Freewheeling White House: Politico's Annie Karni
June 8, 2017
BOB SCHIEFFER: I’m Bob Schieffer.
H. ANDREW SCHWARTZ: And I’m Andrew Schwartz.
MR. SCHIEFFER: And these are conversations about the news. We are in the midst of a communications revolution. We have access to more information than any people in history. But are we more informed, or just overwhelmed by so much information we can’t process it?
MR. SCHWARTZ: These conversations are a year-long collaboration of the Bob Schieffer College of Communication at Texas Christian University and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Our guest this time is Annie Karni. She is formerly of The New York Post, The New York Daily News. She is with Politico now, covering the White House. So, what’s the difference in working with a New York tab and working for Politico?
ANNIE KARNI: Not that much, actually. Some of my colleagues at Politico joked to me that I was really going to my third tab, and that kind of Politico is to Washington what The New York Post is to New York City. And that we need to make Trump understand that a little bit. He doesn’t really read the internet, which makes him focus less on us than he does on The New York Times or The Washington Post, because they don’t use the internet and we’re only on the internet. But it really is kind of the same quick hits, nothing is too small to be a story. You know, that’s – you know, we will – something that might be a detail in a story in one of broadsheet papers will be a standalone story for us. So it’s—I think it’s very good training for Politico. A lot of former tabloid people have been very successful at Politico.
MR. SCHIEFFER: So you covered Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but this is your really first White House cover.
MS. KARNI: It is.
MR. SCHIEFFER: So you really have nothing to compare it to.
MS. KARNI: That’s true.
MR. SCHIEFFER: But Maggie Haberman of the Times, who actually worked for the Post at one point, said that while a lot of people were taken aback, for example, at Donald Trump’s first news conference, she said she and Glenn Thrush, who also comes from the New York tabloid work, said they kind of took it stride. It was like going to a Giuliani new conference or an Ed Koch news conference, when they were mayors. How did you find it?
MS. KARNI: Right. Well, I was a slightly different generation of New York reporter from those two. Like, my mayors were Bloomberg and de Blasio. Bloomberg was a pretty different character from Donald Trump. But it is, in the sense of the freewheelingness of how the Trump White House runs doesn’t seem that crazy to me. And I’ve talked to some of my colleagues at the White House who, like, have been part of the White House Correspondents Association for a long time, who have done multiple administration, who are coming off the Obama administration. And they will find changes in protocol to be, like, so jarring to them.
Like, I don’t – you know, like, I can’t believe that they didn’t do a pool spray in the morning on this event, or that they wouldn’t have had Trump make comments on top of, like, react to a terrorist attack on top of his comments here rather than here. Like, that’s just crazy. And I’m like, well, I don’t even know that’s the way it’s supposed to be done. So that doesn’t seem that crazy to me. And I think that sometimes not having the experience to know the protocols is good in this administration, because that’s not the part that is crazy about Donald Trump’s presidency. So not to get bogged down in that can be helpful.
MR. SCHIEFFER: You know, and I would go beyond that. I would say, just sometimes not knowing the protocol can be very helpful to a reporter.
MS. KARNI: Yeah. Yeah.
MR. SCHIEFFER: I can remember – (laughs) – you know, walking into rooms up at the Capitol and people would say: You’re not supposed to be here. You know, I’d say, well, I didn’t know that. (Laughs.)
MS. KARNI: Right, right. So not knowing how it’s supposed to be done, like, kind of is helpful.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Well, tell our listeners what a pool spray is.
MS. KARNI: A pool spray, I think – (laughs) – I’m not even 100 percent sure yet – it’s when Donald Trump will – for instance, he’ll be sitting down with first responders to some incident that happened that he invited to the White House. They’ll be all in the Roosevelt Room around a big table. And the media – the pool – like, so, like, a bunch of cameras and one print reporter and one – a few photographers will be brought in, take pictures. One thing that Donald Trump does differently is he usually starts talking to the – he will take a few questions during those. Usually it’s they sit there, we get our – we get our photo.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Yeah, they’re news opportunities, or can be.
