There have been lots of things that people on the outside think should have generated major internal anger and angst at the White House, but those things did not. The President’s comments about Mika and Joe did not generate the angst. The President’s various tweets about reporters and the press did not. Nothing else the President has said or done has generated as much of an internal backlash from cabinet and staff as his treatment of Jeff Sessions.
It is important to understand why.
A great many of the people now working for the President never expected him to win and an equally great number have withstood a lot of criticism from friends, family, and even professionally for going to work for the President. I personally know several people whose friends have written them off for having the audacity to work for a guy like Trump. I know others who are convinced they will never find a good job after working for him, but they went to work for him because they thought they could help the nation and even possibly steer the President in the right direction.
Jeff Sessions has been with Trump since near the beginning. He withstood the anger and consternation of his own friends in the Senate Republican Conference who could not fathom him supporting Trump. He was routinely mocked by others. But he stood with Trump. He not only stood with the President, but he defended the President when others would not.
So you’ve got all these people who signed up to work for a demanding President in awful conditions while being piled on from the outside and they all see the most loyal Cabinet secretary getting thrown under the bus by the President.
They now realize there will be no two way loyalty. The President demands loyalty, but shows no loyalty. These guys were hoping he could at least be helpful when they need a new job at the end of the administration. Now they wonder if the President will even remember who they are. They expect that one mistake will get them savaged on Twitter by the President.
There is a real morale problem and it goes all the way to the cabinet. Most of the members of the Cabinet did not need the job. Some of them came from far cushier places or even retirement to be a part of the team and help steer the country. They too withstood the barbs and questions from family, peers, and friends. And they’re looking at Sessions — the first to be nominated and now the first to be thrown under the bus — and they wonder when it will happen to them.
Behind the scenes, both Cabinet secretaries and their staffs have terrible stories of treatment by B-list White House staff. They do not feel any more valued than low level staff. On top of that, the White House is running purity tests on potential staff picks, which is slowing down the job, making things more difficult, and is increasingly ironic given the President’s lack of loyalty to others.
The Jeff Sessions situation is causing an internal reaction when other things did not because now everyone on the inside realizes they took a big risk working for Trump and not only may there not be a reward, but there might not be a job at any moment.