Following a week marked by damaging leaks and intense media scrutiny, rattled White House communications staffers have been told in closed-door meetings that a major purge is likely coming soon, Fox News has learned.
Many in the White House blame Chief of Staff John Kelly and Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway for failing to apologize for leaked comments made by communications aide Kelly Sadler about Sen. John McCain, four White House sources told Fox News.
Sadler was overheard talking about the Arizona Republican’s opposition to Trump’s pick to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, saying that his opinion is irrelevant because "he’s dying anyway.” The comment came during a meeting of about two dozen White House communications staffers on Thursday morning.
The 81-year-old McCain was diagnosed in July with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.
The remark led to widespread criticism after it was reported last week, but no immediate public apology from Sadler or the White House -- a blunder, according to some in the White House, that has allowed the controversy to fester for days. Sadler has called McCain's daughter, Meghan, to apologize.
The warnings about an imminent communications department purge were delivered by top officials, including Chief of Staff John Kelly and Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, Fox News has confirmed.
Junior communications staffers nervous, scared, and disheartened after hearing about the possible shakeup coming soon, sources told Fox News.
Some in the White House tell Fox News that they believe administration bigwigs like Conway are in fact some of the worst leakers, leading junior staffers in the communications department to feel the warnings of an impending purge are unfair.
The news comes as senior officials in the White House communications office have decided to cancel the large morning comms team meetings, attended by lower-ranking staffers, in an apparent effort to clamp down on links.
“Periodically, we streamline our operations to better communicate the president’s message,” Deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters said in a statement about the restructuring of the meetings.
The uncertainty and tension has led several junior staffers -- and even some top staffers -- in the communications department to look for an exit, according to White House sources. But finding good landing spots outside of the Trump White House has been difficult for some.