MS. KARNI: He says – usually it’ll be an opportunity for him to say, you know, what a great job these first responders have done, and then we leave. But Donald Trump often will take the bait. So it is a news opportunity because if you yell at him, like, you know, why did you order the strike on Syria, he’ll answer sometimes. Or, like, do you still have faith in Jared Kushner? Like sometimes he doesn’t, but a lot of times he’ll engage. So they are news opportunities.
MR. SCHIEFFER: You know, some of those protocols that have sort of been in place, a lot of people say, well, has it always been that way? And the fact is, it hasn’t always been that way. H.R. Halderman, who was Richard Nixon’s chief of staff, I guess, really invented the modern campaign. I mean, he was the one that organized when you’d have a press plane going to someplace, he had a White House travel office that took care of the luggage and all of that. He was the one that invented the so-called photo op, which some people now call the pool spray, where photographers would come in and take a picture, but the reporters were not supposed to answer – or ask questions. The organized press briefing is organized as it has become, putting a lid on at night, which means that we’re not going to make any more news today and everybody can go home.
MR. SCHWARTZ: We’re going to have to do a whole glossary.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Yeah, so many of those practices came out of the Nixon White House. They were very good at organizing. Not very good at understanding what the Constitution required. (Laughter.) So that was that.
MS. KARNI: It’s just so much part of the process, you don’t think about someone having invented photo op.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Yeah, but it has so much to do with how we – how we get the news.
MS. KARNI: Yeah.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you this, you and your colleagues reported that Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie – Lewandowski, of course, at one point during the campaign was Donald Trump’s campaign manager. Bossie is a long-time conservative activist. Both were campaign aides. It had been expected that they might join the administration and head up some sort of a war room to handle all these questions about the Russian connection in all of that. But you’re saying now that that’s not going to happen and there’s not going to be a war room, at least for now. Tell us about that.
MS. KARNI: Yeah, it looks like those two are not going to go in. And the thinking was that, from what I understand, that Trump wasn’t totally sold on having a war room internally. And they kind of – and Bannon and company kind of realized that the whole – what they want to do with this Russia stuff is really separate it out and not have to answer questions about it. So having an internal war room kind of defeats the purpose of having a war room. They really need it to be external and to be run by the lawyers. Like, Sean Spicer wants to be able to say at the briefing when he gets a Russia question, you know, Kasowitz is handling all of that.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Kasowitz being the president’s personal lawyer.
MS. KARNI: Yeah, or, you know, we have – so-and-so is handling that. That’s outside of my purview.
MR. SCHWARTZ: And Kasowitz is in New York.
MS. KARNI: Yes. So if they have an internal war room they want to just put it somewhere else that doesn’t have to slow them down. And so I think that an internal war room was nixed as not being what –
MR. SCHIEFFER: Annie, do you think – I’m not asking you what you think – but do you think that they believe that if they just stop answering questions about this that it’ll go away?
MS. KARNI: No, I don’t think they think that. I know that the comms team doesn’t want the briefing to be taken over by these questions. They think it will – they don’t know what to say about it. They don’t want to – they just want it off their personal plate. So I think people are being – looking out for themselves a little bit. I don’t know if they – I haven’t heard anyone express an opinion about it all going away. But they just don’t want to have personal responsibility for it.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let’s bring in Andrew, the discombobulated voice who spoke up earlier. Andrew Schwartz.
MR. SCHWARTZ: (Laughs.) Well, when I hear “pool spray” it gives me flashbacks and I wanted to make sure – when I covered the White House and, you know, people would get really annoyed if there wasn’t a pool spray. So, you know, along those lines, Bob mentioned a lid before. There are rules. And you were starting to allude to, you weren’t conscious of these rules when you first came in, but the veterans of the White House Correspondents Association, they’re pretty taken aback by the change in protocol. Tell us a little bit more about that.
