Trump still hunt­ing for com­mu­ni­ca­tions chief

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

For the third time in six months, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is on the hunt for a new com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor. But in prac­tice, the job is filled. It’s Trump who’s the White House’s lead­ing ex­pert and the fi­nal word on what and how he com­mu­ni­cates with the pub­lic. De­spite de­cry­ing most neg­a­tive me­dia cov­er­age as “fake news” and per­son­ally in­sult­ing mem­bers of the me­dia, he has in­serted him­self into the White House’s press op­er­a­tions in an un­prece­dented fash­ion for a pres­i­dent.

Trump has dic­tated news re­leases and pushed those who speak for him to bend the facts to bol­ster his claims. He has ig­nored the ad­vice of his le­gal team and thrown out care­fully planned leg­isla­tive strate­gies with a sin­gle 140-char­ac­ter tweet. His di­rect, hands-on style helped him win the White House and still thrills his sup­port­ers. It also, how­ever, poses in­creas­ing po­lit­i­cal and po­ten­tially le­gal risks. The clear­est ex­am­ple is his in­volve­ment in craft­ing a state­ment for son Don­ald Jr. about a meet­ing with a Krem­lin-con­nected lawyer. That dec­la­ra­tion was quickly proven er­ro­neous and raised ques­tions about whether the pres­i­dent was try­ing to cover for his son.

Trump has strug­gled to find a com­mu­ni­ca­tions ad­viser that meets his ap­proval. His first, Mike Dubke, stayed be­hind the scenes and never clicked with Trump, leav­ing af­ter three months. Then Sean Spicer, Trump’s oft-be­lea­guered press sec­re­tary, took on the com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor job as well. He re­signed both posts last month when Trump brought in hard-charg­ing New York fi­nancier An­thony Scara­mucci. Scara­mucci lasted only 11 days be­fore be­ing fired in the af­ter­math of an ex­ple­tive-filled in­ter­view. A fourth can­di­date for the post, cam­paign spokesman Ja­son Miller, was named to the job dur­ing the tran­si­tion but turned it down days later, cit­ing a need to spend time with his fam­ily.

More re­cently there have been some in­for­mal in­ter­nal con­ver­sa­tions about an in­creased com­mu­ni­ca­tions role for White House aide Stephen Miller, ac­cord­ing to an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial who was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss pri­vate talks by name and re­quested anonymity. Those talks are still seen as pre­lim­i­nary. Miller re­cently clashed with some re­porters over im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy at a con­tentious press brief­ing.

This past week, as White House staffers read­ied a state­ment ac­com­pa­ny­ing Trump’s sig­na­ture on leg­is­la­tion ap­prov­ing tough­ened sanc­tions on Rus­sia - a bill Trump crit­i­cized - word came down that the pres­i­dent wanted to add some off-topic lan­guage into the state­ment. That’s ac­cord­ing to two of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to pub­licly talk about in­ter­nal dis­cus­sions.

“I built a truly great com­pany worth many bil­lions of dol­lars,” the new sec­tion read. “That is a big part of the rea­son I was elected. As pres­i­dent, I can make far bet­ter deals with for­eign coun­tries than Congress.” That per­sonal and boast­ful rhetoric is a far cry from the for­mal lan­guage nor­mally found in pres­i­den­tial state­ments. It also ap­peared aimed at an­ger­ing the same law­mak­ers he will need if he wants to pass any ma­jor leg­is­la­tion.

“All pres­i­dents are their own best mes­sen­gers,” said Ari Fleis­cher, a press sec­re­tary for Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush. Fleis­cher said that Bush, too, would at times get in­volved with the White House press shop. Fleis­cher noted there was al­ways a safety net of ad­vis­ers at work. That does not ap­pear to ex­ist around the cur­rent pres­i­dent par­tic­u­lar around his Twit­ter ac­count. “The les­son for this pres­i­dent is that it’s per­fectly fine to be in­volved and to, at times, go around the main­stream me­dia with Twit­ter,” Fleis­cher said. “But he needs to tweet smarter.” — AP

WASH­ING­TON: In this July 31, 2017 file photo, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House. — AP

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