White House weighing shrinking communications team after McCain leak

The White House is considering shrinking its communications team in the coming weeks, two officials with knowledge of...

Posted: May 18, 2018 8:24 AM
Updated: May 18, 2018 8:24 AM

The White House is considering shrinking its communications team in the coming weeks, two officials with knowledge of the expected changes tell CNN, with one objective being reducing the number of leaks and the overall goal being restructuring the entire press shop.

Discussions of staff reduction have ramped up after it leaked that a staffer made an off-color joke about Sen. John McCain, who has brain cancer, during a daily communications meeting.

Staffers are not expected to be fired outright, but pushed out slowly or shifted to other departments in the administration outside of the West Wing, the officials said. It will also likely affect junior aides without clearly defined responsibilities. The reason staffers aren't expected to be fired directly is because, although the White House has taken several steps to combat leaks including canceling the daily communications meeting, senior officials aren't confident about who it is exactly that is doing the leaking, one official noted.

Multiple officials inside the West Wing see the leaks of information as impossible to prevent. Dozens of senior White House officials speak to reporters on a daily basis, including, at times, President Donald Trump himself.

Officials conceded to CNN they have not identified which staffer it was that leaked Kelly Sadler's comment regarding McCain to the press, and acknowledged the leaks aren't expected to be stopped completely by staff reductions. The planning is in the preliminary stages, and is expected to take place over the coming weeks. The White House declined to comment.

The furious response from the President and senior administration officials to the leak of Sadler's remark has again created a sense of paranoia within the communications team in recent days, with some officials fearing that they could be fired at a moment's notice.

The division over Sadler's remark has highlighted a long-running feud between the White House press team and the communications team -- with officials often going out of their way to draw a distinct line between the two. The press team is smaller, and is led by press secretary Sarah Sanders. It includes the three deputy press secretaries, two assistant press secretaries and a handful of press wranglers. The communications team, on the other hand, is much larger. Since Hope Hicks' departure, it has been led by Mercedes Schlapp, and consists of nearly two dozen staffers.

The cancellation of the daily communications meeting -- where Sadler remarked last week that McCain was "dying anyway" -- comes after chief of staff John Kelly also reduced the number of senior staff meetings he holds. Though they used to be held in his office three times a week, they now only occur once a week.

Kelly, who was hired to replace Reince Priebus last July, has long complained about the press operation and favors reducing the number of staffers with ill-defined roles.

Kelly recently told NPR he wished he had been at the White House "since Day One" to help with staffing.

"I think in some cases in terms of staffing or serving the President that first six months was pretty chaotic and there were people -- some people hired that maybe shouldn't have hired some people that were -- it was just, I wish I'd been here from the beginning because I could have brought the organization from, you know, from Day One. ... Now it's not that things were a disaster for that six months, but I believe they could have been better," Kelly said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 482902

Reported Deaths: 9425
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison33063488
Hinds31021589
DeSoto30610358
Jackson23687348
Rankin21340370
Lee14909220
Madison14166271
Jones13404227
Forrest13160240
Lauderdale11601305
Lowndes10443176
Lamar10214130
Pearl River9098221
Lafayette8241137
Hancock7514112
Washington7102150
Oktibbeha6964124
Monroe6514164
Neshoba6475201
Warren6464164
Pontotoc630393
Panola6250126
Marshall6126123
Bolivar6115144
Union574186
Pike5613136
Alcorn537290
Lincoln5303131
George471472
Scott459196
Leflore4476140
Prentiss446779
Tippah446480
Itawamba4444100
Adams4416116
Tate4394101
Simpson4335112
Wayne433066
Copiah431787
Yazoo423386
Covington415792
Sunflower4148104
Marion4099104
Leake397586
Coahoma3957100
Newton370875
Grenada3556104
Stone350860
Tishomingo336289
Attala325387
Jasper314162
Winston304691
Clay296473
Chickasaw287065
Clarke282190
Calhoun266141
Holmes262187
Smith250649
Yalobusha221047
Tallahatchie220450
Walthall211058
Greene209045
Lawrence206833
Perry199953
Amite198452
Webster196542
Noxubee178939
Montgomery172454
Jefferson Davis168342
Carroll162137
Tunica153334
Benton142535
Kemper138640
Choctaw127026
Claiborne126834
Humphreys126637
Franklin116728
Quitman103926
Wilkinson101936
Jefferson91333
Sharkey63020
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 787421

Reported Deaths: 14022
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1114521765
Mobile708161234
Madison49744633
Baldwin36201495
Shelby36186315
Tuscaloosa33818548
Montgomery33135678
Lee22590220
Calhoun21140410
Morgan19795335
Etowah19188462
Marshall17659274
Houston16788386
St. Clair15408305
Cullman14568258
Limestone14553188
Elmore14444264
Lauderdale13486281
Talladega12932236
DeKalb12174237
Walker10561330
Blount9693157
Autauga9652137
Jackson9363158
Coffee8847175
Dale8584173
Colbert8508184
Tallapoosa6661181
Escambia6585121
Covington6432167
Chilton6372144
Russell605355
Franklin5779101
Chambers5398134
Marion4789120
Dallas4694189
Clarke462279
Pike461597
Geneva4396117
Winston425295
Lawrence4112108
Bibb408581
Barbour346570
Marengo326285
Butler318190
Monroe318153
Randolph305256
Pickens304474
Henry301358
Hale292285
Cherokee289455
Fayette279073
Washington245248
Crenshaw237970
Cleburne235251
Clay228365
Macon219258
Lamar196243
Conecuh181846
Lowndes170758
Coosa169935
Wilcox159736
Bullock149243
Perry136437
Sumter124436
Greene121243
Choctaw73427
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While some cool mornings are again in store for the weekend, afternoons start to warm up a bit, so plan on dressing in layers if you're heading to the MSU or Bama games, because you'll need to utilize them in different ways.
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