Who Will Be In Charge in a Trump White House?

As talk turns to speculation about what a Trump presidency will look like, it’s helpful to keep in mind something one of his campaign managers, Paul Manafort, said last spring. In talking about the importance of the vice-presidential pick, he forecasted:

“He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do. He seems himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”

For many of us, that confirmed a thought we’d had all along that Trump views the presidency as a vanity project more than a job. So Mike Pence will play a central role in what a Trump administration decides to do/not do.

Beyond that, I thought of the quote from Manafort when I read this little tidbit buried at the end of an article about the tensions we’ve witnessed between Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Michael Steel, former top aide to Speaker Boehner, said Ryan has an opportunity to use policy to reunite the party.

“[Trump] has only clear, strong opinions on a handful of topics,” Steel said, meaning that Ryan can largely set the agenda.

Rep. Chris Collins of New York, the first member to support Trump, said the business tycoon has said as much in the past.

Collins said Trump tells Ryan: “You drive the legislative agenda, I’ll drive the vision and we’ll work together and get this done.”

That might come as a bit of a surprise to Trump’s supporters who thought they were sending him to Washington to “drain the swamp.” It would be interesting to know if those comments have been shared with Steve Bannon – who seems to hate Paul Ryan at least as much as any Democrat.

But the real team Trump is likely to turn responsibilities over to are those he appoints to Cabinet positions. I’m not so sure that “establishment” Republicans will be knocking down many doors to serve in a Trump administration – which might be even worse news than watching someone like the wacky Sheriff David Clarke serve as Secretary of Homeland Security. But those are the kinds of bad-to-worse decisions we’re going to witness over the next couple of months that will signal to everyone just who is going to be in charge in a Trump White House.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.