Amid worries of a tough year ahead, White House officials have spent this past week discussing restructuring the West Wing and filling vacancies while President Donald Trump was relaxing at his Mar-a-Lago resort with his family.
This is undoubtedly a critical period for Republicans who, despite securing a major legislative victory, suffered a serious blow when the GOP candidate they endorsed lost the Alabama election. The defeat narrowed their already small majority in the Senate and underlined the difficult political year which is to follow.
White House chief of staff John Kelly will oversee the planned changes in order to ensure a more professional administration operation without the chaos characteristic of its inaugural year.
The White House confirmed on Thursday that the person who is to oversee four West Wing operations is senior Trump administration official Johnny DeStefano.
“Under President Trump’s leadership, we worked together as a team to deliver for the American people and we look forward to building off this momentum in 2018,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
A top political strategist is also to be hired to oversee Bill Stepien who has been criticized for his operation’s performance. Many warn that Trump and the White House are not prepared for the 2018 political landscape because of poor political performance by everyone in the president’s surroundings.
What is most concerning for Trump is that if he loses the House in 2018, Democrats are most likely to try to impeach him, endangering his entire legislative agenda. However, it seems that the president is not overly concerned with the prospects of losing the House. Representative Mark Meadows, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, on the other hand, is.
“I’m a numbers guy — we could lose as many as 15 to 18 seats in the House. There are a lot of people who are suggesting a lot more than that,” he said.
One challenge the West Wing is facing is that it does not have a shortlist of candidates to help with the political operation. Marc Short, the director of legislative affairs, had informally suggested Ward Baker for the spot. The role of communications director in the Office of Public Liaison has also been empty since Kelly forced out Omarosa Manigault Newman earlier this month.
The Office of Cabinet Affairs is also likely to see some change, according to two people with knowledge of the talks. Inside the White House, there is frustration with the office and its head, William McGinley, amid a growing sense that Cabinet secretaries are not doing a good job promoting the president’s agenda as well as that there is poor communication between the Cabinet office and the rest of the West Wing.