In my inaugural rankings of the four most powerful advisers to President Trump last week, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus finished dead last. Priebus was under fire for the chaos surrounding the president and his policies, and there was open speculation not only that he might be fired but also about who might replace him.
What a difference a week makes in Trumpworld!
Below are my rankings of the most — and least — powerful members of the Trump Big Four. As I noted last week, these rankings are the result of a carefully crafted algorithm — so, yes, this is my personal assessment based on a reading of White House tea leaves that includes what Trump has said about each, their influence on his policy (and tweets), their TV appearances and the media coverage of them.
Don't agree? There's always next week! To the White House Power Rankings!
Started from the bottom, now we here!
The past five or so days have been the quietest stretch since Trump was sworn in on Jan. 20. Trump's tweets — since Friday night — haven't been major newsmakers. His pick of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, which was announced over the long weekend, has been a smashing success. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is winning plaudits from across the political spectrum. And White House press secretary Sean Spicer, a Priebus guy with whom Trump has been less than pleased to date, appears to, maybe, be getting his sea legs in the job. Priebus will never turn Trump into an orthodox politician, but the chief of staff does appear to have reasserted control over the White House — for the moment. (Previous ranking: 4)
Bannon remains a hugely powerful force in Trump's orbit, as evidenced by Trump's unwillingness to walk away from the travel ban. And Trump's recent rhetoric about the media as “enemy” of the public is right out of the Bannon/Breitbart playbook. But Bannon's connection to Breitbart hurt him this week, as tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos's comments apparently praising pedophilia forced him to resign from the conservative news site. And the White House opened the door to the possibility that Bannon might be removed from the National Security Council when Spicer allowed on Monday that if McMaster wanted it to happen, the president would take that “under serious consideration." (Previous ranking: 1)
Conway's loose affiliation with the truth in TV interviews has come back to bite her in a big way. Her blacklisting from “Morning Joe” and tenuous relationship with CNN made national news over the last week. And if these organizations follow through on their threats about Conway, it takes a major part of her appeal to Trump — her ability as a TV surrogate — off the table. (A report late Wednesday via CNN said that Conway had been banned from doing TV at all.) Conway has also become the latest target of fodder for late-night talk show hosts, taking that title from Spicer. And everyone knows Trump doesn't like people laughing at him or his people. (Previous ranking: 2)
Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, continues to feel like the odd man out of the Big Four. Some of that is because he is regularly eclipsed by his wife, Ivanka Trump, who seems to be at her father's side at every major moment of his presidency to date. When Kushner does make news, it's the bad kind. This Wall Street Journal piece about his complaints about on-air talent to the CNN brass doesn't make him look good. At all. (Previous ranking: 3)