Dispatches from Trumpland — Part 1

I spent a week in D.C. talking to over 100 people. Here’s what they told me about the state of the Trump administration.

Trump is on “house arrest.”

“House arrest,” is how Trump’s life post-Kelly had been repeatedly described to me. “They keep the door to the Oval Office closed and Kelly doesn’t let any articles go through Trump until he’s reviewed them,” as Adrian Carrasquillo and Charlie reported at BuzzFeed.

When sources confided in me weeks ago that General Kelly confiscated Trump’s cell phone, I hesitated to report it. How could that be true?

“Oh it’s true, but Kelly gave him his phone back,” a source told me yesterday, “but Kelly listens in most of the time. We call it the ‘party line,’” a reference to a 90s trend where multiple people would call into a phone line to chat.

John Bolton’s recent essay today confirms the house arrest meme. In his essay agitating for war with Iran, Bolton wrote:

I offer the Iran nonpaper now as a public service, since staff changes at the White House have made presenting it to President Trump impossible. Although he was once kind enough to tell me to “come in and see me any time,” those days are now over.

Whatever you think of Bolton (no one will accuse me of being a fan boy), this is a startling development.

The Trump Tax

The Trump tax refers to cost of lost business, injury to reputation, and drama among friendships people pay by supporting Trump. “After what they did to Thiel,” a WH source told me with some frustration, “Who is willing to pay the Trump tax?”

Asked what he meant about Thiel, the official continued, “Peter Thiel risked his reputation to help Trump while Gary Cohn was bundling donations for Hillary. Ask yourself who has more power in the Administration, and what that says about Trump.” (It’s worth noting that Cohn hadn’t actually bundled donations for Clinton during this election cycle, and this source was using a figure of speech.)

Not so Great Again dot Gov

“When you attend the next WH briefing, ask Sarah how many people were hired from Great Again dot gov,” a person with an intricate understanding of the Trump transition (who is also on a first name basis with Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders) suggested to me.

“See if you can file a FOIA for resumes from Great Again,” another person involved in the Trump transition advised, “and then cross-reference that to current staffers.”

“I’ll bet you find zero hires,” he concluded.

“The first batch of staffers had some Trump and Pence people, the second batch were Pence people, and the latest batch are Bush people,” someone familiar with WH staffing decisions told me.

“You can’t get Trump people hired,” someone who has hiring authority, said over a glass of California red zinfandel.

They tried taking my GS from me,” another appointee said. GS is the government pay scale, and a higher GS means more pay. Even when Trump supporters are given positions within the administration, they find themselves downgraded to a lower GS. This practice is almost certainly illegal, as the GS scales are fixed by regulation.

Bannon and the future of Breitbart

“Steve’s big mistake was not bringing more people into the White House,” a long-time Bannon confidant said of his recent departure. “He didn’t understand the bureaucracy, you can’t just have one or two idea people. You need buy in from dozens of people across theagencies,” a deep state operative (yes some of them like me) said of Bannon’s grand ambitions.

The unanimous consensus about Bannon was that he didn’t realize, in the words of a long-time politico who has authored multiple NY Times best selling books on policy, “how dirty and mean this City is.

For his part, Bannon is in great spirits, multiple people close to him have confirmed. “He was hated every day at the WH, now he’s around people who like him.”

“Steve has even started a green juice regime and hired a trainer,” a Breitbart staffer said of Bannon’s recent plans to rebalance his life.

Jared’s little helpers.

Unlike Trump, Jared Kushner has had no trouble hiring loyalists, who he sends to meetings they aren’t cleared to attend.

One Cabinet official (who I won’t name to protect sources) kicked out one of Jared’s little helpers who was snooping around at a meeting. “He has no business in here,” this Cabinet official said out loud as the little helper blushed.

Tillerson out, Nikki Haley in, and Dina Powell to the UN.

Rex Tillerson, who planned on staying until December, now wants out, as everyone knows. Nikki Haley will take his position, with Dina Powell subbing in at the UN.

“This would be a great move,” one source told me when I said that Powell had repeatedly undermined Trump, “because then Powell won’t have much to leak from the UN.”

Powell is is the current all-star leaker. Having Powell outside of the White House was be a net gain for Trump, these sources revealed.

Trump’s phone calls with Maggie Haberman.

The White House press team calls Maggie when they want to know what Trump is thinking,” someone with direct knowledge of the communications joked, “because Trump talks to her every night.” Multiple people insist Trump has regular phone calls with Haberman.

This, like the phone confiscation story, sounded apocryphal.

“Oh it’s true,” someone close to Trump told me in frustration, “and none of us understand why he talks to her.”

Why General Kelly allows Trump to talk to Haberman but not John Bolton is anyone’s guess, although it could be that Kelly is keeping out Bolton to protect McMaster, and Kelly and McMaster formed an early alliance against Bannon.

In part 2 I’ll cover drama, leaks, and some tabloid stuff, including a rumored affair between a CNN analyst and high profile lobbyist. Subscribe here for updates.

Mike Cernovich is a journalist, author, and filmmaker.