White House staffers at all levels are plotting their departures as a growing number of aides to President Donald Trump are abandoning his quest to overturn the 2020 election results – some in frustration with the building they are leaving behind.
Multiple sources inside and outside the White House cited a variety of reasons for the exodus already underway, ranging from the urgent need for employment to a palpable disgust with Trump’s ill-fated election challenges.
One source familiar with the situation said Trump’s refusal to accept defeat has unnerved some staffers who worry the President is tarnishing his own legacy and, more critically, eroding voters’ faith in US elections. Others have said they understood the odds were high that they’d need to find new jobs soon, and they prepared to make career moves regardless of how the President reacted to defeat.
A separate senior administration official described a “toxic” work environment among the dwindling number of West Wing staffers. While the Trump White House was never the model of a functional workplace, the lack of direction and sense of defeat during Trump’s lame duck period has sharpened divides among staffers facing the prospect of potential unemployment.
“I think people are moving on because they have families or livelihoods to support,” the official said.
“That, and the place is becoming more toxic by the day … people turning on each other, trying to settle scores while they can,” the official added.
The White House did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.
White House communications director Alyssa Farah, a close ally of chief of staff Mark Meadows, announced Thursday that she would step down from her position. Her departure was seen by people close to the White House as a signal that leaving the administration is no longer viewed a betrayal of the President.
“A great person who did a fantastic job. Thank you, Alyssa!” Trump tweeted on Friday.
One White House adviser, who is in the process of interviewing some departing administration staffers, said there is a growing acceptance that there will not be a second Trump administration, at least not beginning on January 20, 2021.
“Some are moving on,” the White House adviser said. “It’s time.”
The adviser said it is understandable that aides have become irritated with Trump’s stubbornness. But the adviser noted they signed on to work for Trump.
“No one expects him to concede. No one!” the adviser said.
Mass staff exits from administrations occur at the end of every presidency, whether that comes after two terms or at the end of one that is cut short by an election loss. But Trump’s refusal to concede the race and acknowledge the coming change has forced top staffers – some of them longtime loyalists – into a deeply uncomfortable position with just weeks to go before their paychecks stop arriving.
After John McEntee, head of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, issued a warning to administration staffers that any caught looking for a job could be fired – a warning that leaked to the press and was widely reported last month – many political aides across the federal government continued to search for their next move unfazed.
But some younger, more junior appointees were indeed spooked by the warning – a situation some more senior aides found regrettable given the additional difficulty those staffers may have finding work.
One senior administration official described the current scramble for Capitol Hill jobs among Trump administration aides as a game of “musical chairs,” noting the “music” will essentially stop in January and many aides will be left without a “chair” after the limited number of open positions are filled heading into the new Congress. Republicans gained 13 seats in the House but flipped only one Senate seat; they lost two GOP Senate spots and could potentially lose two more depending on the outcome of the Georgia runoffs.
Beyond Capitol Hill, some aides are considering private sector or think tank jobs – in some cases competing against their colleagues for the same openings.
While many White House and administration officials quietly began their job hunt in the days after the election without sharing their plans in the office, many are openly discussing their prospects now and leaving when they land somewhere – even though Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the looming end of his presidency remains unchanged from early November.