After Helsinki, White House Staff Depressed and Ready to Bail

One side effect of President Trump’s press conference with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin was destroying the morale of his White House staff. According to a new article in POLITICO, morale inside the West Wing is extremely low following the Helsinki summit and many staffers want to quit but are afraid of a “backlash” from other party members if they do.

One Republican in Washington who is close to members of the White House staff had this to say:

“People are just depressed. Nobody wants to take on the public heat of resigning right now, but there are a bunch of people who were thinking maybe they’d leave after the midterms who are very seriously starting to consider accelerating their timetable.”

Due to their disenchantment with the president, many staffers had been planning to leave after the midterm elections in November. Now they are wondering if they can even wait that long, and many want to escape the bad environment right away.

Surprisingly, the issue that drew many young staff people to want to work in the Trump White House is morality. According to POLITICO, these staffers now feel that Trump failed morally in Helsinki, just as he did after Charlottesville, and they no longer want to be associated with him and his presidency. They say that morale has sunk to its lowest level since Charlottesville, when Trump refused to condemn neo-Nazi demonstrators. This triggered public soul-searching by Trump’s Jewish economic policy adviser Gary Cohn, who eventually left the administration.

Similarly, the Helsinki fiasco has raised questions for those who view Russia as a serious adversary. They are asking themselves how they can continue to work for a president who has now publicly supported and even befriended a brutal dictator like Vladimir Putin.

To Trump’s critics, Republicans as well as Democrats, both Charlottesville and Helsinki illustrate Trump’s abdication of the “moral leadership” which is expected for a President of the United States. Other presidents always aspired to such leadership, even when they have failed to achieve it.

According to presidential historian Allan Lichtman, wanting to do good and being part of a moral administration is often a driving force for those who seek jobs in Washington. “Moral leadership is critically important for the president, It sets the tone not only for the nation but for the entire world because the president is the leader of the free world,” Lichtman said.

But Trump has rejected that tradition and has not promoted the view that America is a moral country or that he has to be a moral leader. He used his inaugural address to describe “American carnage” and has repeatedly expressed his view that America is not “a beacon for the world.”

In a February 2017 interview with Bill O’Reilly on Fox News Trump refused to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin’s suppression of the free press. “There are a lot of killers,” Trump said. “You think our country’s so innocent?”

The final straw for many may have been when Trump gave equal weight to the findings of American intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the U.S. 2016 election and to Putin’s denial that he had meddled in U.S. elections. Instead of backing up his own intelligence services Trump said, after acknowledging that Russia might be partially responsible, “Could be other people also, there’s a lot of people out there.”

According to historian Lichtman, people want an American president to not only be moral but to also inspire the country through their uplifting words.

“You cannot understate the importance of these moral moments, going back to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural,” Lichtman said. “We are still inspired by Lincoln’s words. Is anyone inspired by anything Donald Trump has ever said, ever?”