Here’s the deal: Trump is about to engage in his usual perverse ratfuckery. He’s kicking out John Kelly and installing a fellow named Nick Ayers as his chief of staff. The move is much more than a distraction. It signals a break between Trump and his vice president, one that came to a head over the last week but has been fomenting for months.
Nick is Trump’s newest backdoor man. Just like Whittaker. Both are underlings who earn a promotion after completing their dirty work – spying on their bosses.
As the chief of staff for Pence, Nick has likely been ratting out the Veep for at least a year – keeping Donald updated on Mike’s meetings, his movements, his liaisons, his mounting campaign stash – all advance work for a Pence 2020 run. Not a Trump/Pence run. A Pence/Somebody Else run.
This imbroglio materialized in August 2017 as seen in this New York Times article:
Republican Shadow Campaign for 2020 Takes Shape as Trump Doubts Grow
Buried in that story were a couple of killer paragraphs in a string of paragraphs devoted to Pence:
Mr. Pence has been the pacesetter. Though it is customary for vice presidents to keep a full political calendar, he has gone a step further, creating an independent power base, cementing his status as Mr. Trump’s heir apparent and promoting himself as the main conduit between the Republican donor class and the administration.
The vice president created his own political fund-raising committee, Great America Committee … The group, set up with help from Jack Oliver, a former fund-raiser for George W. Bush, has overshadowed Mr. Trump’s own primary outside political group, America First Action, even raising more in disclosed donations.
So just six months into the Trump administration, the loyal Pence was already out greasing palms and oiling the gears for his own presidential campaign. Mike gave a full-throated denial. But the stories just would not stop. We all know Trump demands loyalty and any sniff of deviance is enough to ignite paranoia. A month ago, The Time’s did it again with an article claiming that Trump was questioning Pence’s loyalty. This time, it was Trump vigorously denying the news.
But a couple of things happened last week that signaled a change and both were related to the Bush family.
First, Pence spoke at the Capital Rotunda where former president George H.W. Bush’s body lay in state.
I do not watch Mike Pence give speeches so have little frame of reference for his usual manner. What I noticed at the Rotunda was how he assumed a fuller stature, a kind of – well – presidential elocution. There was no self-abasing demeanor, none of the preferential restraint put on in his appearances with Trump. This was a different Pence. He appealed to George W. Bush, the new patriarch of the family, as proclaimed by the media. His words were kind and respectful, dignified but not maudlin – a perfect blend.
And something new – Pence had developed a subtle sense of humor, complete with a sideways half-chuckle. Now who else has that half-chuckle, sly humor? George W. Bush, new head of the Bush family, likely head of the new Republican Party and its donor class.
George W. was happy with Pence; it was perhaps the only memorial that actually held his attention. When Pence sat down, he pulled his knees together, resumed that humbler-than-you posture, and when W turned to him, he refused to accept his gaze. It was a studied role: I will not smile at you because I cannot appear subservient; I will sit here quietly by your side and let you see what a wonderful person I am, one who does not wish for accolades – like your Dad.
Now while everyone was chattering about Bill and Hillary Clinton’s non-response to Trump at the National Cathedral services for 41, another impropriety of sorts slipped by unnoticed. But I saw it. This was the second clue that the love was gone between Don and Mike.
Donald Trump did not greet Mike Pence, his vice president. There was no eye contact. No nod of recognition. No handshake or pat on the leg. Nothing, nada. It was as if Pence was invisible, a dead man. And that is exactly how Trump treats those he considers disloyal: “They are dead to me,” he’s been known to say.
Add to these markers the fact that the man Trump nominated as his second Attorney General, William Barr, has links to the Bush family. He served as AG under 41. This is an overture to the Bush clan, to the politics of normalcy, to the GOP that backs Pence. And, there’s more. There is a news clipping out there hypothesizing that Trump will entice Nikki Haley into his 2020 campaign. That’s not going to happen. But it shows how the Trump mind works: if you can’t beat ’em, snag ’em to your side. If you can’t snag them, spy on them or steal their front men or invade their territory.
So, it looks like Trump is making his move to catch up with Pence, who wasted no time transitioning to a 2020 campaign.
So we watch the sad, sordid tragicomedy continue. Trump fighting battles from within and without while Pence falls into the waiting arms of desperate Republicans.
It’s a foul rat race between the current occupants of the White House.
Unnamed White House officials told the Journal that Ayers and Trump “failed to agree on a time-frame for the job”: Per the report, Ayers agreed to be Trump’s chief of staff for the first three months of 2019, a time frame initially proposed by Trump.
But, according to the Journal, the President changed his mind, asking Ayers to fill the position for the long term
So Trump says: “Work for three months.”
Ayers says: “OK.” Goes to Pence, resigns.
Trump comes around and says: “No, I want you for the entire time.”
Ayers says: “I can’t do that.”
Ayers is out of a job. Pence loses his chief of staff. Trump smiles. “Don’t try to screw me over,” he says of Pence, “I am always gonna win.”