Businessman Tom Barrack has been a close friend of Donald Trump’s for decades, and is now known as one of the President’s whisperers, speaking with the commander-in-chief regularly and offering his advice from the outside.
His name has been bandied about as a potential White House chief of staff — a prospect the current holder of the job, John Kelly, downplayed on Thursday, saying he wasn’t going anywhere.
Barrack is a staunch defender of Trump’s who concedes that he’s been thrown by some of Trump’s more inflammatory tweets and statements. But in an interview with CNN on Thursday, he insisted that was Trump’s point: to dislodge the political status quo in an attempt to drive forward his agenda.
“When I say sometimes that things have shocked me, it’s not unlike all of us,” Barrack told CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger in an interview on “The Situation Room.” “The President is disintermediating the establishment. That’s what he was sent there to do. He’s a revolutionary and warrior of sorts.”
It’s a sunny assessment of a President who’s been described by other friends and aides as increasingly angry, frustrated by a stalled legislative agenda and hemmed in by a strict new chief of staff.
This week, Trump has vented on Twitter about negative coverage of his government’s response to a hurricane in Puerto Rico, issuing threats against network news outlets for what he’s deemed unfair stories.
It followed a week consumed by news reports that Trump’s secretary of state Rex Tillerson had insulted the President’s intelligence to other senior US officials, a public revelation that infuriated Trump, according to multiple people familiar with his reaction.
Barrack downplayed those reports — “the President is so far above worrying about words,” he claimed — and said Trump was happier than he’d ever seen him. But he acknowledged Trump’s management style is one that can sometimes foster disputes.
“It’s a President who has managed his whole life, for the 40 years that I’ve known him, he’s been successful any everything, but he manages by conflict,” Barrack said. “What the President always did is curate points of view.”
The rapid turnover in the first nine months of Trump’s presidency — which includes the dismissal or resignation of two communications directors, one press secretary, a chief of staff and several others — is a natural progression of an administration, Barrack said.
“He had a whole series of people around him who had different points of view,” he said. “As time has gone on, they matriculated into different places.”
“You move from campaign to candidate to transition to governing and it’s different toolkits, and those warriors need different bows and arrows to utilize, and that’s the natural progression of things,” Barrack continued. “Today you have the best adults in the sandbox you’ve ever had at the White House.”