Saturday 24 February 2018

Trump considers major overhaul of White House staff as crisis continues to escalate

Fire-fighting: Donald Trump. Photo: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
Fire-fighting: Donald Trump. Photo: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Jill Colvin

President Donald Trump is considering overhauling his White House staff and bringing back top campaign strategists, frustrated by his team's inability to contain the crisis involving Russian meddling in the election.

Expanding teams of lawyers and experienced public relations hands are being recruited to deal with the drumbeat of new revelations about Moscow's interference and possible improper dealings with the Trump campaign and associates. The disclosures dogged the president during his first trip abroad since taking office and threaten to overwhelm and stall the agenda for his young administration.

Mr Trump returned at the weekend from his nine-day journey to a White House seemingly in crisis mode, with a barrage of reports hitting close to the Oval Office and involving Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and influential adviser.

A rally planned for Thursday in Iowa was postponed due to "an unforeseen change" in Mr Trump's schedule.

Yesterday, he sought to downplay recent news reports portraying his administration in disarray, calling it "fake news" on Twitter. In a flurry of angry tweets, Mr Trump said that "many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies".

He added that it is "very possible that those sources don't exist but are made up by fake news writers."

The latest reports in the Russia matter said Mr Kushner spoke with Russia's ambassador to the US about setting up secret communications with Moscow during the presidential transition.

While overseas, Mr Trump's longtime lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, joined a still-forming legal team to help the president shoulder the intensifying investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election and his associates' potential involvement.

More lawyers with deep experience in Washington investigations are expected to be added, along with crisis communication experts, to help the White House in the weeks ahead.

"They need to quarantine this stuff and put the investigations in a separate communications operation," said Jack Quinn, who served as White House counsel for President Bill Clinton.

During the Monica Lewinsky investigation, the Clinton White House brought on a dedicated group of lawyers and a created a separate media operation to handle investigation-related inquiries so they didn't completely subsume the president's agenda.

Mr Trump believes he is facing more of a communications problem than a legal one, despite the intensifying inquiries.

The president has considered bringing his disgraced former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and former deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, formally back into the fold.

Mr Lewandowski's return would be a particularly notable development, given the fact that he was fired by Mr Trump after clashing with staff and Mr Trump's adult children. Mr Lewandowski was sacked after assaulting a reporter.

Irish Independent

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