bad. And, no, it’s not because of partisan media bias; this is almost certainly something generated by Trump himself, and the relationships he builds — or fails to build — among those who work for and with him. 

At any rate: This certainly seems like a durable pattern. So expect more White House staffers and others close to the president to betray him in one way or another. And perhaps the man in the Oval Office might want to think about what he’s doing to spark this kind of behavior. 

1. Dan Drezner on Paul Ryan.

2. Sean Trende on Tuesday’s elections.

3. Greg Sargent on Trump and the 2018 elections.

4. Reid Wilson on the record number of women nominated for key positions this year.

5. Worth reading my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Ramesh Ponnuru on resentment, the economy and the 2018 elections. Still, I’d say that regardless of what either party tries to do, midterm elections are invariably driven by what voters think of the president, and any attempts to change that are likely to be ineffective. That’s not to say that election rhetoric doesn’t matter — but it matters the most to what the winners attempt to do after the election, because politicians usually try to keep their promises. 

6. Claire Cain Miller at the Upshot on who does household chores

7. John Stoehr makes an important point about Democratic losses during Barack Obama’s presidency and the myth of presidential omnipotence. 

8. Glenn Kessler fact-checks the president on trade.

9. And Ala Creciun Graff at the Monkey Cage on the ever-changing end of the Romanovs

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and policy. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.

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