For weeks this fall, an ebullient President Trump traveled relentlessly to hold raise-the-rafters campaign rallies — sometimes three a day — in states where his presence was likely to help Republicans on the ballot.
But his mood apparently has changed as he has taken measure of the electoral backlash that voters delivered Nov. 6. With the certainty that the incoming Democratic House majority will go after his tax returns and investigate his actions, and the likelihood of additional indictments by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Trump has retreated into a cocoon of bitterness and resentment, according to multiple administration sources.
Behind the scenes, they say, the president has lashed out at several aides, from junior press assistants to senior officials. “He’s furious,” said one administration official. “Most staffers are trying to avoid him.”
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, painted a picture of a brooding president “trying to decide who to blame” for Republicans’ election losses, even as he publicly and implausibly continues to claim victory.
White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who are close allies, “seem to be on their way out,” the official said, noting recent leaks on the subject. The official cautioned, however, that personnel decisions are never final until Trump himself tweets out the news — often just after the former reality TV star who’s famous for saying “You’re fired!” has directed Kelly to so inform the individual.
And, according to a source outside the White House who has spoken recently with the president, last week’s Wall Street Journal report confirming Trump’s central role during the 2016 campaign in quietly arranging payoffs for two women alleging affairs with him seemed to put him in an even worse mood.
Publicly, Trump has been increasingly absent in recent days — except on Twitter. He has canceled travel plans and dispatched Cabinet officials and aides to events in his place — including sending Vice President Mike Pence to Asia for the annual summits there in November that past presidents nearly always attended.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II was in Washington on Tuesday and met with Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, but not the president.
Also Tuesday, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis announced plans to travel on Wednesday near the U.S.-Mexico border to visit with troops Trump ordered there last month in what is ostensibly a mission to defend against a caravan of Central American migrants moving through Mexico and still hundreds of miles from the United States.