The White House is poised to purge lower-level staffers from its communications office, multiple sources said, following weeks of uncertainty about the future of the embattled team.
President Donald Trump has weighed in on the restructuring of an office he has increasingly rendered obsolete, a senior White House official said. Trump's involvement, as well as the input of several other senior staffers, in deciding how to thin the ranks of his communications team has delayed a reorganization effort that has been in the works for months, the senior official added.
Chief of staff John Kelly and other senior staffers had initially planned to make multiple personnel changes to the communications office simultaneously. But internal strain made the continued presence of Kelly Sadler, former director of White House surrogates, untenable in the office, and she was the only communications aide terminated on Tuesday, the senior official said.
Sadler, who generated a firestorm last month for making an imprudent comment about Republican Sen. John McCain's health, had recently feuded with Mercedes Schlapp, director of strategic communications, people familiar with the dynamic said.
Sadler's ouster has intensified the sense of uncertainty felt in recent weeks among communications aides, in part because senior staffers "have made it clear nobody is safe no matter what" in the coming shuffle, a source familiar with the situation said.
The process of identifying and shipping out communications aides in the name of operational efficiency had begun long before the Sadler firing, another source said, citing the example of the recent departure of Cliff Sims, director of White House message strategy.
Sims recently left the West Wing to take a position at the State Department, and officials said he won't be the last aide to accept a reassignment to another part of the administration.
Aides who leave are expected to play a role in smaller agencies, such as NASA or the Peace Corps, and a few are expected to join Trump's re-election effort, a source familiar with the process said. It's unclear how many lower and mid-level aides will ultimately be reassigned.