The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump’s new chief of staff plans to restrict the president’s media diet. Others have tried and failed.

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and President Trump. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Maybe John F. Kelly can actually do it. If so, he will be the first.

Politico reports that the new White House chief of staff plans to restrict the flow of information to President Trump — including news media reports — in the hope of keeping the boss on a more even keel. Here's a bit from reporter Josh Dawsey:

When new White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly huddled with senior staff on his first day at work, he outlined a key problem in President Donald Trump’s White House that he planned to fix: bad information getting into the president’s hands.
Kelly told the staff that information needed to flow through him — whether on paper or in briefings — because the president would make better decisions if given good information.

Kelly's diagnosis makes perfect sense, but others have tried and failed to tame Trump by monitoring his media diet.

Trump's TV habit: How a cable news diet leads to tweet after tweet (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

“If candidate Trump was upset about unfair coverage, it was productive to show him that he was getting fair coverage from outlets that were persuadable,” Sam Nunberg, a former campaign adviser, told Politico in February.

Politico's Tara Palmeri wrote at the time that “the key to keeping Trump’s Twitter habit under control, according to six former campaign officials, is to ensure that his personal media consumption includes a steady stream of praise.”

Okay. But the idea that Trump's Twitter habit has ever been “under control” is laughable. Maybe these campaign officials know something the rest of us don't — that Trump's tweets would have been even more inflammatory if not for their interventions.

We'll probably never know about tweets that Trump didn't send. If his staffers managed to him out of trouble even a few times, then their efforts were worthwhile. But no one has been able to consistently prevent Trump from stirring up controversy.

Part of the problem is that in a White House composed of competing factions, people invariably try to advance their agendas by presenting Trump with material — which may or may not be reliable — that promotes their worldviews.

Politico — all over this story — reported in May on advisers' penchants for strategically feeding dubious information to the president. This was one example, described by reporter Shane Goldmacher:

Current and former Trump officials say Trump can react volcanically to negative press clips, especially those with damaging leaks, becoming engrossed in finding out where they originated.
That is what happened in late February when someone mischievously gave the president a printed copy of an article from, the website of Internet provocateur Charles C. Johnson, which accused deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh of being “the source behind a bunch of leaks” in the White House.
No matter that Johnson had been permanently banned from Twitter for harassment or that he offered no concrete evidence or that he had lobbed false accusations in the past and recanted them. Trump read the article and began asking staff about Walsh.

Goldmacher added that then-chief of staff Reince Priebus and White House staff secretary Rob Porter “have tried to implement a system to manage and document the paperwork Trump receives.” How'd that work out?

Kelly is trying to do the same thing, three months later. Perhaps he will prove a more effective manager than Priebus, but Trump is still his impulsive self, and his aides are still vying for influence. Those immutable factors will make Kelly's mission very difficult.