MS. KARNI: Well, for instance, I mean, you know, there’s pluses and minuses to not knowing. But one of – like, I’m glad to have my colleagues who do. For instance, I went on the foreign trip with Trump. And it’s unheard of that a president doesn’t give a press briefing for nine days abroad. And, you know, we paid tens of thousands of dollars at each news organization to go. And to have no access was unprecedented. I mean, it does seem crazy to me, but I didn’t – like, just – so the reporters who had done foreign trips in the past were outraged by this. And I agree, it’s not good. But I just – again, that’s something that you know how it’s done or you don’t know how it’s done.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, do you think that this has to do with ideology or policy or, in some cases, just total incompetence and a misunderstanding of how you get your story into the paper and into Politico and onto television?
MS. KARNI: I think that on the foreign trip it was a calculated strategy, because Trump – it was really bad time – moment for Trump. It was – Jared Kushner was under investigation, you know, the Comey story was huge. They needed the trip to be a break. And he had shared Israeli intelligence with the Russians. They didn’t want him to talk about anything, because he will, and then that would be have been the story from the foreign trip. So they really just didn’t want to give him the opportunity. And he actually – he made one for himself in Israel, but I think that it – this was a way of managing a president who could not afford to screw up this foreign trip.
And it’s a problem. I mean, and then – I mean, they really have a communication problem. So then he tweets and then his people come out and say: You guys pay too much attention to the tweets. But he hasn’t given an interview in over three weeks and he hasn’t done a press conference and traveled to five countries. So, you know, this is how he’s trying to get his message out. So it’s their problem of managing an unmanageable principal.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you this: I’ve heard Sean Spicer on several occasions say, when asked a tough question, well, I haven’t asked the president about that. Do you think that Sean Spicer still sees the president? Do you think the president talks to him?
MS. KARNI: I think – to some extent, I think he’s not very close to him. There’s definitely a communications department shakeup right now. You can see they’re doing fewer on-camera briefings. Sarah Sanders is doing more of them. They’re slowing trying to make Sean Spicer not the huge face of the administration that he has been. He was left out of the Vatican visit. He’s a serious hardcore Catholic. It was kind of a slap in the face. In the past, he has spent a lot of – more time with Trump than people think. He’s had private dinners with him. When guests come he spends time around him. That Oval Office is also just like Grand Central Station, like, people coming in and going off. So he can go in there all the time, but –
MR. SCHWARTZ: We’ve heard this.
MS. KARNI: But my sense recently is that he is not in the inner circle and that, it’s true, he doesn’t necessarily know exactly what’s going on with Trump.
MR. SCHIEFFER: So what do you think happens here?
MS. KARNI: I don’t think they can afford to get rid of him. I think he’ll be part of the comms department and eventually they’ll phase him out from the podium, is what I think will happen.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of talk about, you know, internecine wars in the White House. You’ve reported a lot on Jared and Ivanka. How do they figure into this? Are they on Spicer’s side? Are they on Sarah Sanders’ side? Do they want Gary Cohn to be chief of staff? I mean, and they didn’t get what they wanted, apparently, in the climate change decision.
MS. KARNI: They literally don’t think that Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders and the whole operation can deal with – they have hired their own communications person. And Ivanka Trump actually has a weekly comms meeting in her office with her people. So they’re acting like their own – like, they don’t – you don’t go to Sean Spicer for a Jared Kushner question or an Ivanka Trump questions. They have their own operation.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Really?
MS. KARNI: Yes.
MR. SCHWARTZ: How’s that work?
MS. KARNI: (Laughs.) Josh Raffel is a highly talented communications person who worked in Hollywood before, and Jared brought in. And he deals with Jared’s portfolio. So, like, Jared and Ivanka literally don’t want Sean Spicer touching their stuff.
MR. SCHIEFFER: So who speaks for Bannon?
MS. KARNI: He also –
MR. SCHIEFFER: If you were going to try to get ahold of him, would you just call him? Or is there somebody you call? I mean, I’m not asking you to reveal sources, but.
