Donald Trump

Although the president insists former aide Cliff Sims — an Alabama native who previously worked on the Trump 2016 campaign – was never in his inner circle, he “feels duped by a guy who he trusted,” said a person close to the White House. | Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

White House

President Donald Trump is dismissing Cliff Sims as “the videographer” as former colleagues see the “Team of Vipers” author as a traitor.

President Donald Trump is “very pissed off” and “really hopping mad” at former aide Cliff Sims’ new book that reveals firsthand the chaos and infighting that is ever present in his White House, according to several current and former White House officials.

Trump is asking aides: “Who is this guy? Why is he writing this book? He wasn’t even in meetings,” the sources said. He also dismissively refers to Sims — who served until last May as director of White House message strategy and a special assistant to the president —as “the videographer” because he also helped Trump with the weekly video and radio addresses, according to three current and former White House officials.

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Sims’ tell-all book, “Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House,” will be published Tuesday. Advance excerpts and leaks have revealed embarrassing anecdotes about Trump and damning portraits of several top White House aides.

One former senior White House said Sims has managed to do the impossible: unite an infamously fractious world of Trump advisers and associates.

“Basically every warring faction has come together,” to push back against Sims, said a former senior White House official. “You wouldn’t believe the text chains. The best part is the president is sort of chomping at the bit to tap this guy and tweet something to the effect of, “I didn’t know who this guy was. He taped videos.’”

Some Trump advisers have urged him not to lash out at Sims that way. Their message to Trump, said a White House official, is: “‘It’s beneath you. You barely remember him. Go run the world.’”

But it is unclear how the impulsive Trump might react after the kickoff of Sims’ official media tour, which began early Monday with an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “The View.” Sims is also slated to appear on CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” tonight.

Although Trump insists Sims — an Alabama native who previously worked on the Trump 2016 campaign – was never in his inner circle, he “feels duped by a guy who he trusted,” said a person close to the White House.

In the book, Sims described how he worked with Trump to create what Sims calls an “enemies list” of suspected leakers. Sims “creates a list of leakers which turns out to be the people he doesn’t like, and the guy who makes the list turns out to be the million-dollar leaker.” A person familiar with the matter confirmed that Sims had received a seven-figure advance for the book, a fact that the New York Times first reported in November.

The person also noted that: “The president’s been warned about lots of hires that shouldn’t have happened, and he’s still hired them.”

The White House had no public complaint when Sims departed last year. In a statement to an Alabama news outlet, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said: “Cliff Sims was a valuable member of President Trump’s team on the campaign and for 15 months in the White House. I worked with him on both and he is talented, smart, and worked hard for the President. We hated to see him resign from the White House, but know he will continue to be a loyal supporter for the President and impactful for him in the future.”

But now Sims’ book has united many former and current White House officials in casting out Sims from Trump-world.

The former official said that Sims often attended White House meetings uninvited, and that his former colleagues now believe he was in effect covertly reporting on them for a future book.

Sims and the White House both declined to comment.

Sims’ friends inside and outside the White House responded to the mounting criticism of him by saying it comes from people “panicking” over how the books portrays them and “protecting themselves,” as one senior current White House official put it.

Sims was “with the president quite often alone” and played an important role on the messaging for a 2017 tax reform bill, said the official.

“The president’s close relationship with Sims wasn’t a secret to anyone in the building,” another former administration official added.

Some of Sims’ critics say they have distrusted him since the administration’s early days. During Trump’s first year in office, Trump’s then- chief of staff, Reince Priebus, had to “drag” Sims up to the White House counsel’s office after he was suspected of leaking, according to a current White House official and a person close to the White House.

Mike Dubke, who was then White House communications director, considered firing Sims in March 2017 over one particularly egregious leak, but held off because he wasn’t certain that Sims was the culprit and didn’t want to ruin his career.

After leaving the White House last May, Sims hoped to take a job as a senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But he writes in the book that Trump’s then-chief of staff, John Kelly, blocked the move.

A current White House official said that Sims, like many other White House aides, signed a non-disclosure agreement, and the former senior White House official said that officials are wondering whether he might be subject to legal action.

“Taking notes in secure meetings and reporting on them is a violation of both,” this person said. “There are folks in the White House who are saying: do we have legal recourse?”

But pursuing legal action against Sims would come with a major drawback: It would generate massive amounts of free publicity for his book, amplifying his disclosures and potentially boosting his sales dramatically.

A current White House official expressed exasperation over the latest in a succession of former top Trump aides seen as having betrayed their former colleagues and the president after leaving the White House — only to be rewarded with varying degrees of fame, profit and celebratory media coverage.

“People can’t fall in love with Omarosa and Michael Cohen because now they’re against Donald Trump. It’s just not right,” said the official, referring to former White House aide Omarosa Manigault, who published her own tell-all memoir last year, and Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller.

“It’s the Michael Cohen syndrome. Nobody took this guy seriously, everybody laughed at him,” said the official. “Now he’s turning on Donald Trump, he’s a hero.”

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https://www.politico.com/story/2019/01/28/trump-cliff-sims-white-house-book-1128704

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