Amid widening White House divides, Trump reportedly considers major staff shakeup

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Getty Images

President Donald Trump is considering major changes in his top-level staff, including replacing White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, according to a Friday Axios report.

Leading the list of possible replacements is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, who was one of the first congressional leaders to support Trump and has established himself as one of the president’s trusted confidants.

Other candidates include businessman and former lobbyist Wayne Berman, political consultant David Urban, and Trump’s economic adviser and former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn, according to staffers who spoke with Axios.

Priebus has reportedly been in hot water ever since the botched rollout of the president’s first executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, and fell deeper into Trump’s disfavor after the failure of the Republicans to pass legislation which would have repealed and replaced the Affordable Care Act.

But Priebus insisted in late March that he is “not in any trouble” with Trump, claiming he has “a great relationship with the president.”

This comes as widening rifts were reported this week among Trump’s top advisers, highlighted by a report on Wednesday that Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, has been removed from the National Security Council.

The New York Times reported that despite his efforts to play it cool with the media, Bannon resisted his removal from the NSC and at one point threatened to quit over it. Axios reported, however, that Bannon had been telling associates that such stories were “100% nonsense.”

Relations have soured between the two camps in the White House — one led by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and the other by Bannon, who has developed an alliance with Priebus.

A senior official told The Daily Beast the friction between the Bannon and Kushner camps boils down to policy concerning “trade, health care, immigration, taxes, [terrorism] — you name it.”

While Bannon favours Trump’s controversial travel ban, and the rolling back of environmental regulations and protections for transgender students, Kushner is attempting to exert a moderating force on the president.

On foreign policy, Bannon, described as a nationalist, advocates for a hands-off approach, while Kushner is inclined towards interventionism in the Middle East.

The Daily Beast reported on Thursday that Bannon had called Kushner a “cuck” behind his back and accused him of being a Democrat. Bannon also told his associates, “I love a gunfight,” according to an Axios report, which said that “the hatred between the two wings” in the White House was “intense and irreconcilable.”

A top aide told Axios, “The tension, the exhaustion, the raw nerves have gotten much harder to disguise,” adding that it is not a question of “whether” top staff will be replaced, but “when”.

Pamela Engel contributed to this report.

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