MS. KARNI: I mean, he’s – I think a lot of reporters deal with him. He’s more accessible than the shadowy, behind the scenes figure that he was portrayed as during the campaign. But I think that Kellyanne, who’s pretty more forward facing, has a good relationship with Bannon and can speak to his views. And Spicer – I mean, all these factions – I don’t know how much is real. But I mean, Spicer is really the team RNC with Reince. But then Reince and Bannon have now formed an alliance. So I don’t know. The only ones that really have their own spokesperson and their own little team is the Jared and Ivanka team.
MR. SCHWARTZ: And how’s that serving them?
MS. KARNI: They’re certainly – like, Josh is more aggressive and accessible than any other comms person in the White House. So actually dealing with them feels more like other beats I’ve covered. You know, he fights back, but, like, he’s always – he’s there to talk. But they have a really tough – I wrote a story on Friday that, you know, they lost on climate. And now they were trying to kind of say that that had never been really their focus. And I just got slammed by liberals who said: You’re letting them get out of this. There is so much anger at them, and the weird balancing act they’ve tried to play.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Because, why? Because liberals or –
MS. KARNI: Of being seen as this moderating influence.
MR. SCHWARTZ: They thought – right.
MS. KARNI: No one’s buying it anymore. Like, Democrats and liberals, if they ever were giving them a chance, kind of think, like, now we’re six months in, where’s the beef? You’re nothing but, like, making him like a nicer face on Trumpism. And then the – you know, Trump’s base thinks they’re Democrats and thinks they’re these globalists who don’t understand what Trump was about and are pushing him in the wrong direction. So they’re kind of on this island where they’re pleasing nobody right now.
MR. SCHWARTZ: So the New York crowd, which was thought to be a moderating influence, which may or not have been Democrats at one time or another themselves, they’re on an island. They’re isolated from the president. They’re isolated from – I mean, other than they’re his family, they’re isolated.
MS. KARNI: Yeah. And they tried – you know, Jared kind of tried to unseat Bannon and get rid of him. And it didn’t work. Bannon’s still there. And now Jared has his own Russia issues. So I think that what we’ll see really is – a storyline to look at is how much is Trump – is this, like, family first really true about Trump.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Is Jared going to be spending more time in Aspen?
MS. KARNI: Right. TBD. But, like, is – like, how much is Trump going to say, he’s my son-in-law, he’s not going anywhere. He’s my family.
MR. SCHIEFFER: But, I must say, maybe it’s just me, I haven’t seen a picture of Jared Kushner since –
MS. KARNI: He was at the –
MR. SCHIEFFER: He was not at the climate thing.
MS. KARNI: No, he was not at the climate thing, because they said it was Shavuot, which is Jewish holiday where you don’t work if you’re a serious Orthodox Jew, although he was in the White House working. So it’s a complicated story there.
MR. SCHWARTZ: He walked from shul.
MS. KARNI: He walked from shul. Right, you just don’t work in front of the cameras. (Laughter.) And Ivanka was home observing the holiday. He was at the – Trump’s announcement yesterday with the air traffic –
MR. SCHIEFFER: Was he?
MS. KARNI: He was there. But he certainly seems to be keeping a lower profile. Well, the trip was his big thing. He really planned the Saudi Arabia portion of the trip and the Israel portion of the trip.
MR. SCHWARTZ: So, Annie, you talk about things changing quickly in this White House. One thing that Politico reported, and you were part of the team that reported it, was that the relationship between the president and corporate America has chilled. But I get the sense that, you know, that’s this week. Maybe next week it isn’t going to be chilled, it’s going to be – it’s one pool spray away from being back on track. Tell us about that.
MS. KARNI: Well, that’s – I think the reason for that changing is different from what we’re talking about. Like, that is an example of corporate CEOs not taking principled positions, but being about their own bottom line. So after the Paris – after Trump withdrew from Paris, we saw Bob Iger and Elon Musk pull out of his advisory council, and Jeff Immelt of GE, you know, say he didn’t agree. But Jeff Immelt is still on his engineering – manufacturing council. And they will all be – whoever needs to be with him for tax reform will be back on board with him for tax reform.
