President needs to empower one person to run the WH, former chief of staff says

Last Updated Apr 16, 2017 12:50 PM EDT

WASHINGTON -- Kenneth Duberstein, who served as White House chief of staff under former President Ronald Reagan, said Sunday that President Donald Trump needs to “empower one person” to be chief of staff.

“The president needs to empower one person to be the White House chief of staff and the funnel, rather than the spokes of the wheel,” he said. “The person, and it’s Reince Priebus, who has to be designated as first among equals. He is the person who may be the partner. There may be a partnership in the White House with lots of people, but he’s the senior partner.”

Duberstein spoke on a panel on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” with Denis McDonough, former White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama, and Chris Whipple, author of “The gatekeepers: How the White House chiefs of staff define every presidency.”  

Mr. Trump’s administration has at least several key players: Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon, and White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, as well as Mr. Trump’s daughter and assistant to the president, Ivanka Trump, and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, senior adviser Jared Kushner. Recent reports of White House infighting -- stemming from the conflicting political philosophies of Bannon, Priebus and Kushner -- have cast doubt on who is second-in-command. 

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Kenneth Duberstein on “Face the Nation.”

CBS News

Whipple said modern history “shows the wreckage” of presidencies that didn’t understand that, or understand the importance of having one person share bad news with the president. Former President Gerald Ford tried having multiple such “spokes of the wheel,” and realized it was a disaster after about a month, Whipple said. 

“You know, Dick Cheney once told me that you can’t -- you can’t have eight or nine guys sitting around with -- with a very tough issue that you have to take to the president ... saying, “Hey, it’s your turn to tell him.” “No, no, no, it’s your turn.” “No, no, it’s your turn to tell him,” Whipple said. “You -- somebody’s got to be the guy who goes in with a piece of bad news.”

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.