Barack Obama Tried to Warn Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on How to Handle Donald Trump

Reince Priebus (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Barack Obama knew about being an exceptional president. He also knew what type of asshole was succeeding him, so he tried to give then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus Repeat a heads-up on what his job would require.

You have to tell Donald Trump things that will “piss him off,” Obama reportedly told Priebus, according to writer Chris Whipple’s forthcoming book, The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, which was adapted in Vanity Fair.


Priebus revealed that the former president sat him down and told him that Trump didn’t need a yes man.

“Every one of these guys at different times told me something that pissed me off,” Obama told Priebus, nodding to his former chiefs, according to an excerpt from the book, Newsweek reports.

“They weren’t always right; sometimes I was. But they were right to do that because they knew they had to tell me what I needed to hear rather than what I wanted to hear,” he added.

Then, to Priebus, Obama said: “That’s the most important function of a chief of staff. Presidents need that. And I hope you will do that for President Trump.”


The book notes that others attending the meeting didn’t think that Priebus fully grasped the advice coming from the former president or the role that he’d play after Trump’s inauguration.

Newsweek reports that a Republican at the meeting said: “I caught the eye of several of the others and we exchanged worried expressions. He [Priebus] seemed much too relaxed about being able to navigate a difficult job. I think he struck a lot of us as clueless,” the excerpt continued, noting another person at the meeting added: “He was approaching the job like it was some combination of personal aide and cruise director.”


This might explain why Priebus only remained in the job from January 2017 until July 2017.

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About the author

Stephen A. Crockett Jr.

Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.