What Barack Obama Told Reince Priebus on How to Handle Donald Trump

Obama and Trump inauguration
Former President Barack Obama, right, congratulates President Donald Trump after he took the oath of office on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama handed Reince Priebus some advice on dealing with POTUS before he took the job: You will have to tell Donald Trump things that "piss him off."

In an exchange detailed by writer Chris Whipple for a forthcoming book titled The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, adapted in Vanity Fair, Priebus revealed Obama sat him down and suggested the one thing a president did not need was a yes man.

At a meeting between incoming chief of staff Priebus and former chiefs following Donald Trump's election victory, Obama came into the room to give Priebus a quick talk.

"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.

"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.

Directing his comments toward Priebus, he added: "That's the most important function of a chief of staff. Presidents need that. And I hope you will do that for President Trump."

According to the book, others in attendance at the meeting later expressed their concerns that Priebus did not fully grasp the role he would play after Trump's inauguration.

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."