Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary and a devout Catholic, was left out of the president’s meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Wednesday.
For a president whose inner circle often shifts, Spicer’s absence from the meeting was seen as an intentional snub, a source close to the White House told CNN.
“Wow. That’s all he wanted,” the source added. Spicer has spoken publicly about his Catholicism, telling reporters that he gave up alcohol for Lent.
Both sides agreed to limit the number of staffers attending the high-profile meeting, according to CNN, and President Donald Trump’s entourage included mostly family. First Lady Melania Trump and the president’s daughter Ivanka were seen donning matching veils alongside son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. A few key communications aides were also present at the meeting, including spokeswoman Hope Hicks and social media director Dan Scavino, according to Politico.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Keith Schiller, a deputy assistant, and Brian Hook, a State Department aide, also attended. Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, and Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, had already returned to Washington after the initial stop in Saudi Arabia.
Trump was reportedly mulling a massive staff shake-up at the White House earlier this month after his communications staff, led by Spicer, failed to contain the fallout from Trump’s ouster of former FBI Director James Comey. Trump is also reportedly considering cutting Spicer’s public press briefings entirely.
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