For Elon Musk and for Bob Iger it probably played well with shareholders and consumers in California to give the president a slap – a major slap for making this move. So I think that’s more just strategic on the CEO’s part than, like, the dysfunction of the White House that we’ve been talking about in the past. But we did see, like, the first hundred days Trump often started the day with a pool spray where he’d have CEOs come in. And it was like a nice – actually a nice opening for him. It looked like powerful – it looked like important people were coming to see him. And they’ve cooled – they’ve stopped doing those. They told us it was because that was just for the first hundred days, but we have seen fewer CEOs, like, coming to Washington to meet with him.
We were also told there is this sense now a little bit of, given all the investigations surrounding a lot of the top aides, a little bit of fear of talking to these people because they don’t want to be drawn in. You don’t want Jared Kushner to tell you something that, like, becomes something that you are involved in –
MR. SCHWARTZ: You get subpoenaed for.
MS. KARNI: Yeah. So there’s a little chilling factor of that for people eager to talk to these guys.
Oh, someone also described it to me as like a Ponzi scheme of invites. Like, Jared Kushner is putting on this tech conference on June 19 th. Like, no one wants to be the first to say yes, so they – it’s like they have to say these people are committed, and then more people will commit.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Oh, my. (Laughter.)
MS. KARNI: But no one wants to, like – and then they like say, sure, I’m in, and then they call around to see who else is really in. So there’s, like – people are a little scared to be the first to say I’m with this administration. But I think that they’re all after the bottom line. And, like, if tax reform is good for them, they’ll be back in there.
MR. SCHWARTZ: And they don’t want to get left out, either.
MS. KARNI: Right. And, I mean, some of the CEOs – like, Trump still listens to the last person he talked to. So if he didn’t listen to them on Paris, like, it’s still worth talking to him is how some of them feel. Like, Jeff Immelt’s not going to just totally disown the president.
MR. SCHIEFFER: So what’s going to happen when Comey goes to Capitol Hill?
MS. KARNI: I’m very curious. (Chuckles.) We’ll see. How does Comey play this? What does he have? I think that people who are tuning in expecting, like, a complete takedown of the president will be disappointed is my feeling about Comey. He’s very strategic and careful.
This was supposed to be a week of counter-programming for Trump. Like, infrastructure week, this is an issue that is bipartisan, that people have wondered why didn’t he start with this because this is popular. Democrats couldn’t help but support him on this. And he’s already stepped on that all morning with crazy tweets and talking about the Muslim ban and accusing Jeff Sessions of watering it down in the second draft. So he’s like counterprogrammed the counter-programming for Comey.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All of the counter-programming, which I find interesting here, the real counter-programming seems to come from him in person.
MS. KARNI: Yeah.
MR. SCHIEFFER: I mean, they lay out a program, and then he somehow manages to change the subject and take on the mayor of London or one of these –
MS. KARNI: Yes. This has been the whole – everything that’s sort of been a huge distraction and trouble for this White House is self-inflicted. Like, people keep pointing out Trump hasn’t had to deal with an outside crisis yet. This is all just self-created.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Inside crisis.
MS. KARNI: Yeah.
MR. SCHWARTZ: It’s a lot of drama.
MS. KARNI: A lot of drama. And like this just – out of nothing.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Mayor of London doesn’t want him to come to England now over this fight that they’re having on Twitter.
MR. SCHIEFFER: So what is your impression of whether he likes this job?
MS. KARNI: I don’t think he is loving this job. I think that there are parts of it he likes. Watching him in Saudi Arabia, I think he loved that. He was literally treated like a king. I think I wrote a story that week saying he had to travel to someone else’s kingdom to finally get the, you know, respected he’s always thought he deserved. And if you do a psychological reading of Trump, it’s like he’s this outer borough guy who’s never been accepted. Even when he made it big in Manhattan, he was always viewed as a joke, and he kind of knew it. And he became the president, and still he’s not taken seriously by a lot of people. And in Saudi Arabia, he was treated literal red-carpet rollout, and he liked that. But I think that the actual job – we’ve heard him kind of say this, like things are harder than he expected them to be. It’s a harder job than he expected it to be, and I think he’s frustrated by a lot of parts of it.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Lonely.
