In his book, Team of Vipers, the former White House aide Cliff Sims wrote that he once overheard a conversation between Miller and the president. Walking outside the White House together, Miller told Trump that his poll numbers would be even higher if Bannon would just stop leaking to the press. Knife stuck inside the unsuspecting Bannon, Miller “twisted it with relish,” Sims wrote.
Bannon was gone after seven months.
“There’s a reason Miller outlasted so many in the West Wing,” Sims wrote.
No one risks getting fired for being too effusive in praise of Trump. A few who took a more jaundiced view are out. Former White House Counsel Don McGahn privately referred to Trump as “King Kong,” people familiar with the matter said. Ex–Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron.”
Perhaps the most obsequious of all the president’s men and women is his No. 2, present and past White House staff members say.
Read: God’s plan for Mike Pence
In public, Vice President Mike Pence has likened Trump to towering historical figures. “From King David’s time to our own, President Trump has now etched his name into the ineffaceable story of Jerusalem,” Pence said in a speech last year at the Israeli embassy in Washington.
Behind closed doors he is no less gushing, taking pains to ensure that Trump has no cause to turn on him, people familiar with the matter said. “I’d like my wife to look at me just for one day the way Mike Pence looks at President Trump every day they’re together. That would be special,” Kenneth Adelman, an official in Reagan’s administration, told me.
Under the Constitution, Trump can’t fire Pence. Yet he could rid himself of the vice president by dropping him from the 2020 ticket. Or he could use his Twitter feed to marginalize and humiliate Pence. That’s been known to happen. But Pence never seems to run afoul of Trump. Some of it may be his hardwiring: He has an innate deference to power, people who have worked with him say.
“Submit yourselves to the authorities placed above you,” Pence told graduates at the Coast Guard Academy commencement ceremony last year. “Trust your superiors.”
His superior seems pleased. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer and confidant, told me that the president once said to him that making Pence his running mate was “probably the best choice I made—and I made a few bad ones.”
Pence rarely disagrees with Trump in staff meetings, a practice that has irritated some White House aides who wish he’d take a bolder stand. Cohn might have found himself among them. Working in his West Wing office in the summer of 2017, Cohn looked up to find an unexpected visitor at his door: the vice president.
Both men had just been in a tense meeting in the Oval Office, during which Cohn told Trump that he might have to quit coming off a news conference in which the president said there were “some very fine people” among the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia.