Trump's demoralized staff count down the final days

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump has lost the support of many former loyalists in his administration after a riot at the U.S. Capitol that he helped provoke, and his White House is in “meltdown” as it lurches through his final days, current and former officials said.

The White House is seen behind security fencing days after supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2021. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

While Democrats plan to introduce an article of impeachment against Trump on Monday, many White House staff members are upset and embarrassed by the turn of events, and are eager to move on. They said they have faced criticism from peers and are worried about damage to their reputations and job prospects.

Some who weighed resigning in the last few days have decided to stay on to help ensure a smooth transfer of power and, within the agencies that report to the White House, to protect against rash moves by the president or his remaining inner circle.

“He has lost us. He’s lost his own administration. As I said, many of us feel betrayed,” said one senior administration official at an agency outside the White House. “In terms of taking any direction on policy or any last minute fly-by sort of changes, I think we’re all resisting.”

Throughout the government, officials are counting down the days until Trump’s term ends on Jan. 20.

“All I’ve heard is that it’s a complete meltdown. But the President is not backing down. They’re going to double down on this,” one former White House official said.

Trump in a video on Thursday called the attack on Congress “heinous” and pledged a smooth transfer of power to the next administration. He did not concede that he lost the election, or drop his unsubstantiated claim that it was fraudulent, or mention President-elect Joe Biden by name.

Trump and his inner circle are trying to draw attention away from the siege of the Capitol and back onto his main policies in the final days of his presidency.

This week, Trump plans to visit the U.S.-Mexico border on a trip to Texas to tout his immigration policies and visit a section of the border wall he had built to stop migrants crossing into the country. He also will hold new Medal of Freedom ceremonies at the White House.

In one last policy push, Trump and his allies are fighting back against Twitter’s decision on Friday to ban the president’s personal account for inciting violence.

“There is a very good chance that we could see some additional action regarding big tech in the near future, as well as a reminder of several of the legacy policies started by President Trump that will be highlighted,” said Jason Miller, a senior adviser on Trump’s 2020 campaign.

Some in the White House see any move aimed at highlighting his perceived accomplishments as tone deaf.

“No one cares. At all,” one current White House official said. “Everyone’s … defeated and honestly just want the next two weeks to just go by.”

The mood has been further soured by the collapse in relations between Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump lambasted Pence for not finding a way to prevent Congress from certifying the election results, a power the vice president does not have. He also did not reach out to Pence to check on his safety during the riot at Congress, when Pence was evacuated along with lawmakers.

The two men are now not speaking, a striking end to their four years at the White House, where Pence had been a loyal lieutenant through multiple crises.

Pence gave a goodbye pep talk to his staff in an emotional meeting on Friday before many of them leave this week.

He cited a Bible verse that his chief of staff, Marc Short, texted him on Thursday morning after Pence formally certified Biden’s victory.

“We have fought the good fight, we have kept the faith and we finished the race,” Short said.

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