Instead, its management has left many in the White House frustrated, including sometimes Trump himself. This is evident from interviews with 10 current and former senior administrators and Trump advisers. Numerous White House aides said Meadow failed to protect hundreds of aides, failed to communicate much about new positive diagnoses within the complex or signal what security protocols were during a scary seven-day stretch in which the virus races to the administration . The lack of information has created suspicion and poor employee morale in a White House already known for infighting.
The weeklong route marks the cornerstone of a tumultuous six-month lead for Meadows̵
“The president is the president – you go to work there and you know who he is,” said a former senior administrator. “But if I were a middle-class employee, I’d be pretty mad at Meadows and these people. It drives me crazy, maybe they didn’t worry about anything. “
Trump wasn’t entirely happy with Meadows over the past week, either, according to two Republicans near the White House. The president and many top allies were disappointed with how Meadows undercut the doctor’s optimistic briefing at the White House outside the hospital on Saturday. Minutes after the briefing ended, Meadows attempted to anonymously inform the press that the President had gone through a “very worrying” period and was in a “critical” period of his illness.
A handful of advisors argued Meadows should be fired for providing conflicting and alarming information about the president’s health. A White House adviser defended the actions, arguing that Meadows’ comments were “misinterpreted” and referring to the president’s condition on Friday, while the doctor on Saturday referred to Trump’s status.
Then there is the question of Meadows’s own health.
He has tested negative coronavirus every day since the president’s diagnosis, a White House official said. But Meadows, senior communications assistant Dan Scavino, and top advisor Jared Kushner also spend a lot of time with Trump, who has poked fun at security protocols like wearing masks and is still in the contagious window despite his reduced symptoms. The White House adviser said access to the president was “extremely restricted” and extensive security measures had been put in place. Meadows, Scavino and Kushner, for example, “are usually in N95 and wear safety glasses around the building after interacting with the president,” added the aide.
A second White House official argued that Meadows was unlikely to get sick for adopting the N95 medical mask – a move that came after the president was hospitalized after seeing a drop in his blood oxygen levels .
If Meadows contracted the coronavirus and had to be quarantined or released, it could create an even greater leadership vacuum at a crucial political moment. A White House spokesman declined to answer questions about who would be the chief of staff if Meadows were infected. Most likely, it would go to one of Meadows’ top MPs like John Fleming, the former Louisiana congressman.
There is a historical precedent for a deputy chief of staff to temporarily take over his boss. During the Reagan presidency, Chief of Staff Howard Baker had to spend weeks away from the White House caring for his wife, who died of cancer. In his absence, Deputy Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein took over the role.
“I’m not sure if anything will change when [Meadows] suddenly got out of hand, ”said Chris Whipple, author of The Gatekeepers, a book on White House chiefs of staff, and The Spymasters, a new book about CIA directors.
Meadows, Whipple added, “was AWOL as White House chief of staff from day one,” arguing Meadows should have played a bigger role in pushing Trump to act swiftly early in the pandemic.
Meadows’ approach to the early days of the pandemic was re-scrutinized after the Atlanta Journal Constitution revealed that Meadows hosted his daughter’s wedding in Atlanta in May and defied a statewide order that allowed gatherings of over 10 people forbade at that time. There were 11 bridesmaids alone, and photos of the gathering showed the guests were sitting close together, according to the newspaper.
Now, Whipple said, Meadows should focus more on introducing new security protocols in the White House as staff “fall like flies with the virus.”
At least 11 White House employees have now contracted the disease.
The first White House official pushed that narrative back, noting that senior executives had held multiple conference calls and distributed numerous memos to keep everyone informed of the recent coronavirus outbreak.
“We have had extensive guidance and procedures for months on what to do in those situations where teleworking is preferred, teleworking is needed, testing can be done and not what safety precautions are in place,” added the officer to supervisors from various departments forward their employees.
However, a second former senior administration official said Meadows had done little to stabilize the White House’s strategy more broadly in a hectic time for the country. “It’s hard to see,” said the person.
As a former Congressman, Meadows had a reputation for being very ambitious while not always being face-to-face with his peers. White House aides are well aware of this call and are now gossiping about what other role he might want to position himself for while serving as Trump’s 24/7 aide.
A senior civil servant believes Meadows might keep an eye on the North Carolina Senate seat, which opens in 2022, when Republican Senator Richard Burr is expected to retire. The first White House advisor called the concept “ridiculous”.
“It always looks more like he took the job of going on TV and promoting the future that he sees for himself,” the person said.