Our Pledge To You


SWEET: Rahm Emanuel says White House drama is ‘undermining Trump’

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, standing, meets with members of the Illinois congressional delegation. Seated, left to right are Democratic Representatives Robin Kelly and Mike Quigley, Republican Rep. Darin LaHood, and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi. | Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

WASHINGTON — Mayor Rahm Emanuel, here on Thursday for meetings — I’ll detail later — as the first chief of staff for former President Barack Obama has a unique perch to comment on the growing chaos in the Trump White House.

I talked with Emanuel as the new leak-obsessed White House Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, is stepping up his wildly bizarre public drive to oust Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and diminish Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.

Scaramucci phoned the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza and, in a stunning on the record use of outrageous obscenities, said that “Reince is a f—— paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” adding later in the interview, posted on Thursday, “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to s— my own c—.”

Meanwhile, over at the White House at Thursday’s briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn’t say if President Donald Trump had confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to humiliate him in public.

“Unlike previous administration, this isn’t groupthink. We all come and have a chance to voice those ideas, voice those perspectives, and have a lot of healthy competition. And with that competition you usually get the best results. The President likes that type of competition and encourages it,” Sanders said.

With that in mind, I asked Emanuel what he made of Trump allowing Priebus to undergo the sustained public flogging.


The cable shows are eating up the Trump White House circus — which overshadowed, Emanuel noted, the coverage of Trump announcing from the White House on Wednesday that Foxconn, the giant electronics maker, will construct a factory in southeastern Wisconsin, not far from the Illinois border — in all a $10 billion investment to create at least 3,000 jobs in the beginning.

“How many people are talking about that? All this drama is undermining Trump. . . . I don’t think the drama, somewhat initiated by the president, is helping,” Emanuel told me.

Landing Foxconn “should have been a celebration. Right now it’s about the drama of whether you have confidence in the Chief-of-Staff. . . . It’s more than a distraction,” Emanuel said.

What should a chief of staff be?

“A person with the authority and capability to do the job where people ought to know if he or she says ‘X,’ they are speaking” for what the president wants, he said.

When Emanuel was chief of staff, “I couldn’t do my job and help the president move his agenda if people thought there was a gulf between him and me. And he and I would never do that.”


On the daytrip, Emanuel met for the first time with Trump’s Labor Secretary Alex Acosta to discuss community colleges, cybersecurity training and potential funding sources for city programs — and also worked on a Defense Department grant.

Emanuel is operating in D.C. in a vastly different environment than when he started in City Hall, fresh from the White House where he personally knew all the cabinet secretaries.

Acosta is the fifth Trump cabinet member Emanuel has huddled with, previously meeting with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Sessions, HUD chief Ben Carson and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Said Emanuel, “It’s different, but not totally different. . . . “It’s not so different that it is not functional. You are the mayor of the third-largest city.”


Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., holds a regular Illinois delegation lunch, and Emanuel was the guest Thursday, when he briefed on the implications of the Trump agenda on education, transportation and immigration — and Springfield dysfunction.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and seven of the 11 Democratic House members attended. Only one of the seven Republicans from Illinois, Rep. Darin LaHood, was at the table.

This is not a reflection at all on Emanuel — Illinois House Republicans have been declining to make this a bipartisan event for some time.

“It’s disappointing,” said Durbin. “There was a time when it was a tradition.”

Emanuel is a frequent D.C. visitor. He was last here on June 20, and his Thursday swing served to highlight how Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, has not done a delegation meeting since being sworn-in. He did come briefly to the Capitol after his election in 2014.

Rauner does not even try to lobby his fellow Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress, to advance Illinois issues and causes.

“We’ve never seen the governor here in this capacity,” said Durbin. “We’re glad to see the mayor.”


Emanuel, a former House member who led Democrats to a majority in 2006, huddled with House Democratic leaders, first with the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, where Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., is one of the three co-chairs, and then with the Democratic House Whip meeting.