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The White House on Monday. Earlier in the day, President Trump told his communications staff they needed to “get on the same page,” according to a person briefed on the meeting. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The disclosure that President Trump divulged classified intelligence to two high-ranking Russian officials was a new blow to an already dispirited and besieged White House staff still recovering from the uproar and recriminations from the president’s firing of James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director.

Mr. Trump’s appetite for chaos, coupled with his disregard for the self-protective conventions of the presidency, have left his staff confused and squabbling. And his own mood, according to two advisers who spoke on the condition of anonymity, has become sour and dark, turning against most of his aides — even his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — and describing them in a fury as “incompetent,” according to one of those advisers.

Even before the latest bombshell dropped, reports swirled in the White House that the president was about to embark on a major shake-up, probably starting with the dismissal or reassignment of Sean Spicer, the press secretary.

Mr. Trump’s rattled staff kept close tabs on a meeting early Monday in which the president summoned Mr. Spicer; the deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders; and the communications director, Michael Dubke, to lecture them on the need “to get on the same page,” according to a person briefed on the meeting. Even as Mr. Trump reassured advisers like Mr. Spicer that their jobs were safe at the morning meeting, he told other advisers he knew he needed to make big changes but did not know which direction to go in, or whom to select.

Later, reporters could hear senior aides shouting from behind closed doors as they discussed a defense after Washington Post reporters informed them of an article they were writing that first reported the news about the president’s divulging of intelligence.

They realized that selecting such a high official would in some ways validate the story, but they wanted to establish a credible witness account exonerating the president from wrongdoing — before the barrage of Twitter posts they knew would be coming from Mr. Trump on Tuesday morning.

The White House counsel’s office worked with the Army general on framing language, producing a clipped sound bite: “The story that came out tonight as reported is false.”

As he was working on his statement, General McMaster — a former combat commander who appeared uncomfortable in a civilian suit and black-framed glasses — nearly ran into reporters staking out Mr. Spicer’s office.

“This is the last place in the world I wanted to be,” he said, perhaps in jest.

Continue reading here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/us/white-house-staff.html