New Chief of Staff John Kelly has sent some of the most … colorful members of Trump’s regime to the sidelines in an effort to bring some control to a chaotic White House. Now he’s putting a filter on the information that reaches Trump without being approved by Kelly first.
The new system, laid out in two memos co-authored by Kelly and Porter and distributed to Cabinet members and White House staffers in recent days, is designed to ensure that the president won’t see any external policy documents, internal policy memos, agency reports, and even news articles that haven’t been vetted.
The goal is to reduce everything to short “decision memos” that reduce and simplify information. This fits with previous reports that Trump tends to ignore longer reports and likes his memos with plenty of graphs and maps.
To some extent, the process Kelly is implementing follows one that was put together by President Obama’s team—though the output is notably different.
Former President Barack Obama’s staff secretary prepared briefing books for the president that he took home each evening, making sure to incorporate competing viewpoints.
Trump is not going to be reading books or doing homework, memos are as long as it’s getting. The new system is designed to halt the race to drop documents on Trump that reflect a single viewpoint without considering alternatives. There’s also an expectation that Trump’s executive orders will now be subject to a more thorough review.
However, Kelly’s attempt to put limitations on the memos reaching Trump’s desk and limit the speed of orders going out ignores one big problem—Trump. The source of most of Trump’s worst ideas is squarely under his giant combover, and the output that generates the most disruption comes straight from his stubby Twitter fingers.
Isolating Trump is a step toward cutting down some of the chaos in the White House, but it doesn’t address the chaos facing the nation. And Trump’s incurious nature combined with Kelly’s ability to define what he sees provides the potential for a singularly powerful chief of staff.