Trump still hunting for communications chief
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