Team of Vipers
Cliff Sims

by

Karim Chandra

Chapter 6
Summary

The entry of Jeff Sessions breathed new life at the White House. When officials gathered to witness the swearing-in of Sessions as the new Attorney General, there was a general feeling that he was the right man for the job. In fact, many believed he was a patriot who deserved his appointment. Sims notes, ““He’s a man of integrity, a man of principle, and a man of total, utter resolve,” Trump continued. “Jeff understands that the job of the Attorney General is to serve and protect the people of the United States, and that is exactly what he will do, and do better than anyone else can..”” Evidently, Trump knew how to get the right people for the right jobs. Everyone admired the accomplishments of Sessions, and the support he received was massive. His impact on Trump would be felt in two weeks, after his swearing-in, when President Trump made a joint address to the Congress. While the words were Trump’s, the ideas behind them had long been Sessions’. He railed against “drugs pouring into the country”, pledged to “restore integrity and the rule of law at our borders”, and he called on the Department of Justice to crack down on violent crime and “criminal cartels”.

The Russian connection soon sets in — and, unfortunately, Sessions is the immediate target. Sims writes, “Sessions had come under fire over revelations that he had twice interacted with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign. This led to accusations that he had made false statements during his confirmation hearings.” Such allegations really hurt the President, and it is worthy to note that since the campaign period, there were rumors about how the Russians had infiltrated the country and were helping Trump to win the elections. So whenever the media kept pushing this narrative, Trump was incredibly worried; he would become upset and his mood would change, affecting his relationship with his officials. Sims appreciates that while Sessions had worked with most of the senators, and that they knew him as a man of integrity, it was surprising that they wanted to drag his name through the mud and bring him down.

“Everything was personal to Trump—everything. In international affairs, he believed his personal relationship with foreign leaders was more important than shared interests or geopolitics. With his staff, having a personal rapport was more important to him than whether they shared his worldview, or whether they were even good at their jobs.” While it is important for leaders to have healthy relationships with their juniors, that must not be done at the expense of objectivity. What Trump wanted from his staff was rapport, which would was always be preceded by loyalty. Trump craved loyalty and he always wanted to do anything which would enhance this craving.

Sims mentions that it was not long before Trump and Sessions started reading from the same script. The point of departure started when Trump believed that Sessions’ answers to questions, regarding his interaction with the Russians, amounted to throwing him under the bus: “Then I thought about Trump’s anger. I heard his voice screaming in my head—“I never would have appointed him in the first place!” How did we get here so quickly? Later that night the President tweeted, “Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional.” It appears that the Russian story was a nerve which Trump wanted to protect as much as possible — and it is on this matter where he disagreed with the approach Sessions had taken to respond to the issue.

Analysis

It is becoming increasingly obvious that Trump’s management style is hurting his relationship with the various officials that surround him. He is angry at the approach that his new Attorney General has taken to respond to the accusation of collusion with the Russians. Although Sessions acted in a way in which he thought it would be beneficial to the country, Trump did not share that sentiment. Another emerging problem is that of the internal communication system within the team, which was poor. It was unfortunate that the White House staffers received breaking news concerning them at the very same time as when the media was receiving theirs: “The vast majority of the White House staff often learned about “breaking news” at the same time as the rest of the country. This is one of the main reasons why breathless reports about “the mood” in the White House should always be taken with a grain of salt; the experience is dramatically different for various aides.” The extent to which Trump’s leadership was affecting the White House Staffers was amazing. By sowing seeds of discord and unease in the administration, it would be difficult to deliver the required standards in these instances.

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