MS. KARNI: Lonely in the White House. I mean, Melania is moving here this month. Maybe that will help. I don’t know. But it isn’t – I mean, it’s an isolating – you know this better than I do, but it’s like – it’s an incredibly isolating job for anybody. I don’t know what he does. I mean, I don’t know if the Twitter is – well, he always did the tweets, even before.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Why do you think he tweets at odd hours of the day and night? We’re sort of asking everybody in the White House press corps that.
MS. KARNI: I think he does it when he watches the shows. So he does “Fox and Friends” in the morning and whatever CNN program at night. He watches TV and tweets in response, I think. (Chuckles.)
MR. SCHWARTZ: That’s what he does.
MS. KARNI: Yeah.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Do you see sort of irregular sleep patterns? I mean, the man is 70 years old, and I still have questions. I’m older than he is, but I still have questions about somebody that age being up at all hours of the night.
MS. KARNI: I mean, older people don’t really sleep that much, right? (Laughs.)
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, I sleep better than that, I’ll tell you that. (Laughter.)
MS. KARNI: You know, anyone who runs for president and can do it has a lot of stamina. I mean, Hillary had a lot of stamina. Trump – like, it’s just a grueling process, so most people that age – most regular people that age probably wouldn’t be able to do that. So these people are driven by something that is irregular, keeps them going. (Laughs.)
MR. SCHIEFFER: I think there’s something irregular about anyone who thinks they can do the job.
MS. KARNI: Yeah, I do too. Yeah.
MR. SCHIEFFER: You know?
MS. KARNI: Yeah. It’s like the Richard Ben Cramer book “What It Takes.” Like, for Trump, it’s probably a different answer. But he still has whatever it is that drives you to think you can be and want to be the president, which most people don’t have.
MR. SCHWARTZ: And he gets up every day and puts one foot in front of the other and keeps on chugging.
MS. KARNI: Yeah. I mean, I keep – people keep asking me, like, can this go on for four years, can this go on for eight years, will he quit?
MR. SCHWARTZ: What do you think?
MS. KARNI: I don’t know how to answer that question. I mean, sometimes it feels like this level of chaos and stress cannot hold for four years. But then you think how does it end, and I don’t – I don’t see him walking away from anything.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, that’s an interesting thing you bring up, because I’ve thought about this myself. I can’t recall another president that people would say: Do you think he’ll quit?
MS. KARNI: Yeah. (Chuckles.)
MR. SCHIEFFER: Do you think he’ll finally just get mad and go home?
MS. KARNI: Right.
MR. SCHIEFFER: And, I mean, I don’t know if he will or not, but I find it interesting that we actually talk about that now.
MS. KARNI: Yeah, yeah, it is. Yeah, I’ve never – no one ever asked that about anyone else.
MR. SCHIEFFER: No. I mean, even at the end with Richard Nixon, who did quit.
MS. KARNI: Right.
MR. SCHIEFFER: I mean –
MR. SCHWARTZ: Or Bill Clinton.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Yeah.
MS. KARNI: Did anyone ask: Do you think Bill Clinton will just go home? (Laughs.)
MR. SCHIEFFER: No, I don’t recall that they did. I mean, to the contrary, I think they said he’ll do everything he can to claw and hang on by his fingernails, whatever it takes, whatever he has to say, whatever he has to admit to. But now we keep – and somebody says that to me every day. I mean, maybe I’m overemphasizing it, but somebody – I’ll run into people who say: Do you think he might quit?
MS. KARNI: Yeah. (Laughs.)
MR. SCHIEFFER: And I think it is – I think it may have just something to do with the pace of this, and I think people wonder.
MS. KARNI: I think there’s still –
MR. SCHIEFFER: I mean, and the country continued to keep running with this kind of turmoil, that we wake up every morning to something new.
MS. KARNI: Right. And also, I think that question is also driven by some, like, late – still some disbelief that he actually won, that he’s actually the president. It’s like still driven by some, like, we’ll just wake up and things will have become normal again – (laughter) – he’ll just go away. But I don’t think so. (Laughs.)
