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White House routinely blindsided, upended by Trump's tweets

Donald Trump regularly tweets big news without telling his staff in advance -- blindsiding them and derailing their work in the process.
During a campaign rally Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reads a statement made by Michelle Fields, on March 29, 2016 in Janesville, Wis. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)
During a campaign rally Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reads a statement made by Michelle Fields, on March 29, 2016 in Janesville, Wis.

When Donald Trump announced Christopher Wray would be his nominee to lead the FBI, the rollout was a little bizarre. When the president tweeted the news, the White House had nothing prepared on Wray or the decision. Neither did the FBI or the Justice Department. Key lawmakers on Capitol Hill, whom you'd expect to be in the loop, were caught completely off guard.

So how exactly did Trump settle on the recently confirmed director? Politico had a report the other day that shed interesting light on the behind-the-scenes process.

[A]dvisers believed for days that Trump was likely to pick John Pistole as FBI director. Inside the administration, three officials said, there was little initial support for Christopher Wray, the former FBI official who was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's attorney in the bridge-closing controversy. "No one really was pushing for Wray," one senior administration official said.After talking extensively with Christie, who sold Trump on the former FBI official's bona fides as a lawyer, Trump decided to go with Wray without telling others on staff, advisers said. White House officials waking up to the tweet were startled, and hurriedly wrote a news release to correspond to it. Much of the president's inner circle knew little about Wray. Trump was simply tired of the search, these people said.

Oh. In other words, the president, bored and impulsive, talked to Christie, who spoke highly of Wray, which apparently meant it was time to wrap up the process. A Trump tweet soon followed -- with White House aides finding out the big decision along with the rest of us.

As bizarre as this sounds, it was not an isolated incident. Administration officials had warned the president not to try to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military, but he not only ignored them, he let them know his decision by making a announcement about the discriminatory policy via Twitter.

White House aides didn't know in advance that Trump would falsely accuse Barack Obama via Twitter of tapping his phone. They didn't know ahead of time that the president would tweet news about his new chief of staff. Politico highlighted an instance from earlier this year in which Trump lashed out at China via Twitter "while U.S. officials were meeting with a Chinese delegation at the State Department."

True to form, the officials from Trump's own administration had no idea the president would do this (or what he was talking about).

The Associated Press reported the other day on what may be the most dramatic example to date.

Aides to President Donald Trump were in deep talks about how to defuse tensions between Qatar and other Arab nations when the door to the secure room at the White House burst open.The urgent message: Trump had just tweeted about Qatar.One adviser read the tweet aloud and with that, the policymakers in midconference call had no other choice but to rework their plans to reflect the president's tweeted assertion that Qatar, host to some 11,000 U.S. troops, was funding terrorism.It was an accusation against a close U.S. ally that had never been voiced so publicly and with such indelicacy.

It's hard not to feel some pity for the U.S. officials who were blindsided in this situation. There was a group of experienced and knowledgeable Americans, attempting to deal with an ongoing crisis in the Middle East involving U.S. allies on opposite sides of a dispute. They were determined to handle the matter carefully and diplomatically.

And then America's amateur president decided to upend their work with a tweet that put him at odds with his own administration's efforts.

On the surface, it's probably obvious from revelations like these that Trump's Twitter habits continue to be quite dangerous. But just below the surface, the president's tweets raise another question: why in the world would any person choose to work on a team like this?

Trump World is beset by feuds and scandals. The president demands unflinching loyalty, which he will not reciprocate. And even if one is prepared to look past all of this and join Team Trump anyway, staffers also have to deal with the uncertainty that comes with knowing that, at any given moment and with no warning, an easily confused president with no impulse control might upend their work by blurting out a new position on Twitter -- based on whatever happened to catch his attention on television.

How any of these folks resist the urge to resign is one of the year's bigger mysteries.