Without the ability to at least guess at what will be coming at them, they’re basically sitting ducks. It means whatever response they do come up with will be totally reactionary and emanating from a White House that’s haphazard as ever. Trump’s thumbs will almost certainly produce the quickest reactions—tweets that will have no grounding in reality, if past is prologue, and may even cause further legal complications for him.
On top of it all, in order to avoid legal exposure, some White House staffers have reportedly been deferring questions regarding the investigations to Trump’s lawyers and the White House counsel’s office—an office that until this week had been hollowed out and left leaderless for nearly two months. That means a White House that already functions at a colossal chaotic clip won’t even be functioning at full capacity as it tries to navigate the headwinds.
And let’s face it, no matter what the planning, Trump’s ability to stick to a plan and stay on message is nonexistent. He always thinks he knows better anyway. As one recently departed White House official said, “It’s like, ‘Jesus, take the wheel,’ but scarier.”
Trump, by his very nature, is constitutionally incapable of recreating the playbook of presidents past to weather the microscope he’s about be put under by the opposing party. President Bill Clinton survived that very scenario, but only through extreme and often painful discipline. As former Clinton Press Secretary Joe Lockhart told The Atlantic:
“Our strategy was very clear: We were never going to have the president talk about the investigation, ever. He was never going to portray himself as a victim, that he was being treated unfairly, even though, yes, he thought that privately.”
Trump’s approach has been the polar opposite: Talk incessantly about the investigation and, no matter what, emphasize your own victimization at every turn. We’re going to find out how well that strategy wears over time. Surely some members of Trump’s White House are more than happy to let him and his thumbs prosecute that campaign all alone.