Trump contemplates White House overhaul
U.S. president returns from overseas trip to find Russian meddling crisis worsening
WASHINGTON— U.S. 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 Saturday 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 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 back-channel communications with Moscow during the presidential transition.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Sunday he didn’t know if the news reports were true, but described back-channel communications as a “good thing.”
He was echoing the sentiment of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who declined to address the contents of Kushner’s December meeting with the Russian diplomat to reporters in Sicily over the weekend and suggested that back-channel communications were commonplace and not concerning.
“It’s both normal, in my opinion, and acceptable,” Kelly said. “Any way that you can communicate with people, particularly organizations that are maybe not particularly friendly to us is a good thing.” “I don’t see the big deal,” he added. As he mulls changes, 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 staff and Trump’s adult children. Nonetheless, Lewandowski has the trust of the president — an advantage that many of Trump’s aides lack.
Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, allegedly spoke with Russia’s ambassador about setting up secret back-channel communications with Moscow.