Top Trump aide ex­it­ing

First shoe to drop in wider shuf­fle?

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY JILL COLVIN AND CATHER­INE LUCEY

WASH­ING­TON — A top com­mu­ni­ca­tions aide to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is ex­it­ing the White House as the em­bat­tled pres­i­dent con­sid­ers a broader shake-up amid ris­ing anx­i­ety over in­ves­ti­ga­tions into his cam­paign’s con­tacts with Rus­sia.

Fresh off Trump’s first of­fi­cial trip abroad, White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor Michael Dubke an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion Tues­day in what many inside and out­side the White House see as the first shoe to drop. A wider over­haul is ex­pected, aimed at more ag­gres­sively re­spond­ing to al­le­ga­tions of Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion and rev­e­la­tions of pos­si­ble ties be­tween Trump’s cam­paign and Moscow.

Dubke said in a state­ment it had been an honor to serve Trump and “my dis­tinct plea­sure to work side by side, day by day with the staff of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions and press de­part­ments.”

How­ever, Trump has pri­vately and pub­licly pinned much of the blame for his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s woes on the com­mu­ni­ca­tions ef­fort.

“In terms of mes­sag­ing, I would give my­self a C or a C plus,” Trump said in an in­ter­view on Fox News Chan­nel early in his term. “In terms of achieve­ment, I think I’d give my­self an A. Be­cause I think I’ve done great things, but I don’t think I have — I and my peo­ple, I don’t think we’ve ex­plained it well enough to the Amer­i­can pub­lic.”

Trump has long be­lieved he is his most ef­fec­tive spokesper­son and has groused about sup­port­ers and aides not de­fend­ing him vig­or­ously enough. At the same time, he of­ten un­der­mines his staffers, con­tra­dict­ing their pub­lic state­ments and derails their ef­forts to stay on topic with in­flam­ma­tory tweets.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer pushed back Tues­day on the idea that a broader re­or­ga­ni­za­tion was im­mi­nent, but he ac­knowl­edged the pres­i­dent is frus­trated with news sto­ries “that are ab­so­lutely false, that are not based in fact. That is trou­bling.”

Spicer said he thinks the pres­i­dent “is very pleased with his team,” but he added, “Ul­ti­mately the best mes­sen­ger is the pres­i­dent him­self. He’s al­ways proven that.”

Ru­mors of im­pend­ing shake-ups have come and gone in the Trump White House be­fore. But nu­mer­ous peo­ple close to the pres­i­dent and his team are ex­pect­ing fur­ther changes this time.

For ex­am­ple, Trump has en­ter­tained bring­ing his former cam­paign man­ager, Corey Le­wandowski, and former deputy cam­paign man­ager, David Bossie, more for­mally back into the fold. Both Le­wandowski and Bossie vis­ited the White House Mon­day night, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the meet­ing, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss a pri­vate get-to­gether.

But it re­mains un­clear whether the pres­i­dent might en­vi­sion them work­ing inside the White House or in out­side roles.

Bossie told “Fox & Friends” the ad­min­is­tra­tion has reached out to him but hasn’t of­fered him a job.

“They have talked to many peo­ple, in­clud­ing me,” Bossie said. He later added: “It’s an on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tion, and that’s a fair way to put it.”

An­other per­son whose name has been raised as a pos­si­ble ad­di­tion to the pres­i­dent’s team is David Ur­ban, a prom­i­nent Repub­li­can lob­by­ist, who also spent time ad­vis­ing Trump’s cam­paign and has re­mained a trusted ad­viser.

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 Trump as­so­ciates’ po­ten­tial in­volve­ment. More at­tor­neys with deep ex­pe­ri­ence in Wash­ing­ton in­ves­ti­ga­tions are ex­pected to be added in the weeks ahead.

The lat­est rev­e­la­tions to emerge last week in­volved Trump’s son-in-law and top aide, Jared Kush­ner. Shortly af­ter the elec­tion, Kush­ner is re­ported to have dis­cussed set­ting up a se­cret com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nel with the Rus­sian govern­ment to fa­cil­i­tate sen­si­tive dis­cus­sions about the con­flict in Syria.

The in­tent was to con­nect Trump’s chief national se­cu­rity ad­viser at the time, Michael Flynn, with Rus­sian mil­i­tary lead­ers, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sions told the AP. The per­son wasn’t au­tho­rized to pub­licly dis­cuss pri­vate pol­icy de­lib­er­a­tions and in­sisted on anonymity.

Flynn handed in his res­ig­na­tion in Fe­bru­ary, ousted on grounds he had mis­led top White House of­fi­cials about his con­tacts with Rus­sian of­fi­cials.

A se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said Kush­ner was keep­ing his head down and fo­cus­ing on work af­ter the for­eign trip. The of­fi­cial said Kush­ner was ea­ger to share what he knows with Congress and other in­ves­ti­ga­tors. The of­fi­cial was not au­tho­rized to pub­licly dis­cuss pri­vate think­ing and spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

Trump aides had been hop­ing to get through the trip be­fore mak­ing staffing de­ci­sions.

In­deed, Dubke of­fered his res­ig­na­tion be­fore the pres­i­dent’s de­par­ture, White House coun­selor Kellyanne Con­way told The As­so­ci­ated Press, but of­fered to stay on dur­ing the trip. His last day has not yet been de­ter­mined.

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus thanked Dubke in a state­ment and said he had “of­fered to re­main on­board un­til a tran­si­tion is con­cluded.”

“Mike will as­sist with the tran­si­tion and be a strong ad­vo­cate for the pres­i­dent and the pres­i­dent’s poli­cies mov­ing for­ward,” Priebus said.

Michael Dubke

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