MR. SCHIEFFER: No, I agree with you.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Well, and you’re starting to see, you know, with the climate change issue, states saying, well, we’re going to – we’re going to go it alone, state of California’s going go to it alone, state of New York’s going to go it alone, state of, you know, whatever is going to make X decision outside of the federal government. We’re starting to see that. Bob mentioned loneliness, isolation. You mentioned staff dysfunction. I wonder, is it becoming too much even for a president who thrives on energy and sometimes, you know, chaos, and sometimes people arguing with each other? Is it becoming too much for him?
MS. KARNI: I mean, there’s been stories that he’s –
MR. SCHWARTZ: Or is he thriving on it?
MS. KARNI: In general, it seems to be the way he likes to run things. Like, he all the time – like, I’ve written a few stories about how there it this phenomenon that, like, wherever he goes, the gang’s always all here. Like, literally they’re always all together. And it’s driven by a sense of you don’t want to be out of the loop, a sense of he listens to the last person he talked to so you can’t afford not to literally be in his physical presence, and that when you’re not in the room he’s constantly asking people about other people – like, what do you think of Reince? What do you think of Steve? Like, he’s getting input – he likes to ask people all the time how his people are doing here and kind of always keep people a little on edge. So he seems to like – that’s just kind of the way he runs things.
But then we’ve also seen stories of him telling, like Jared and Ben, like, sit down and fix it, this can’t go on, make it better. I don’t know how much of that is like a readout that they’re trying to push –
MR. SCHWARTZ: Well, what happens when –
MS. KARNI: – that they’re trying to get things more settled or not.
MR. SCHWARTZ: His staff seems to not like that he’s tweeting so much.
MS. KARNI: Yes. No one likes it.
MR. SCHWARTZ: No one –
MS. KARNI: His lawyers don’t like it. His wife doesn’t like it.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Well, and apparently Kellyanne Conway’s husband doesn’t like it.
MS. KARNI: Yeah. (Chuckles.)
MR. SCHWARTZ: What do –
MR. SCHIEFFER: That was kind of a surprise to see that, wasn’t it?
MS. KARNI: That was a surprise, yes.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Were you surprised by that? I certainly was.
MS. KARNI: Yeah, very. Especially because it was on the same morning, where she’s sort of been keeping a low profile, that she came out and blasted the media for covering the tweets. And then her husband comments on them.
MR. SCHIEFFER: So let me ask you this. We’re talking about does Donald Trump like the job. Do you like your job?
MS. KARNI: Yes and no. (Laughs.) Mostly yes. It’s exciting to be here. I can’t picture, you know, being a political reporter and doing anything else right now. It’s fun to be at the center – we all love being at the center of the big story and to be – to be witnessing just this unprecedented administration. No, because it’s just – it just never stops, and sometimes it starts to feel like we’re – (chuckles) – we’re just in Groundhog’s Day of writing the same stories. And sometimes it’s hard to feel like what’s up and down, if anything we’re writing is actually going to stay because everyone in there changes their minds, and it’s hard to, you know – I mean, we were just talking about tweeting. It’s like we were told the lawyers are scaling him back, there’s a system now to keep him not doing it, and that’s just not bearing out to be true. So it kind of feels like you’re not – you’re being walked by the dog a little bit sometimes. (Laughter.)
But, in general, it’s pretty exciting. It’s like it’s an honor to have the job. (Laughs.)
MR. SCHIEFFER: If they – if your bosses came to you and said, well, you know, we want you to do something else, you probably would push back a little.
MS. KARNI: Exactly. We love to complain – (laughter) – and be miserable, but if it was taken away it would be even worse. (Laughs.)
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, it’s been a pleasure to have you, Annie. Annie Karni, who is White House correspondent for Politico. And really fun to talk to you.
MS. KARNI: You too. Thank you.
MR. SCHIEFFER: And wish you the very best.
MS. KARNI: Thank you. (Chuckles.)
MR. SCHIEFFER: And for Andrew Schwartz, this is Bob Schieffer. Thanks for listening.