WASHINGTON — Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse said Sunday that the "drama" emanating from President Donald Trump's White House is creating "too much drama" and is "distracting" the country from more serious issues.
"I don't have any desire to beat this president up, but it's pretty clear that this White House is a reality-show, soap-opera presidency," Sasse told NBC's "Meet the Press," running through a list of the more salacious reports that have put the White House on the defensive in recent months, including a slew of anonymous accounts detailing dissent and subversion in the administration.
"What you'd like is the president to not worry so much about the short-term of staffing but the long-term of vision-casting for America, pull us together as a people, help us deliberate about where we should go and then build a team of great, big-cause, low-ego people around you. Right now it feels like there's just way too much drama every day and that distracts us from the longer-term stuff we should be focused on together."
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Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Nebraska)
Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Nebraska)
Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) questions Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 18: Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., talk as Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Full committee hearing on 'Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice' on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 10: Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., listens as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies during the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee joint hearing on 'Facebook, Social Media Privacy, and the Use and Abuse of Data'on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 25: Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., helps his daughter Alexandra, 14, with algebra homework during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled 'Global Challenges and U.S. National Security Strategy,' featuring testimony by former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, on January 25, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 528 -- Pictured: (l-r) Senator Ben Sasse during an interview with host Seth Meyers on May 15, 2017 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 13: Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., right, and Ben Sasse, R-Neb., arrive for a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing titled 'The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress,' featuring testimony by Fed Chair Janet Yellen in Dirksen Building on July 13, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 12: Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., listens as Secretary of Defense nominee James Mattis testifies during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 07: Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch (L), walks with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) at the Capitol Hill February 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump nominated Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court to fill the seat that had left vacant with the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 8: Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, attend a Senate Judiciary Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee hearing in Dirksen Building titled 'Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election,' featuring testimony by former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on May 8, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
US Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, speaks during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) 2016 at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, outside Washington, March 3, 2016.
Republican activists, organizers and voters gather for the Conservative Political Action Conference at a critical moment for the Republican Party as Donald Trump marches towards the presidential nomination and GOP stalwarts consider whether -- or how -- to stop him. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) asks a question as former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testifies about potential Russian interference in the presidential election before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., U.S. May 8, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) (L) is ceremonially sworn in by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden with Sasse's wife Melissa Sasse, son Augustin Sasse and daughter Elizabeth Sasse in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol January 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. The 114th Congress convened on Tuesday, restoring control of both the House and Senate to the Republicans for the first time in eight years. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 07: Ben Sasse, republican congressional candidate from Nebraska, is interviewed by Roll Call. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 13: Freshman GOP Senators pose for a group photo with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., in front of the Ohio Clock in the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. From left are Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., David Perdue, R-Ga., Michael Rounds, R-S.D., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Steve Daines, R-Mont., Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Dan Sullivan, R-AK, Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Bill Cassidy, R-La., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and James Lankford, R-Okla. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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Sasse's comments come days after the publication of an anonymous op-ed from a senior Trump administration official in the New York Times that describes officials "working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations."
The op-ed has roiled Washington and the White House, sparking a city-wide guessing game as to the author's identity.
The timing of the op-ed compounded its effect, as its central tenet — that Trump is losing control of his White House to top aides who see their role as protecting the president, and the country, from his impulses — is strikingly similar to reports in a new book by The Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward to be published this week.
Sasse said that all the noise reflects a broken process. "One adviser shouldn't be substituting his or her wisdom for the president's," he said. "There should be a process by which the president gets some counseling and it feels like neither of those things are happening in the right way right now."
In excerpts released ahead of publication, Woodward writes of a White House filled with aides looking to protect Trump, and the country, from the president's "most impulsive and dangerous orders."
That description worried Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate Minority Whip, who laid the responsibility for a check on Trump at the feet of Republicans in Congress.
"This is a matter of great seriousness and gravity, we should not be dismissing this," he said on "Meet the Press," lamenting the "consistent reporting over and over again of unpredictable, unprepared, unstable behavior by this president."
"These are things that I think should be addressed by his own party, but instead we hear the silence of the lambs," Durbin added.
The president and his top aides have also sought to discredit the central allegations of The Washington Post reporter's book as well, with Trump calling it a "scam."
Many cabinet members and top aides denied authorship of the op-ed as frustration inside the White House mounted. The president's aides and allies described Trump's mood to NBC News as "volcanic" in the hours after the op-ed's release, and Trump has taken to Twitter to describe the author as "gutless" and called on his Justice Department to investigate during a gaggle with reporters.
It's that reaction by Trump, that raised questions for Sasse about the op-ed's motivation.
"I don't understand the morality of the action, frankly. I don't know why you would do it. If you are worried the president is too impulsive and paranoid, how could this op-ed do anything other than drive more paranoia?" he asked.
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway Sunday dismissed the reports by arguing that the anonymous sources should come forward if they had "courage."
And Conway said all the intrigue surrounding reports are just a distraction from the president's successes.
"You can't deny — and even somebody's poison pen, an anonymous op-ed, or the vitriol spewn all day long on some stations — can't really touch the corners all across the country, Chuck, where people are feeling the economic boom, where they feel safer and more prosperous," Conway told NBC's Chuck Todd.
"He has given voice and visibility to folks who felt invisible and forgotten, they are better off because of his policies."