Wherever Donald Trump goes, his gang of aides stays close by. Not because he wants them close, but because they are constantly worried that, just like a petulant toddler, he will “misbehave” if they leave him alone for a minute or two.
Trump’s senior staff have developed an unusual habit of crowding into meetings and joining trips. Every move is closely monitored by senior adviser Jared Kushner, strategist Steve Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus, counselor Kellyanne Conway, senior aide Hope Hicks, press secretary Sean Spicer, and policy adviser Stephen Miller.
So when the president boarded Air Force One on Wednesday morning to travel to Michigan and Tennessee, his entire senior West Wing staff traveled with him.
At a closed-press meeting in the Oval Office last week with conservative groups airing grievances against Speaker Paul Ryan’s health care bill, many attendees were surprised that Trump and budget director Mick Mulvaney brought an entourage, reported Politico.
Two people who attended the meeting told the website that Conway, Priebus and Kushner all stood behind a semi-circle of activists and the president at the Resolute Desk, while Bannon paced silently in the back of the room.
“I was struck by that,” said one of the attendees. “Normally when you have a meeting at the White House, you’d meet with one guy.”
A large number of senior officials present, at all times, is a major contrast to the past—and it speaks to the defensive crouch that has become necessary for top aides to keep Trump out of trouble in a White House defined by constant scandals and blatant lies.
The need to be in Trump’s presence has also frustrated people outside the administration who need a contact inside. “I can book a meeting with Reince, Jared and Bannon,” vented one consultant who has had business in the White House, “and only one of them will show up because everyone is chasing a meeting with the president.”
People familiar with Trump’s management style interpreted the regular presence of top aides in all meetings as a self-preservation strategy.
“He likes to ask other aides what they think about each other,” said a former campaign aide, according to Politico. “If you’re not with him, he might be listening to someone else tell him how you’re wrong. You might be the topic of conversation, and it might not be good for you.”
One Republican strategist with close ties to the White House said: “Everybody’s terrified of his next move.”