It’s an especially tumultuous time in the Trump White House. It’s always chaotic, but with longtime Trump handlers Hope Hicks and Keith Schiller jettisoned from the administration—plus boy wonder Kushner relegated to the kids table at security screenings—Trump is particularly aimless right now. News reports have been swirling that a massive shakeup is imminent, as demonstrated by my list of most likely candidates to depart interrupted by two of the five getting confirmed before the piece went up.
There is a chilling scenario in play that would combine the shock and awe of Nixon’s Saturday Night massacre with the worst elements of Bush’s debacle in Iraq. Well-connected Republican Bill Kristol is not the only one to share this rumor floating around Washington.
John Bolton is the most bloodthirsty nitwit in D.C., and his appointment to the post once occupied by the previously most bloodthirsty nitwit, Michael Flynn, would practically guarantee a war with Iran. That—not firing Mueller—is the scariest part of that rumor.
But appointing the head of the EPA as Acting Attorney General in order to carry out obstruction of justice is still a pretty harrowing prospect. Luckily, it seems that some of this nonsense is still just a rumor for now. The Washington Post published a detailed report on the drama in the White House last night. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is either out or on his way out—so the Bolton nightmare is still very much in play—but the move against Mueller was squelched by John Kelly, who according to the Wall Street Journal, came to a truce with Trump this morning. Per WaPo:
Pruitt has made no secret inside the West Wing of his ambition to become attorney general should Trump decide to fire Jeff Sessions, who he frequently derides for his decision to recuse himself from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
White House officials have grown agitated that Pruitt and his allies are privately pushing for the EPA chief to replace Sessions, a job Pruitt has told people he wants. On Wednesday night, Kelly called Pruitt and told him the president was happy with his performance at EPA and that he did not need to worry about the Justice Department, according to two people familiar with the conversation.
So basically, the rumor that Trump would fire Sessions and replace him with Pruitt (this theory works because Pruitt has already been confirmed by Congress, so Trump wouldn’t have any oversight to get through in order to fire Mueller) was flying around D.C. because Pruitt and his allies were running their mouths to anyone within earshot. Kelly is no stranger to the leaking game (if you don’t think that Jared Kushner getting buried by an avalanche of leaks after having his top-secret security clearance revoked by Kelly had anything to do with John Kelly, I have some swampland in Narnia that I’d like to sell you), so I think it’s fair to guess that we know John Kelly called Scott Pruitt because Kelly or his allies let WaPo know.
This is an important thing to keep in mind when you read any story about the gossip that practically runs the entire Trump administration. These leaks are coming from people like John Kelly, Kellyanne Conway and even Trump himself. Trump’s cronies are trying to use the press to pressure or manipulate other people in the way of something they’re trying to accomplish. Pruitt wants a Saturday Night Massacre so he can be AG, and Kelly knows that he’d have to corral the epic shitstorm that would follow Robert Mueller’s axing—hence the phone call and subsequent leaking of said call. The Trump administration makes a lot more sense if you think of it as a really stupid version of Mean Girls.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.