President Donald Trump is considering overhauling his White House staff and bringing back top campaign strategists, frustrated by what he views as his team’s inability to contain the burgeoning crisis involving alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 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. As he mulls outside reinforcements to his operation, Trump returned late yesterday 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.
White House aides prepared for potential changes ahead, with the president dismayed by what he perceives to be his communication team’s failures to push back against the allegations. A rally planned Thursday in Iowa was postponed due to “an unforeseen change” in Trump’s schedule.
The latest reports in the Russia matter said Kushner spoke with Russia’s ambassador to the United States about setting up secret communications with Moscow during the presidential transition. While overseas, 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 election and his associates’ potential involvement.
More attorneys 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. “I think that was enormously helpful,” Quinn said.
Trump, according to one person familiar with his thinking, believed he was facing more of a communications problem than a legal one, despite the intensifying inquiries. The person, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss private conversations.
As he mulls new additions and outside reinforcements, Trump has entertained bringing his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and former deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, formally back into the fold. Both Lewandowski and Bossie discussed the prospect with the president before his trip, according to one person told of the conversations.
Lewandowski’s return would be a particularly notable development, given the fact that he was fired by Trump after clashing with other staff as well as Trump’s adult children. Nonetheless, Lewandowski, who led the small team that steered Trump’s primary victory, has the trust of the president, an advantage that many of Trump’s aides lack. Trump called his maiden trip abroad a “home run,” but while the White House had hoped it would serve as a reset, attention on the Russia probe has only increased.